by Rebecca Gordils
A whole new world emerged from the New Amsterdam Theater during the showing of Disney’s Aladdin the Musical.
The show, which featured new and existing songs from the 1992 film, opened nearly two years ago.
Curtains rose on the loveable street rat running from the authorities after stealing a loaf of bread. The guards threaten to kill him, to which he and everyone in the marketplace have no concern for. That must be part of the Disney magic.
Director/choreographer Casey Nicholaw resides at the reigns of this production and all its lavish attire, seen in the musical number “One Jump Ahead.” The dance numbers, beautifully adorned with nearly all the colors of the wind, had enough sequins and silk to give “Toddlers in Tiaras” some fair competition.
Nicholaw’s work, seen in the Broadway production of “Book of Mormon,” is highlighted in this highflying tale of a “diamond in the rough” and a princess. Adam Jacobs, who plays Aladdin, has a heart-warming personification of a poor orphan who just wants to make his dead mother proud.
Courtney Reed, who played the role of Jasmine, did not fit the mold of the feisty princess in my eyes. Her voice was too high pitched for the sass that came along with the carefully chosen lines that mirrored the now 25-year-old film.
As many millennials remember, it was Genie, voiced by the late Robin Williams, who “stole the show” in the original Disney film.
Genie, played by Tony-winning James Monroe-Iglehart, breaks the fourth wall with a smile and wink and has one of the grandest numbers of the show as he erupts from the stage singing “Friend Like Me.” His fabulosity and vibrato take us on a magic carpet ride as dancers appear as if by magic in the gold-dripped cave.
Allusions to anything and everything are seen in this musical number. Waiters with food on trays, a hat-tip to “Hello, Dolly,” and lines drawn from West Side Story, The Little Mermaid, Pocahontas, and even a few jokes mirroring the gracious style of Oprah are heard in the comedic rants and runs of Genie’s all-powerful song.
As with every Disney story, the princess finds her prince after one magical magic carpet ride complete with stars and outer space. And, just as in the film, the girl-power princess sticks up for her rights to marry whomever she pleases.
Jafar, the evil vizier, complete with witty sidekick animal Iago, are defeated in the end, and happiness reigns throughout the fictional country of Agrabar, where “it’s flat and immense and the heat is intense.”
The most captivating aspects of this show were not, however, the story line or the characters. The set and light design carried this show to new heights on a seemingly magic carpet lifted as if with nothing, and stars that twinkled almost as brightly as the Milky Way. Magically appearing doorways (and Genies) and beautiful backdrops with intricate set pieces brought the play to the standard of Disney wonder we all but expect.
Though cliché, the poignant line from Genie for Aladdin to “Be yourself” reigns true in this well told Disney-tale.