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Saturday, 3 September 2016

Aladdin The Musical: Review

Prince Ali! Fabulous He! Ali Ababooowwwarrrr

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Disney to Stage is a no-brainer: the songs, the characters, the choreography and action-packed stories all lend themselves perfectly and Aladdin lived up to expectations- a production full of magic, illusion and spectacle. However, this Broadway transfer is more Pantomime than Musical. Manically laughing villian Jafar (Don Gallagher), charmingly likable smushy 'principal' boy Aladdin (Dean John-Wilson), feisty and stunning Princess Jasmine (Jade Ewan) and flamboyant 'Dame-like' Genie (Trevor Dion Nicholas) were all perfect elements for the hallowed British traditional Panto which sadly has already been done every christmas over this side of the pond. Aside from this however as money-spinning family entertainment it does not disappoint.

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Costume Designer, Gregg Barnes created splendour and vibrancy in the lavish Arabian costumes. Bob Crowley's set was both wondrous and functional: the rotating rooftops, silhouetted skyline, the lowering cave walls and the great palace all made for slick scene changes and showed great perspective in making the stage setting appear colossal! It was a shame that Aladdin's 'do you trust me? jump' segments were a little lost from the Grand Circle perspective where the safety element of the jump was visible but this is a minor point. Crowley's set demonstrated brilliant design in concealing dancers in piles of gold in the cave scene and pure magic in the famous Magic Carpet scene where it soared seamlessly through the starry-lit night sky. 

The additional songs fleshed out the production successfully and were in keeping to the stylings and score of original (and legendary) composer Alan Menken and the nods to Disney films were lovely touches:  the medley sung by the Genie, lines from classic songs embedded in the script ie. Mulans' 'let's get down to business' and did I correctly spot Beauty and the Beast crockery in the gameshow cave sequence?

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The exceptional main character who carries the show is of course the larger than life Genie. Trevor Dion Nicholas' characterisations and costumes paid tribute to Disney's (and Robin William's) creation but with his own spin, reinventing the character successfully: energetic, crazy and lovable all traits we grew up with in the original film still intact for the stage.

The main character's animal sidekicks in the Disney film (Aladdin's monkey, Jasmine's tiger and Jafar's parrot) had all been replaced which was an artful move, casting wise. Aladdin was joined by his traditional band of thieves who enhanced Aladdin's background and fleshed out the story although their 'High Adventure' song needed trimming. Jasmine's trio of servants were a little lack lustre, a gospel group (Hercules-style) would have made more impact. Iago (Peter Howe) Jafar's sidekick was brilliantly funny 'parroting on' although his costume was more Monkey-like than parrot.

Director and choreographer, Casey Nicholaw did an inGENIous (well I had to get that in somewhere) job especially in re-creating the 'Friend like Me' cave sequence. The applause didn't stop! It was a climatic scene of energetic dancing and singing, firework pyrotechnics and copious amounts of pizazz! I particularly loved the Tap dance and Cha Cha included in the choreography!

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Overall this production is very entertaining and will appeal to all. The additional songs enhanced the story and the show kept pace (unlike *cough* The Lion King Stage Production *cough*). However for UK audiences it lacks it's own distinctive style.

Running until February 11th 2017