What: Aladdin – the Musical
When: 18th April, 2017
Where: Her Majesty’s Theatre, Melbourne
Playing at Her Majesty’s Theatre, Melbourne until October 2017
Tickets and information can be found here: /aladdin-the-musical
Being a Disney fan and familiar with the songs, naturally I was excited to see Aladdin, although I kept my expectations low just in case it didn’t live up to the Disney classic. But as soon as the first number began, I instantly knew I was going to love it.
The opening number, Arabian Nights has always been one of my favourites and although, not normally sung by Genie (Michael James Scott), the musical took the essence of the original and turned it a little more sexy and mysterious. Taking you on that magic carpet ride into the streets of Agrabah, much like a Bollywood musical, you’re instantly transported into their colourful and joyful world. This continues with Aladdin’s following song, One Jump Ahead (although slight changes have been made to its lyrics and thus the story overall). If you’re familiar with the song, Proud of Your Boy, for example you’ll know this already.
Proud of Your Boy has always been one of my favourites, although I wasn’t aware that it was from Aladdin at all. These Palace Walls sung by Jasmine (played by the gorgeous, Hiba Elchikhe) and her attendants, is one of the weaker songs in the set list. It’s not that I remember it being bad; it just is unneeded in the scheme of things, although it does set up Jasmine escaping the Palace.
One of the major changes to the story is the absence of animals. In the cartoon, Jasmine has her non-speaking tiger, Rajah and Aladdin’s only friend is Abu the monkey (“you’re my only friend, Abu” RE: One Jump Ahead). I overheard a women say how she was missing the animals and I felt the same way at first, because I think an important part of Aladdin/Jasmine’s story arc is that feeling of isolation/being alone and that’s a big factor in their overall actions.
In the musical, Jasmine has three female attendants (although only really present in a couple of scenes) and Aladdin has his three friends, Kassim, Babkak and Omar. However the mischievous trio, as played by Adam-Jon Fiorentino, Troy Sussman and Robert Tripolino, respectfully, were part of the reason the musical changes work so well. Babkak, Omar, Aladdin, Kassim and High Adventure were highly likable favourites on the night and provide well-choreographed and comic relief to every scene.
There’s also Jafar’s sarcastic, foul-mouthed parrot sidekick. While there is bird-like nods in his costume, Aljin Abella steals the show as human Iago. He nails the voice of Gilbert Gottfried (the original voice of Iago) and never over shadows but rather supports the equally impressive Adam Murphy as Jafar. (Keep an eye open for the jaw-dropping quick changes during the final battle – wow!)
For an average sized cast, what Aladdin does well is fool you into thinking the cast is larger than it actually through. The ensemble is stretched through various costume changes and choreography that it feels like a big stage production. The clever use of set also helps with scale – considering the limitations of the size of the stage, you feel like the Cave of Wonders is as grand as the night sky during A Whole New World.
I was worried the show would lack in illusion, given also the physical limitations of being live action, but there is plenty of magical surprises in set decoration to shock the biggest of skeptics. Done best in Friend Like Me, where deceptive set pieces are cleverly placed for a later reveal. While most isn’t “done” by Genie himself, never did the musical feel void of magic.
The biggest illusion was always going to be the iconic (and equally tricky) magic carpet ride. I wanted to feel that romance and awe as the two flew through the night sky, and as the set pieces are pulled away as Aladdin and Jasmine step onto the carpet, it was absolutely breathtaking to behold.
While the Sultan is hypnotized by Jafar and seen as a short, over-weight bubbling type of character in the original; George Henare’s performance is different and overall enjoyable. This affects the final battle between good and evil, but it’s understandable given the changes and plays into the limits of live action (Jasmine being imprisoned in the hourglass, and Jafar transforming himself into a cobra, for example).
Ainsley Melham’s brings that cheeky, likeable, dreamer sensibility of Disney’s Aladdin. Sharing that same erratic, over-the-top, larger-than-life spirit which Robin Williams provided in the original; the musical relies of the comical genius of Michael James Scott as Genie.
Aladdin was everything and more! There’s much to love and little to hate. It was incredibly joyous and left me grinning from ear to ear. It’s one of those rare musicals that will delight audiences both male and female, young and old. It’s funny, romantic, adventurous, extremely colourful and infectious. I’ve seen a lot of musicals in my life and this was truly one of the best. It’s one I would happily see again. Please be advised some scary scenes may frighten small children – especially the Cave of Wonders and scenes with Jafar.