Disney is up to its old tricks again with varying degrees of success. This time via a magic lamp that when rubbed a Genie (the stupendous James Monroe Iglehart) appears and will grant you three wishes. So the evil Jafar (Jonathan Freeman) with his short side-kick Iago (Don Darryl Rivera) pursue it with a vengeance – with the help of an unwitting Aladdin (Adam Jacobs) an Arabian Nights street urchin with a heart of gold, a bright smile and a nice set of abs who falls in love with the Sultan’s (Clifton Davis’s) daughter Jasmine (Courtney Reed) a rebellious young Princess with a mind and mouth of her own who wants to marry for love – thank you very much!
All this is set around an Arabian Nights colorful storybook and whimsical set by Bob Crowley and a profusion of opulent and colorful costumes by Gregg Barnes that sparkle with enough glitz and bling to light up the sky. But that is the domain of Natasha Katz who has out shown herself here.
There are three supercalifragilisticexpialidocious show stoppers in this production that bring to three dimensional life the animated cartoon version but it takes a while to get things soaring.
You might be wondering what’s going on for the first thirty or so minutes waiting for the excitement to start as all the exposition is set up despite the very active direction and explosive choreography of Casey Nicholaw and where the set pieces move and grow and swords are drawn and harem girls swirl and characters are bantering with some out of context jokes and a plethora of puns that induce groans rather than guffaws and a terrific tuneful and bouncy traditional Broadway musical score by Alan Menken, Howard Ashman, Tim Rice and Chad Beguelin who is responsible for the book that seems to be in search of its rightful tone.
But then that infamous lamp gets rubbed and the Genie – James Monroe Iglehart – takes charge and wows us with “Friend Like Me” a tour de force production number that one wishes would never end. He and it are pure genius! A rapid fire, sweat inducing performance that brings the audience to its feet – stopping the show (allowing Mr. Iglehart to catch his breath) and that will hopefully be rewarded come Tony time. ALADDIN from that moment on continues to thrill and delight.
The “A Whole New World” magic flying carpet ride sequence is spellbinding as Aladdin and Jasmine go airborne against a starlit sky that sparkles brighter than one would think possible.
And then there are the three chums of Aladdin – a combination of The Three Musketeers and The Three Stooges – Babkak (Brian Gonzales) Omar (Jonathan Schwartz) and Kassim (Brandon O’Neill) who bring down the house with their shenanigans and song “High Adventure”.
Eventually everything turns out OK in true entertaining, special effects Disney fashion – with a happy ending and good triumphant over evil in the Kingdom of Agrabah – also known as the New Amsterdam Theatre where I left with a smile and fond memories of those Bing Crosby//Bob Hope/Dorothy Lamour “On the Road to…” films that were corny but entertaining.
Photos: Cylla von Tiedemann
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