It's been nearly 21 years since Disney first released its animated feature film, "Aladdin," and took us all on a magical ride through the enchanted city of Agrabah. Now, following the success of several movie-musical turned Broadway-musical shows such as "Lion King" and "Beauty and the Beast," Disney is at it again with "Aladdin on Broadway". Drawing from the 1992 film and fabled Aladdin stories from hundreds of years earlier, with a few new twists and turns, Disney's latest production of "Aladdin" will awe you with its charm, mysticism and explosive special effects.
Our favorite "street-rat," the noble thief Aladdin himself (Adam Jacobs), begins his tale by getting into trouble in town. Because Disney presumably could not actually train a live monkey to speak and sing, film-favorite "Abu" is noticeably absent from Aladdin's side, but in his place Aladdin pals around with a sort of merry band of misfits -- his friends Babkak (Brian Gonzales), Kassim (Brandon O'Neill), and Omar (Jonathan Schwartz). Though they tend to overuse one-liners, the addition of these sidekicks for Aladdin provide an ongoing comic relief and gives more cohesiveness to his character. The new Broadway production also adds a nostalgic element of a deceased mother whose spirit Aladdin sings to and seeks approval from. Disney certainly found a "diamond in the rough" with Jacobs, a talented singer and performer who is also known for playing the lead role of "Simba" in Disney's "The Lion King" on Broadway.
Across town in Agrabah, the beautiful Princess Jasmine (Courtney Reed) dazzles inside of her heavily-guarded palace walls, but dreams of a life outside. Meanwhile, Jasmine's father, the Sultan of Agrabah (Clifton Davis), struggles in vain to find a suitor that Jasmine can tolerate. Unbeknownst to them, the Sultan's own trusted advisor, Jafar (Jonathan Freeman), waits in the proverbial palace wings for an opportunity to marry Princess Jasmine and become Sultan himself one day.
The smart-aleck parrot, "Iago," is as absent as Abu, but the audience barely notices as the writers created an actual "Iago" character (Don Darryl Rivera). Although debuting on Broadway in this role, Rivera owns his character as he banters with Jafar, delivers unexpected quips with quintessential comedic timing, makes relevant references to modern pop culture, and displays an overall self-deprecating humor in which the audience recognizes he really is just like a parrot to Jafar.
Enter the renowned "Genie" (James Monroe Iglehart), who some might say is really the main attraction in the show. As Jafar and Iago seek out Genie's enchanted lamp, their magical incantation eerily reveals a smoky phantom who instructs them to find Aladdin, the "diamond in the rough," and send him into the Cave of Wonders to retrieve the lamp. As Iglehart belts out the number the audience has been waiting for, "Friend Like Me," it is nearly impossible to take your eyes off of him. Iglehart's wit and versatility lights up the stage, and that's not just because of pyrotechnics.
Other beloved songs from the 1992 film lead the cast on their journey, from "Arabian Nights" to "A Whole New World," and there are some new additions to carry the added story-lines, such as "Proud of Your Boy," an insightful song Aladdin sings with his mother in mind, and "High Adventure," a fun, upbeat song Aladdin's sidekicks sing as they travel to rescue him when he finds himself in a bind.
Rest assured, just like in the movie, there is also a flying carpet in the musical production, and the Disney set designers really outdid themselves in creating the starry scene in which Aladdin and Jasmine take their first romantic ride together. "Aladdin" is a great, magical journey on Broadway, and it should not be missed.
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