Theater Review - Alladin (NY)

Disney Theatrical Productions has opened a new production at the New Amsterdam Theatre on Broadway. It is the same gorgeous theater which housed “The Lion King” and “Mary Poppins,” two awesome musicals. This time, it is presenting “Aladdin,” based on the film of the same name. While it does not compare to the two aforementioned shows, it is full of energy and vitality and to its credit, it stresses the message of independence, women's rights, and telling the truth.  


They've put a great deal of money into this production; the costumes by Gregg Barnes, which appear and disappear on bodies instantaneously, are sensational, and lit by Natasha Katz the scenic design by Bob Crowley is multi-faceted covering many locations. Directed and Choreographed by Casey Nicholaw, who is a master of speed and light, the dancing is nimble and demanding. However, the score by Alan Menken (Music), Howard Ashman and Tim Rice (Lyrics)  with a Book and additional lyrics by Chad Behuelin is mediocre, except for “A Whole New World.”  At one point, an excerpt from  “Beauty and the Beast,” is sung, reminding us of how beautiful that score was.                                       


Set in the fictional land of Agrabah,  we meet the street urchin, Aladdin, a very cute, ever-smiling Adam Jacobs, helped by his three talented friends, Babkak (Brian Gonzales), Omar (Jonathan Schwartz),  and Kassim (Brandon O'Neill), who are thieves. They never stop running around and telling bad jokes.  When Aladdin happens to meet Jasmine, a pretty, perky Courtney Reed, he does not know she is a princess, who is being forced to find a prince to marry. They fall in love, and he meets a Genie, who is master of all. James Monroe Iglehart is such a big man with a big voice; he really fills that bill with heart. We remember him well from the award-winning musical,” Memphis.” Here, he is the narrator, and leads the huge opening number, “Arabian Nights,” followed by “Friend Like Me,” and a new number, “Somebody's Got your Back.” Genie leads Aladdin to the Cave of Wonders where a lantern holds three wishes.


Meanwhile, it takes Jasmine's dad, the Sultan, an authoritative Clifton Davis, some time to understand what Jamsine needs: Aladdin and her right to rule the kingdom. Jonathan Freeman, who was the voice of Jafar in the film, is the heavy here, aided by his snively sidekick, Iago, Don Darryl Rivera; they do everything to hurt Aladdin and Jasmine.


“Aladdin” is associated with a magic flying carpet. I would have liked a technicolor one, but this one is dark to cover the technical stuff, flying through a sky sparkling with stars and planets.  “Aladdin” has its moments, some very pleasant, some too busy, busy, busy.


At the New Amsterdam, “Aladdin.”         

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