I have to start by mentioning how blown over I was with Trevor Dion Nichols who played the Genie, an iconic character anyone will admit, being portrayed by the late and great Robin Williams in the 1992 animated film. Nichols had played the Genie on Broadway, I think as an understudy or replacement, but recently relocating to London to star in the West End production of Aladdin. He was by far the most charismatic, talented, funny and wonderful person on that whole stage. He certainly was the star of the night and that showed in the response he got from the audience, most standing to applaud such an energetic performance. He has the best song in the show, ‘Friend Like Me’ and boy does he do it justice. A 7 minute, non-stop musical number, with a Disney medley honouring the work of Disney legends Howard Ashman, Stephen Swartz and Alan Menken with Beauty and the Beast, Pocahontas and The Little Mermaid, being featured. This was also one of the most visually amazing parts of the show. It involves magic, glitter, quick changes, illusions and an explosion of confetti into the audience. I cannot get over this one scene; I want to see it over and over again. There are clips on the Internet of the Tony performance but this does not capture one bit how amazing it is to sit among it, plus it is a snippet of the full scene. If you do not enjoy anything else about Aladdin, Nichols’ performance will have you gagging for more and he will draw you in to the Arabian magic.
I have to admit apart from Nichols I was not blown away by the rest of the cast. I had seen Dean John-Wilson recently at the St James’ Theatre in Miss Atomic Bomb where I thought he was really good. Thus I was really looking forward to seeing him as the protagonist in this show which had received fantastic reviews. I am not sure what it was but I thought his voice was not the best and no way compared to Nichols’. The same was said for Jade Ewen playing Jasmine. A former Sugababe I was having high hopes for this performance, again I was completely underwhelmed. The songs sung by Ewen and John-Wilson did nothing for my inner romantic side, so ‘A Whole New World’ was disappointing, vocally, not visually (wait!). Jafar was played by Don Gallagher who is a well-known TV and stage actor but I felt this performance was very panto-esque (I love a panto, but there is a place and time). Whether this was aimed at the kids I am not sure. I enjoyed Peter Howe as Iago, who does the most fantastic human version of an animated parrot, the reference to Iago as a parrot in the film was good and he even sounded like the Iago in the film. Irvine Iqbal played the Sultan, who albeit not in it much had a really amazing voice so it was a shame he only really has one (big) number. Instead of the monkey Abu as Aladdin’s side kick he has three mates, Babkak, Omar and Kassim (I liked Kassim, played by Stephen Rahman-Hughes), and I understand it would have been difficult to portray a tiny monkey on stage, but I think I would have preferred a monkey as opposed to three mates, although there is a reference to Abu in the Prince Ali number. Also there is no tiger (Rajah).
I think the creatives of Aladdin outweigh the cast by a million, excluding Nichols’ of course. With the hero of Disney, a god of musical theatre and a talent not many can top, you can’t really go wrong when you have Alan Menken writing the music for a stage show, and again this is something he has exceeded in. With old classics such as Arabian Nights, One Jump Ahead, Friend Like Me, Prince Ali and of course A Whole New World what can go wrong. With lyrics by the late Howard Ashman, Tim Rice (another fantastic Disney and Musical theatre lyricist) and Chad Beguelin (who also writes the book) it really is a fantastic score. It was great to hear some of Ashman’s work that was cut from the original animated film, the song Proud of Your Boy I have fallen in love with and High Adventure is a catchy little number too. I always think it is hard to beat the classics and the newer songs which were written for the stage version don’t live up to the classics. A Million Miles Away was a bit flat for me, although hearing it on the Broadway cast album does sound better and ‘These Palace Walls’ has been forgotten.
Some of the scenes were absolutely beautiful and were mesmerising which is not an over exaggeration at all. Scenic design was by Bob Crowley, illusion design by Jim Steinmeyer, and Lighting by Natasha Katz. The scenes start to become out of this world with Diamond in the Rough leading to Friend Like Me. The stage turns into an actual Sahara goldmine. Everything is so sparkly and dazzling, the lion sand monster comes to life and you just do not know where to look. The transformation of the stage during Friend Like Me and the illusory effects are just fantastic and it really gives off that magical vibe. I cannot give too much away as it will spoil the show if you see it. Katz does an amazing job with A Whole New World, again the stage transforms into the night sky, with shooting stars, perspective changes and the love between Jasmine and Aladdin comes to life with the lighting arrangements. It really was a spectacular moment, and yes there is a magic carpet ride, beautiful!
All of this wonder is added to by the gorgeous costume design by Gregg Barnes. From the dramatic bold colours off all the characters to the innocent and rich white of the Prince and his entourage they were all so beautiful. The Arabian feel for costumes was definitely captured within the costumes and there was so much bling it was fabulous. Some of those costumes are bound to have weighed a ton (I should know I spent a good 20 minutes at the V&A trying them on). And I am assuming this would be down to make-up design (Milagros Medina-Cerdeira), anyway whose ever idea it was to put glitter on the bald head of the Genie, for me this was the icing on the cake, or the glitter on the head (haha! Bad joke sorry). If (or when) I go bald at least I have the comfort of knowing I can sparkle in the light of having no hair with body glitter on my head, YES!
To read the full review please visit - http://musicaltheatreaddict.blogspot.co.uk/2016/07/aladdin-prince-edward-theatre.html
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