|Disney’s Aladdin – Theatre Review
|By Rachel Flanagan
Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann
In 1992, Disney brought the animated classic “Aladdin” to life on movie screens. “Aladdin,” the story of a street urchin in the fictional city of Agrabah who falls in love with a beautiful princess and uses the magical powers of a genie (magically voiced by the one and only Robin Williams) to become a prince so they could be married. In 2014, “Aladdin the Musical” debuted on Broadway, with a few new songs and a few twists on the story. Now, “Aladdin” makes its Los Angeles debut and audiences young and old will get to experience a whole new world with “Disney’s Aladdin” at the Pantages Theatre starring many of the original Broadway cast.
The 2014 Broadway show has been nothing but a huge hit in New York throughout its run earning over $300 million to date and creating at least five additional stage productions throughout the world. The Los Angeles production stars Adam Jacobs, who originated the role of Aladdin along with his buddies Babkak, Omar and Kassim (Zach Bencal, Phillipe Arroyo, Mike Longo respectively) who make up for the loss of Aladdin’s only friend, Abu. To add depth to the character, the theater production creates a story and song (“Proud of Your Boy”) to show that Aladdin once had a mother and while him and his buddies waste their time with a life of crime robbing street vendors and entertaining visitors in the marketplace, he really just wants to show that there’s much more to who he is than your average street rat.
While Aladdin’s friends all bring their own flair to the stage and their friendship with Aladdin is endearing, it’s almost harder to feel sorry for him and wonder if there really is a depth to his character. Princess Jasmine, the Sultan’s daughter is played by Isabelle McCalla, a strong and independent woman who is tired of living by old and outdated laws that do not give women the rights they deserve, quite the relevant concept in today’s culture. The Sultan, JC Montgomery, wants Jasmine to pick a suitor and just go along with the way things are but her strong-willed nature is too much for most of the princes who try to win her hand. When the Sultan’s trusted advisor, Jafar (played by Jonathan Weir and the character who most resembles the original animated version) decides to overthrow the Sultan, he enlists the help of his parrot-like side-kick Iago (Also an original New York cast member Reggie De Leon) to trick Aladdin to enter the cave of wonders and fetch him a magic lamp. When Aladdin gets stuck in the cave, he rubs the lamp and befriends the Genie (Michael James Scott) into making him a prince so that he can win over the princess. True to Disney’s nature, the schemes fail but the good guys still win, the bad guys get what’s coming to them and true love prevails even if it means changing rules that have been held standard for decades.
The most stunning scene in the entire production has a lot to do with Casey Nicholaw’s brilliant choreography and Bob Crowley’s amazing set design. The Cave of Wonders appears as a solid cave made from the head of a panther with green eyes and as a voice calls for the Diamond in the Rough, Aladdin, of course, to enter the set is magically transformed in a dazzling place filled with glitz and glamor and sparkling gold everywhere. It was beautiful and magical and even my heart filled with the joy of my childhood when I first saw “Aladdin” as a 10-year-old girl. As if the set was not amazing enough, Scott appears as the genie, who plays the role in the most spectacular over the top way as if a magician and a drag queen were one in the same. As the entire ensemble comes out in stunning costumes to perform the hit “Friend Like Me,” the audience can do nothing but sit back in awe as they watch literal magic happen on stage. The other moment of awe comes in the second act when Princess Jasmine and Aladdin go on their magical carpet ride and astound the audience with their wonderful singing while everyone sits back wondering how in the world that carpet is flying around on stage like that.
The biggest disappointment comes in the pacing of the entire production as it seemed so very rushed from characters speaking to each other to even some of the songs and the transitions from scene to scene. There was little to no time to let the wonderment, the love and the endearing quality of the characters and story to sink in and the entire show seemed very rushed. The production should slow down a little and let the magic of the performance linger with the audience a little more.
Overall, “Aladdin” at Pantages is a fast-paced ride that will leave audience soaring, tumbling and freewheeling through a diamond-studded cast filled with heart and magic that will leave you looking around for your own diamond in the rough.
Don’t miss out on “Disney’s Aladdin” at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre through March 31.
|Posted By Rachel Flanagan on January 15, 2018