Aladdin will show you a whole new world

Aladdin Friend Like Me photo By Deen van MeerDisney’s Aladdin has opened at Sydney’s Capitol Theatre raising the bar on what it means to be a stage spectacular. I will admit I am biased and live on the side of the fence with those who love most of what Disney produces, but never before have I seen such a rapturous applause to a scene change, nor have I been witness to a standing ovation after a single song – Friend like me. So even the harshest critic would have to admit that the team behind this production of Aladdin must be doing something right.

Although the story of Aladdin is based upon one of the tales from One Thousand and One Nights, the stage show is based predominantly upon the 1992 animated classic adaptation albeit without the typical Disney anthropomorphisms. Yes, this does mean that the mischievous monkey Abu and Jasmine’s pet tiger Rajah are absent, the magic carpet lacks personality and the hilarious Iago (Aljin Abella) is human and not a parrot.

Those true to the animated feature will be happy to know that all of the much loved songs are present as well as several additional numbers made for the stage production. But to be honest these additional songs simply do not compare to the originals.

Since Aladdin opened on Broadway in 2014, it has wowed audiences in Tokyo, Hamburg, and London, and Australia is quite fortunate to be receiving this hit show so soon. The Sydney production is blessed with a stunning cast comprising both local and international talent, and combined with the now seemingly obligatory Australian-isms, the production is unique to previous iterations.

You couldn’t wish for a better Genie in Michael James Scott, who was part of the original Broadway cast, and is arguably the most powerful performance of the show (he is a Genie after all). Unlike the animated feature that played upon the hilarious stylings of the late great Robin Williams, Scott brings his own unique blend of camp glamour and modern popular culture references while playing tribute to the legend who played a major role in the success of the animated movie, with much help from the Illusion and Special Effects Designs by Jim Steinmeyer and Jeremy Chernick respectively.

What makes many Disney classics so memorable are actually the villains who tend to possess more personality than their heroic counterparts, as well as bringing forth a stylish and at times flamboyant flair that you can lovingly boo but secretly wish to become. Adam Murphy succeeds in playing the ambitious and self-serving royal advisor Jafar, as does Aljin Abella, who plays his loyal and conniving servant, Iago.

This is not to say that the show’s leads Ainsley Melham (Aladdin) and Arielle Jacobs (Jasmine) were inferior; both their roles beautiful portrayed the romantic story between the kind-hearted yet awkward thief and the head-strong and independent Princess who strives for freedom and respect. But being a Disney production, much of the comedic value lies with the villains and supporting cast.

With a cast of 37, and 337 different and stunning costumes (Costume Designer Gregg Barnes) particular mention should be made to the comical trio of Adam-Jon Fiorentino (Kassim), Troy Sussman (Babkak) and Robert Tripolino (Omar) as Aladdin’s partners in crime. Their elaborate and humorous sword fighting scene is one of the many fantastic dance sequences that showcases the skill of the Director and Choreographer Casey Nicholaw.

While it is never wise to say that the set makes the show, the Scenic Design by Bob Crowley makes Aladdin something special. It was spectacular or elegantly simple as the need arose, with faultless and smooth transitions through the various locations around the fictional city of Agrabah that included the famous carpet ride amongst the stars. For the set alone I feel this show is a ‘must see’, most will connect to their inner-child within, and allow the magic of Aladdin to fulfil one of your wishes for musical theatre. Just don’t you dare close your eyes!

Capitol Theatre, 13 Campbell Street, Haymarket (Sydney)
Performance: Thursday 11 August 2016 – 7.00pm
Season: 11 August – 13 November 2016

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Image: Michael James Scott (Genie) and Ainsley Melham (Aladdin) with Cast in Aladdin – photo By Deen van Meer

Review: Jimmy Twin