I don’t quite know what I expected from Aladdin, the new Disney musical currently playing at the Prince Edward Theatre. I think I thought it would be an inferior version of the classic 1992 film, but in fact I ended up loving it.
Aladdin is a scamp who spends his time thieving from the marketplace in his home city of Agrabah. He is kidnapped by the wicked Jafar, Grand Vizier to the Sultan, to retrieve a magic lamp Jafar wishes to use for his own nefarious purposes. However, Aladdin ends up becoming Master of the Lamp himself. Will he, with the help of the Genie, be able to defeat Jafar and win the love of the Princess Jasmine?
This being a Disney show, and a famous film to boot, we all know the answer; but it’s still fun watching it happen. All Alan Menken’s catchy songs from the film are present – “Arabian Nights”, “One Jump Ahead”, “Friend Like Me”, “A Whole New World” – and we get plenty of new ones too, including “Proud Of Your Boy”, a heartfelt ballad sung by Aladdin for his dead mother, and “High Adventure”, sung by Aladdin’s best pals in an amusing Three Musketeers-style sequence as they rush to the palace to help their friend.
The scenery is beautiful and I was hugely impressed by the special effects: the Genie pops in and out of the floor on a regular basis, and the magic carpet looked as if it was really flying: obviously there must have been wires somewhere, but they weren’t at all noticeable in the beautiful sequence that sees Aladdin and Jasmine soar into a star-spangled sky.
Ethan Le Phong (understudy, but certainly not second-rate) and ex-Sugababe Jade Ewen are likeable and believable as Aladdin and Jasmine: they aren’t the strongest singers in the world but they don’t do at all badly. The real star of the show is the Genie, and Trevor Dion Nicholas, who was with the show on Broadway, is brilliant: funny, charismatic, gloriously camp and an excellent singer.
Naturally, the creators of the show have had to make a few changes from the film. Jafar’s parrot sidekick Iago is now human, with some distinctly parrot-like tendencies; the change works well. Aladdin’s monkey Apu is left out altogether, but to be honest his absence is not really felt.
I honestly loved this show: lively, entertaining and hugely well put together, it is perfect for fans of the film but is also worth seeing if you’ve never clapped eyes on the movie before.