Aladdin is a Disney classic that gained immediate blockbuster status as a film when it was released in 1992. The famous story made its way to the stage in 2011 and received rave reviews and critical acclaim. The extravagant, mystifying musical made its way to the Prince Edward Theatre in London, and it has gone above and beyond all expectations. With a cast that nails the characters and a scenery that brings the fictional land of Agrabah to life, Aladdin is a performance that will provide entertainment for people of all backgrounds, even those unfamiliar with the animated film.
From the beginning, the audience is enthralled by an atmosphere that elicits an overall sense of awe and astonishment. The land of Agrabah is perhaps portrayed even more exotic and flashy than it is in the film, drawing viewers in with its glamour. While the glitter, sequins, and streamers may seem like overkill, they actually work in this production, creating a feeling that keeps everyone captivated throughout the story.
The cast does an excellent job of portraying their characters. They stay mostly true to the film but add that extra flare that is necessary to bring them to life on the stage. Matthew Croke may benefit from a natural look for the part of Aladdin, but he truly embraces his role as the crafty rapscallion, dancing, singing, and wise-cracking his way into Jasmine’s heart as well as the heart of the audience. Jade Ewen brings a fiery, no-nonsense vibe to the beautiful princess, but manages to show just enough vulnerability and elegance. Trevor Dion Nicholas’s Genie is warm, inviting, and hilarious, exhibiting properties of the late Robin Williams while still making the role his own.
The crowd will be sufficiently satisfied by the lead actors’ performances, but the side characters bring just as much worth to the show. Fred Johanson‘s Jafar is dark, conniving, and intimidating, but not without his own humorous moments. Johanson provides a perfect contrast for Croke’s Aladdin. Jermaine Woods delivers just enough comic relief as Iago, and Irvine Iqbal flawlessly portrays the powerful but sometimes bumbling Sultan. The chemistry between the characters really shines through and the professionalism and talent of the cast is undeniable.
Casey Nicholaw, who also worked on The Book of Mormon, acts as the director and choreographer for this rendition of Aladdin, and it doesn’t disappoint. The dance numbers are second-to-none and the stage direction is exquisite. This is one of the better choreographed Disney numbers that I’ve seen, and that’s saying a lot considering their repertoire. The characters twist, glide, and fly across the stage throughout a variety of numbers that will impress even the most well-versed dancers.
The dancing, of course, must be accompanied by a quality soundtrack in order to be best appreciated. This is another area where the performance shines, as a combination of well-known classics and originals graces the stage. The band does a fantastic job of handling the complex numbers, and the singers give the audience their all with every song. Kids and adults alike will be singing along to all of their favorite songs.
Nicholaw’s directorial skills are undeniable, and he may have solidified himself as one of the best with this production. The actors know exactly how to move about the stage, taking cues with ease and communicating strongly and naturally. Scene changes are seamless, and the story flows smoothly from start to finish. Transforming a cartoon into a stage performance is no easy task, but Nicholaw shows why he has been respected for so long, and that he is deserving of the Tony Award he won in 2011.
A large amount of credit must be given to Jim Steinmeyer, the internationally respected and critically acclaimed illusion designer and special effects director. As the illusion director in Aladdin, he may be one of the most important members of the crew. Special effects and misdirection will dazzle the crowd throughout the performance, with the real kicker being flying the carpet which floats through the air seemingly unassisted. Steinmeyer’s artistic illusions add something indescribable to the play, and it can only be experienced in person to truly appreciate it.
Anybody who grew up watching the original Disney film will walk away speechless from this performance of Aladdin. The cast and crew really are a perfect combination. The characters give us everything we could expect plus plenty of extras. The music is phenomenal, and the accompanying choreography brings a whole new life to A Whole New World. The visual effects are simply stunning, mystifying the children and the adults in attendance. Aladdin is simply a complete production and a magical performance that is well worth the cost of admission. Just be sure to hold onto your hats as you get taken on this magic carpet ride.
Aladdin is currently playing at the Prince Edward Theatre in the West End of London.