Since The Walt Disney Company was founded in 1923, the mega-media conglomerate has mastered the art of telling stories that not only entertain children with its other-worldly wonder, but also enthralling grown-adults with under the table humor and glamorous spectacles leaving audiences of all ages truly believing in magic, if even for a second – and Disney’s Aladdin exemplified these elements when the show took to the Hobby Center for their North American Tour.
The production doesn’t rely on banking off of people’s nostalgia to sell a quick buck, but rather uniquely retells the story that audiences have grown to love since the 1992 movie rendition. In fact, the show is so one-of-a-kind that all comparisons between the production and the movie are left at the theatre entrance, as audiences take a chance to witness a whole new world onstage.
I’m not going to hold back on Aladdin puns – this is the one chance I get so let me have it.
As mentioned before, movie comparisons are squashed almost immediately as the Genie, played by Major Attaway, appears onstage. In terms of Attaway’s Genie living up to the high bar set by the same movie character played by Robin Williams, audiences aren’t given a gimmick carbon-copy but instead a freshly imagined take that’s still as hyper-energetic and charismatic as ever.
Clinton Greenspan plays the titular character as a poor, swindling thief with a heart of gold like the jewelry he steals. While his actions are unethical, his Robin Hood-esque mentality puts little children in the audience through a moral conundrum as to whether or not it is wrong to steal from those with means in order to sustain the life of those without.
Just kidding, the children around me were just fascinated with the pretty colors and intense chase scene as Aladdin and his gang of misfits run from the palace guards. However, an impassioned appeal that many children could relate to was Aladdin’s sung soliloquy and emotional motif throughout the entire musical conveying how much he wanted his mother to be proud of her boy.
Princess Jasmine, played by Kaena Kekoa, pushes the story forward both figuratively and politically when she’s introduced as the strong, independent female character who refuses to be subjected to the Sultan’s control and the ancient laws of the land he rules over. Her harmonic performance with Aladdin during their heartfelt duet, “A Million Miles Away,” is just as strong as her character as we fall in love with these characters while they fall in love with each other.
But of course, no Disney story is complete without its signature villain and sidekick as Jafar and Iago, performed by Jonathan Weir and Reggie De Leon, plan to seize power from the Sultan and eliminate Aladdin from the picture. Weir’s Jafar is a scary antagonist, complete with diabolical laughter and evil schemes, but De Leon’s Iago serves as the perfect sidekick and henchman as he parrots back Jafar’s orders and truly brings life to the stage when all moral goodness has been sucked out by his leader’s appearance.
The cave scene alone, however, is worth the price of admission, as the set design literally glistens and shines with gold and silver riches encompassing the entire stage. The Genie is officially introduced with the musical number, “Friend Like Me,” which serves as an absolute show stopper. With one of the most marvelous combined with the jaunty performance of Attaway’s Genie, featuring a chorus line and pyrotechnics, the cave scene is one of the greatest moments audiences will ever experience in a theatre and is definitely the most fun I’ve had in a while.
Aladdin’s trusty crew comprised of Babkak, Omar, and Kassim – respectively played by Zach Bencal, Ben Chavez, and Colt Prattes. Their musical talents are perfectly showcased alongside their swordplay capabilities during “High Adventure,” leaving audiences tense for their characters as they run across the stage lunging and thrusting their swords every which way.
“A Whole New World” was a feat of musical theatre to witness, as the high flying duet dazzled audiences as the couple flew across the stars and gazed at Earth from above, having adults truly wondering where the cables were that carried the carpet but ultimately having children believing in magic.
Disney’s Aladdin will exceed any and all expectations you have, with a charismatic protagonist, strong female love-interest, energetic rendition of the Genie character we all grew up to love, and a scenic design and special effects that masterfully showcase a classic story told beyond our wildest imagination.
The show runs until July 14th, so be sure to buy your tickets soon or you’ll be regretting it for a thousand Arabian Nights.