That voice in my head wants to share its thoughts on Aladdin:
“Arabian Niiiiiiiiights!” James Monroe Iglehart sings as Genie, our tour guide through Agraba. His rich, warm tone whisks me away to this far-away mystical land until…a technical glitch. Whoops! The curtains close, the house lights come up, and we sit for a little bit. Oh well, it happens to the best of us- Aladdin on Broadway included. While waiting, I was able to appreciate the beautiful theater Aladdin inhabits: leafy foliage and statues fit for a royal garden in relief on the walls helped me feel as if I were in the Sultan’s palace! Once the problem was fixed, the show went on without a hitch.
One of the most moving moments was Adam Jacobs’ rendition of “Proud of Your Boy.” This new song is a beautiful addition, bringing more depth to Aladdin. Although his voice cracked slightly, it just added to the boyish-ness of his character. Mr. Jacobs’ Aladdin is full of boyish charm and swoon-worthy good looks. He expresses a wide range of emotions sincerely, from insecure to boisterous princely liar, to finally sincere heartthrob. At the line, “Do you trust me,” I wanted to leap up from my seat and scream “Yes!!”
The cast’s rendition of “Friend Like Me” was simple amazing. Kudos to the ensemble for all those flawlessly performed quick changes, high-energy dance routines, and magic tricks! Mr. Iglehart’s Genie is fantastic; he’s supremely entertaining and full of heart. All throughout the number I found myself smiling in awe at how amazing and fun it was; no wonder Iglehart has a Tony! And Mr. Iglehart, please please make a CD of you singing all the Disney classics; after getting a taste of the Disney medley during “Friend Like Me,” I need more!
Jonathan Freeman as Jafar = perfection! As the original, and only, Jafar, Mr. Freeman completely embodies the character. Of course, his iconic voice is the same, but Mr. Freeman’s ability to physicalize Jafar is amazing. It was truly a treat to be able to witness such a fine actor! His duet with Iago, played by Don Darryl Rivera, was one of the most entertaining evil villain songs I’ve ever seen.
Three new additions to the story are Aladdin’s buddies Babkak, Omar, and Kassim played by Brian Gonzales, Jonathan Schwartz, and Steel Burkhardt, respectively. In the numbers “Babkak, Omar, Aladdin, Kassim” and “High Adventure,” the trio not only harmonizes sweetly, but also provides even more humor to the show. “High Adventure” was a surprising showstopper: beautifully staged, side-splittingly funny, and extremely well-performed. By the end of the show, I had become a huge fan of Aladdin’s new friends and wanted to know more about them! Since they hinted at possible couplings between them and Jasmine’s attendants, I thought we might get some resolution with their storylines, too; but alas, that didn’t happen.
Princess Jasmine, played by swing Lauryn Ciardullo at this performance, is wonderfully sweet and sassy. Especially since being a swing is such hard work, I was very impressed with how well Ms. Ciardullo performed the role. She needed only minor fine-tuning, and whatever it was that she lacked (I still can’t quite put my finger on it…) could be overlooked.
At “A Whole New World” my jaw dropped as the flying carpet ascended into the air. The stars flashed in turn to make it seem as if they were moving through the night sky; it was as if the entire theater was engulfed in the night sky with them. I tried in vain to spot the wires maneuvering the carpet; even when it moved in front of the moon I couldn’t see them! It was an actual magical moment that I doubt I’ll forget soon.
Overall, Aladdin was a fun night of Disney theatre! The technical elements were incredible, the set and costumes were absolutely gorgeous, and the cast was magnificent. I’m seeing the Gekidan Shiki version in Japan this summer and I can’t wait!