The Disney animated film „Aladdin“ became after its release in 1992 a number one movie globally. In March 2014 the musical opened in the New Amsterdam Theatre on Broadway. On June 15, 2016 the show premiers in the Prince Edward Theatre in London’s West End.
The music was written by Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Ashman, Tim Rice and Chad Beguelin. The musical includes three songs which are written for the film by Ashman, but never used and four new songs written by Menken and Beguelin. The book was written by Chad Beguelin.
Aladdin spends his days stealing food from the street vendors of Agrabah together with his friends Kassim, Omar and Babkak. After Jasmin refused another admirer the Sultan demands his daughter to find a suitable prince before her birthday. While he entertains the people in the streets Aladdin bumps into Jasmine, who has disguised herself as a commoner to get a sense of life outside the palace („A Million Miles Away“), and fell in love with the princess. The evil Grand Vizier Jafar needs Aladdin to enter the “Cave of Wonder”. After Aladdin discovers a Genie in a lamp, he uses one wish to make his way to Agrabah as Prince Ali of Ababwa. In the palace “Prince Ali” offers Jasmin a ride on a magical carpet (“A Whole New World”). The Sultan greets Aladdin in the palace and gives him his blessing for the marriage with Jasmin. As the Sultan announces the marriage, Jafar reveals “Prince Ali” as a thief („Prince Ali“ (Jafar Reprise)). Jafar steals the lamp from Aladdin. Genie and Jasmin end up in chains and Jafar, who is the new master of Genie, uses a wish to crown himself as Sultan. Genie once told Aladdin that he has limited powers, so Aladdin tricks Jafar into whishing himself to become a Genie. The power will be unmatched and Jafar is sucked into the lamp of his own. With his third wish Aladdin sets Genie free. He reveals Jasmin that he loves her but cannot marry her, because he pretend to be somebody he’s not. The Sultan decrees that henceforth Jasmin can marry whomever she loves. Genie prepares for a long vacation and all ended up with Aladdin and Jasmin on the magic carpet and take flight (“Arabian Nights“/“A Whole New World”).
The book of Chad Beguelin has a few differences between film and musical e.g. Aladdin is given three friends, therefore the monkey Abu and the tiger Rajah are excluded from the show and Jafars second wish is to become Sultan, instead of the most powerful sorcerer in the world. Director and Choreographer Casey Nicholaw takes the audience to the journey to Agrabar. The transitions are designed fluently and also the narrative is entertaining. Modifications of the stage are well designed with logical and entertaining interplays. Greatly choreographed dance scenes blend with the magical story. A wonderful Arab world creates the stage design of Bob Crowley – colourful, lively and varied. Impressive as individual scenes in the stage design are implemented like the „Cave of Wonders“. Together with the costumes of Gregg Barnes and the lighting design of Natasha Katz it’s a fairy tale of 1001 night. The sound design of Ken Travis is well done in the vote, so that in the back part of the theatre mostly everything is well understood.
The music of Menken is wonderful to listen and they carrying the musical. Some songs with the texts of Beguelin/Ashman have been added to the musical e.g. „These Palace Walls“ and „A Million Miles Away“, others have been deleted without replacement e.g. „Call Me a Princess“. Aladdin got a scene, who he remembers his mother („Proud of Your Boy“). The songs are entertaining, but not enduring earworms. Only the song „A Whole New World“ is memorable. Musical Director Alan Williams conducts the orchestra energetically and skilfully through the score – wonderful tones come out of the orchestra pit.
Dean John-Wilson as Aladdin and Jade Ewen as Jasmine are playing their roles appropriate. Their voices are melodious and harmonious. Both want to have a better life – Aladdin, who wants to have an honorable life and Jasmine, who wants flee first from the constraints of the palace. As Genie Trevor Dion Nicholas convinced with his fine sense for the funny, but also for the thoughtful moments. Genies friendship with Aladdin is put on a hard trial as he first breaks his promise to free Genie. Nicholas showed an impressive spectacle. Don Gallagher as Jafar pleased by his way of playing. How often he tries to stop Aladdin, he fails every time. At the end he ends up as a prisoner in his own lamp as a Genie, who will be never set free again. While Jafar’s character in the film is evil and terrifying, his character in the musical is more a comedian, which is a pity. This is not a fault of Gallaghers great spectacle, it is a weakness of Beguelins’ book.
Aladdins friends Babkak, Kassim and Omar are played by Nathan Amzi, Stephen-Rahman Hughes and Miles Barrow. They always stay on Aladdins side, except once when Aladdin aka “Prince Ali” tells lies to his friends. They are also a fun part of the show, sometimes it’s a bit too much together with everything else, which is going on during the show. Irvine Iqbal as Sultan represents a calm and understanding father, as well as a conscientious ruler, whose good will is sometimes exploited by Jasmine – his daughter means everything for him. His trustworthy nature is abused by Jafar for his own purposes. The main protagonists are supported by a wonderful harmonious and powerful cast.
In all, „Aladdin“ is a well-rounded piece of family entertainment. Not only for children, also for adults. This impression has been confirmed by the bright eyes of children and adults after the performance.