Two Words. 1) Disney 2) Aladdin
The show’s website says “Disney’s Aladdin has “landed triumphantly in London’s West End” (Daily Telegraph). Featuring all the songs from the Academy Award-winning classic film, this “shining, shimmering spectacle” (Huffington Post) is everything you could wish for and more.A fabulous cast and orchestra, over 350 magnificent costumes, and breathtaking sets and special effects come together to create the “sheer Genie-us” (Evening Standard) that is Aladdin, an unmissable event in London theatre.”
My friends and I arrived at the Prince Edward Theatre, and after climbing several flights of stairs found our seats. I must admit, I was a little regretful as we were right up in the Gods, only a few rows from the very back. (Good old “cheap” seats!) I was relieved I had remembered my glasses as the stage seemed extremely far away (I have been spoilt by excellent seats when attending performances at the Waterside Theatre!)
The show opens in the Arabian marketplace, introducing Genie, Aladdin’s friends and Aladdin (Dean John-Wilson). The set was simple, yet effective. From my seat on high I could see the tracks for the moving scenery, and I think this could have been rectified with some imposed shadow patterns (that are used later in Princess Jasmine’s bedroom). The performers were slick, colourful and before long I was lost in the choreography. I did notice the full cast of american accents, and wasn’t sure if it was the native tongue of the actors or if they were stepping in line with the Disney brand.
Jafar (Don Gallagher) and Iago (Peter Howe) plotting to find the “Diamond in the Rough” was brilliant, the smoke and image of Aladdin totally enchanting. Jafar’s voice was beyond amazing, and Iago was hilarious – I loved his physicality…sort of monkey like?!
Things really ramped up when Aladdin went into the Cave of Wonders – I loved how similar it was to the film! It was exciting and highlighted the benefit of having a resident theatre. I can’t imagine how a travelling production would possibly be able to produce such a great quality set. A whole new world (see what I did there) was unleashed with the arrival of the Genie (Trevor Dion Nicholas). I have never wanted someone to be my best friend so much in my life!! What a boombastic, intoxicating figure of a man. Of course, it was beyond over the top, but what else would you expect from a Disney production (especially with so many of us remember Robin Williams as Genie so fondly). “Friend like me” was a fantastic number, and elevated the magical aspect with plenty of flashy illusions. I loved it.
The vocals throughout the performance were superb, particularly Genie, Jafar, Aladdin and Kassim (Stephen Rahman-Hughes). I was reminded of the calibre of the stars making up the cast, the singing just blew me away. As you would expect, all the classic songs were included and more – I looked up some of the songs I didn’t recognise and realised the re-released film version had additions….how old do I feel!!
Jasmine and Aladdin were both gorgeous to look at, and even from afar I was appreciative of Jade Ewen’s exquisite curves. If I’m honest I liked them, physically they were everything I expected, but I didn’t feel the sizzling adoration between them that I would have liked…although I wonder if my proximity to the stage meant I missed the intimate glances and touches.
The second half was great too, but I think the effects and sets were less spectacular. I would have expected the sword fighting to be a little more vigorous, as it did become reminiscent of panto for me. The magic carpet was sensational, clearly a lot of thought went into making it as enchanting and believable as possible (and it does actually fly ladies and gents!) I was a bit surprised as Jasmine and Aladdin sang fairly quietly throughout “A whole new world” – I was waiting for the crescendo (mainly so I could unashamedly bellow along) and it never quite got there. The other thing I would have changed is Genie doing the “charity appeal” at the end – for me it spoilt the afterglow of the singing and dancing.
Overall a beautifully choreographed, lively, and entertaining afternoon out. I have never seen so much sparkle on one stage (literally, the sequins were everywhere!). The Genie and Jafar (and Iago!) were the true stars and brought the energy needed to carry the Disney name. If I had more money I would love to watch the show again from better seats, and gaze lovingly at the Genie’s glittery bonce!