Ask any 90s kid what their favorite Disney movie was growing up, and odds are good that they’ll tell you it was Aladdin (though Beauty and the Beast is a pretty close 2nd). Those who want to re-live the epic rags-to-riches-to-rags story of Aladdin and Jasmine, however, need not dig out their VCR from the attic.
Broadway has taken another childhood favorite and set the music and lyrics to live action, opening the new musical “Aladdin” in march to families in the New York area. How does Aladdin compare with prior Disney-meets-musical hits like Lion King?
The Long Road
Originally, the idea for a musical developed after Disneyland condensed the film into a 45-minute stage play for kids and families over a decade ago.
It wasn’t until recently that Disney sold the rights to syndication of the musical, even though the first performances premiered in Seattle three years ago.
The show proved to be such a strong seller that it garnered serious outside attention, later debuting in Toronto prior to landing on Broadway and Main.
The musical’s producers, including famed “Book of Mormon” director, estimated that it cost no less than $15 million to get the production underway.
One of the biggest questions about the Aladdin musical was who would be cast in each role. Perhaps the biggest role isn’t Aladdin himself, but the wise-cracking blue Genie, originally voiced to perfection by funny-man Robin Williams.
The part went to James Monroe Iglehart, who previously played enjoyed parts in “Memphis the Musical” and “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” His infectious enthusiasm mirrors Williams’ original role perfectly, resulting in him stealing nearly every scene he’s featured in. Adam Jacobs gets the nod to play Aladdin, who previously starred in “Les Misérables” as well as fellow Disney musical “The Lion King.”
Courtney Reed, who starred in “Mamma Mia” and “In The Heights,” is slated to play sultry Jasmine. Finally, Jonathan Freeman, who voiced the original Jafar in the 1992 film, will don costume to play the villainous vizier on the stage, in the flesh.
Singing Out Loud
Neither Disney film or musical would be complete without big-number songs, and all of the favorite songs from the original animated film recur in the musical. “Whole New World” may be the best of both, but “Never Had A Friend Like Me” is certain to bring down the house as well.
Reviews by the NY Times noted that the songs had such a high energy and tempo that it was impossible to keep from tapping to the time, or even singing along. Other theater critics noted that the musical managed to avoid syrupy, dopey acts in favor of compelling lines and notes.
Still, others praised the color and speed that dazzled the audiences and left everyone riveted for the next scene.