Nora Dominick ‘17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
In recent years, Disney has made its mark on Broadway with several highly successful musicals. The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, Tarzan, Mary Poppins, The Little Mermaid and Newsies all have proven to be highly lucrative for Disney and Broadway. The musicals bring audiences in and sell more tickets than any other show on Broadway. Aladdin is Disney’s latest venture into the musical genre and they have a home run.
Aladdin is based off of the 1992 Disney Animated film of the same name. The musical follows Aladdin (Adam Jacobs), a street-urchin, who longs for adventure. He survives by stealing from the street vendors with his faithful gang of friends, Babkak (Brian Gonzales), Omar (Jonathan Schwartz) and Kassim (Brandon O’Neill). When Princess Jasmine (Courtney Reed) is forced to remain in the palace and marry a prince she does not love, she sneaks out to the marketplace, where she accidentally runs into Aladdin. Under the order of the evil Jafar (Jonathan Freeman), Aladdin is thrown in jail and is caught up in Jafar’s plot to rule the land with a mysterious lamp. When Aladdin ventures into the Cave of Wonders to retrieve the lamp, he becomes trapped. Out of desperation, he rubs the lamp and releases a mysterious Genie (James Monroe Iglehart). With the help of the Genie’s three wishes, Aladdin escapes and sets out to win the heart of Princess Jasmine. However, when Jafar gets in his way Aladdin must be honest in order to save his friends and the entire city.
With music by the legendary Alan Menken, lyrics by Tim Rice and a book by Chad Beguelin, Aladdin soars to new heights in this adaptation. The musical brings in audiences young and old as they take a ride on a magic carpet and explore the world of Aladdin in a whole new way. While the music brings the show to new heights, the non-musical moments feel like filler. The book falls flat in between the show-stopping musical numbers. The climatic moments fall short as they are rushed and almost feel unnecessary. Even the ending conflict where Jafar steals the lamp is anticlimactic and does not strike fear into the audience. The book could use re-working, as it feels like simply a filler piece where it should stand on its own in between the songs.
The musical has one key player that elevates it to Broadway stardom: James Monroe Iglehart as the Genie. Iglehart steals the show with his humor, dancing, and spirit. He brings the iconic character of the Genie to life with ease. Iglehart’s playfulness and singing abilities are showcased during the Act One number “Friend Like Me,” which resulted in a show stopping standing ovation and thunderous applause. How often does Broadway see a standing ovation in the first act? Not often. His love of Disney and the Genie shines through as the audience watches him zip around the stage. His hard work paid off with a 2014 Tony Award for Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical earlier this month. Iglehart makes the musical and helps make this Disney classic come to life.
Likewise, Adam Jacobs is everything you want in the character of Aladdin. His boyish smile and overall charm makes you root for Aladdin during his adventure. Jonathan Freeman as Jafar literally brings the animated movie to the stage, as Freeman voiced Jafar in the original animated feature film. Hearing his voice boom throughout the theatre transports the audience into the world of the movie. The hilarious Don Darryl Rivera is also a standout in this production with his performance as Iago. His comedic moments have the entire audience laughing out loud.
Iglehart may be the standout actor in this Disney classic, but the stunning set by Bob Crowley steals the spotlight. The set is an intricate piece of Disney magic. Filled with moving and expanding towers, disappearing props, and complex backdrops, the audience can’t help but be amazed. Disney magic abounds during the magic carpet ride sequence. Aladdin and Jasmine hop on the magic carpet and are actually flying. You don’t even see wires. This moment is a set-design masterpiece. The setting is magnificent but sadly Reed and Jacob’s rendition of “A Whole New World” falls flat. Disney has finally released its magic on Broadway in the form of a magic carpet ride. From the set to the costumes, the entire stage sparkles and drops the audience in the middle of a fairytale.
Despite the book and some musical portions falling flat, Aladdin is a Disney masterpiece. The magic is abounding through the set design and glamorous costumes. Iglehart shines as he delivers a performance of a lifetime. You can’t help but fall in love with Aladdin all over again as you are transported to Agrabah using a little Disney magic.
Aladdin is currently playing at the New Amsterdam Theatre in NYC. Hurry and grab your tickets because they are going fast.