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Make way…for Prince Ali! Disney’s Aladdin has flown into Los Angeles on a flying carpet, inviting you to come join in on the theatrical adventure inspired by the 1992 animated film. Aladdin, a “street rat” from the fictional city of Agrabah, does what he can to get by with the help of his three friends Omar, Kassim, and Babkak. With a proven heart of gold, Aladdin takes time to help those less fortunate than him and stands up for those who need his help, despite his own lot in life.
Aladdin stumbles across a rare opportunity to meet Princess Jasmine and finds himself embroiled in a plot for succession to the throne and on the way, meets a genie from a magic lamp. The fun and hilarity that ensues is delightful and will be a somewhat new experience even for the biggest fans of the animated film.
Audience members arrived wearing various nods to the film and the stage production, there was palpable excitement awaiting the first notes of the overture. The overture was delightful and nostalgic, but the opening number “Arabian Nights” was visually stunning, with a great introduction to the amazing vocals of Marcus M. Martin (Genie) who was the standout of the show. Immediately impressive are the clean vocals by Adi Roy (Aladdin) while performing “One Jump” while running around the sets and performing choreography to escape the Palace Guards. “Proud of Your Boy” was orchestrated beautifully.
Senzel Ahmady was amazing as Jasmine, being a standout right out the gate in “These Palace Walls” continuing with the harmonies in “A Million Miles Away”. “Friend Like Me” was delightful and uplifting, keeping the audience grinning ear-to-ear the entire time. Martin was fantastic, and even led a delightful mid-song tap number, the song concluded to uproarious applause.
Act II begins back in Agrabah when Aladdin, as Prince Ali of Ababwa, arrives in Agrabah to seek Princess Jasmine’s hand in marriage, with the song “Prince Ali” performed by the Genie and Aladdin’s newly well-dressed friends from the Marketplace Omar (Ben Chavez), Kassim (Colt Prattes), and Babkak (Jake Letts). “A Whole New World” was dazzling, utilizing a practical set change and an actual “flying” carpet to lift the performers into the stars.
The stage chemistry between Roy and Ahmady was tangible, and the ending of the number got the audience to audibly “aww”. “High Adventure” was my favorite of the newer songs, and that was mostly due to the performances of Chavez, Prattes, and Letts as Aladdin’s friends. The song and performance were high-energy and their ensemble comedy was delightful. All three of Aladdin’s friends were memorable performances, but I got the most joy from Babkok who loves food as much as I do.
One notable difference between the 1992 animated film and this stage rendition is the lack of non-human sidekicks. Aladdin’s friends Abu and Carpet, as well as Jasmine’s pet tiger Rajah from the film, are not represented in the stage production, and their roles are filled in with a new cast of friends for Aladdin, and attendants for Jasmine. The exception to this is Iago, whose role is represented by a human henchman who gleefully follows Jafar around and hilariously joins in on his evil laughs.
They poke some fun at this with a parrot joke regarding Iago right off the bat. A discerning Disney fan may also note several nods and references to other units of the company including Marvel, Star Wars, ABC, and even other Disney movies.
The sets were simple, yet effective. With a combination of physical set pieces, background art, and projection mapping. The sand blowing over the dunes and the arrival of the Cave of Wonders were key examples of their great use of projections. The Cave of Wonders interior was an especially beautiful set, shimmering with the riches of the cave. The costume design of Gregg Barnes was phenomenal, with several quick changes that appeared effortless and were critical to the storytelling. Partnered with the lighting direction of Natasha Katz, the costumes literally sparkled on stage.
There were several children in the audience, and this is definitely a great choice as a first foray into musical theater for budding theater enthusiasts of all ages. This retelling was fun and creative, and Marcus M. Martin’s Genie will be the talk of the car on the way home. It’s music you know, and some you don’t. It’s a story you know, told in a different and imaginative way. It’s the fun and delight you felt seeing Aladdin in the movie for the first time all over again. So hop on your carpet and fly to the Hollywood Pantages, to see Disney’s Aladdin.
Los Angeles – Hollywood Pantages Theatre
Now through September 23, 2023
Costa Mesa – Segerstrom Center for the Arts
May 7-12, 2024