Adapted from the book by Chad Beguelin
Music by Alan Menken
Director/Choreographer: Casey Nicholaw
Photos by Deen van Meer
Reviewed by Ron Lee, CSP
What initially struck me about the Disney stage version of Aladdin, currently playing at the Capitol Theatre, was that even though much of the dialogue is contemporary, there is a powerful sense of the golden age of Hollywood, right down to the New York accents that pay tribute to the Broadway roots of the live musical production.
The show opens with the Genie, brilliantly played by the agile and hefty Michael James Scott, a New Yorker whose voice I expected to have the depth of someone like James Earl Jones, or Audrey 2, the carnivorous plant in Little Shop of Horrors. Scott superbly engages the audience and sets the scene for the rest of a story with which we are already so familiar.
Bathurst boy, Ainsley Melham, is triumphant in the title role. Melham looks like a young Tony Curtis, and with his credible New York brogue in a setting of ancient Baghdad (rather than the original China), I fully expected to hear him say, “Yawnda lies da castle of my faddah”.
As Jasmine, Arielle Jacobs absolutely exemplifies and truthfully represents the actresses of Old Hollywood. Jacobs’ interpretation of her character is reminiscent of the likes of Gene Tierney and Joan Fontaine. We could easily have been watching a musical in 1940s Broadway.
Every plot needs a villain, and this time it’s Jafar, the Sultan’s right-hand man. Kiwi Adam Murphy has deep tones and the sinister laugh of Vincent Price as well as a fine baritone voice. Jafar’s off-sider, Iago, is beautifully over-played by Aljin Abella who has the appearance of a trained monkey and the voice of Peter Lorre.
At the intermission, I told my companion that I was extremely impressed by the direction and choreography in this production, then discovered that the Director and Choreographer are one person. Casey Nicholaw’s theatrical experience, accomplishments and awards are almost overwhelming. Nicholaw’s feel for Hollywood is uncannily accurate, and the choreography is straight out of the Bob Fosse showbook. The all singing, all-tapping, all-sequins scene before interval is the show-stopper. The spectacular routine could have been in 42nd Street, Chicago, Guys and Dolls, Puttin’ On The Ritz, Babes on Broadway or a score of others. It was so rousing that on the night on which I attended, it received several standing ovations. It could have been the first act closer.
Costume Designer Gregg Barnes must have rubbed his hands together when he found out that the costume budget was more than that of most other entire productions, and he made the most of the producers’ generosity. Also, the Capitol Theatre’s fly tower was literally packed to the rafters to facilitate the multitude of Bob Crowley’s scene changes.
Aladdin is truly a theatrical, musical spectacular in every sense of the term, and every element is as meticulously treated as you would expect in a Disney production. The music, the costumes, the sets, the talent, the orchestra, the sequins, the dancing and everything about it will entertain and delight you. I can’t recommend it highly enough, There’s plenty of “WOW! factor in this one.