Theatre Review: Aladdin


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James Monroe Iglehart in Aladdin (Image: Cylla von Tiedemann)

The latest Mirvish musical, Aladdin, screams Disney: the good, the bad and the ugly. Surely a delight for children, this production is good enough to entertain parents and other adults, as well.

The sets, the costumes, the songs and the choreography scream Disney from the opening number until the finale. The direction, courtesy of Tony Award–winner Casey Nicholaw, keeps the pace up but there are a few clunky numbers thanks to an overly busy set or illogical costume changes. 

We all know the story of the scruffy street kid in smalltown Sahara Desert who meets and falls in love with Princess Jasmine, who is rebelling against her Sultan father set on arranging a marriage for his child. Ya, we know there’s a bad guy, a genie, a magic lamp and badda-bing, badda-boom, it ends in a wedding.

The star of the show is Genie, played with bombastic aplomb by James Monroe Iglehart. His big production number "Friend Like Me" near the end of the first act is almost worth the price of admission alone. It is that good. Iglehart is a wonderful performer: lively, entrancing and demanding of the audience's attention. Witness this scene with your children, and watch how their eyes light up. 

Iglehart continues with boundless energy throughout the production and it helps. There is actually more chemistry between the Genie and Aladdin, played by Adam Jacobs, then there is between Aladdin and Jasmine. Not really a good thing. 

Jasmine and Aladdin don't have the best chemistry and the very "Disney" script doesn't help. It is, in a word, schmaltzy. But there is some redemption in the second act’s whiz-bang number "A Whole New World," featuring the magic carpet ride when Jasmine and Aladdin fall in love, which is also a fine piece of musical theatre with some high production value. 

I would have liked to see a bit more from Jasmine, played by Courtney Reed. A talented singer, she appeared to be limited by the material and not really allowed to offer up a breakout performance. A missed opportunity. 

In between the big numbers, the deep and talented cast is allowed to shine. The three friends of Aladdin who aid in the narration and offer many clever asides, are a wonderful part of the production even though we get a little tired of seeing their schtick by the second act. Their "High Adventure" number appears to be more filler than anything else. 

The evil Jafar is capable, but his little buddy Iago steals most of this thunder with an enjoyable and quirky performance. 

Overall, it is a fine but inconsistent production that could have been better, but still provides solid entertainment value especially for families. 

Aladdin, Ed Mirvish Theatre, runs until Jan. 5

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