My Rating: 4 Stars
Content Rating: 10+ (mostly because I don’t think little kids want to sit for that long)
Cast: Joshua dela Cruz, Courtney Reed, James Monroe Iglehart, Jonathan Freeman, Don Darryl Rivera
Should I Pay Full Price for a Ticket: Yes. Highly Recommended. The New Amsterdam Theater is a big house, so it’s less likely that cheap seats will be good.
For those of you who don’t know me, I am a Musical Theater Performer who aspires to be on Broadway. Not to be famous, but just to perform at the highest level possible with other immensely skilled performers. I saw a total of eleven shows on my New York trip a last week (two shows I saw twice), and all of them, regardless of how much I liked the show, were extremely well done.
Aladdin was the first show I saw on my trip. I saw it a mere few hours after stepping of the plane. I am also a huge Disney fan, so I knew that I was going to love the show. I grew up watching Aladdin, and it’s one of my favorite Disney movies. First of all, it’s in the New Amsterdam Theater, which, if you’ve never been to, is probably the most beautiful house on Broadway.
Aladdin starts off with a bang, with the Genie (the amazingly talented James Monroe Iglehart) leading the ensemble in a rousing rendition of “Arabian Nights”. Check it out:
The show has all the old faves: “A Friend Like Me”, “One Jump”, “A Whole New World”, “Prince Ali”…and there are some really wonderful new songs, such as “Proud of Your Boy”, a beautiful and stirring ballad sung by Aladdin about his desire for parents and family that would be proud of him. My favorite part of the show was definitely “A Friend Like Me”. It had everything that makes Broadway Musicals amazing: crazy tap choreography, special effects like fireworks (literally), a random Disney medley thrown in (including songs from Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid), and a heck of a lot of triple threats completely wowing the audience. I have never heard such raucous and extended applause for a song before; I think we cheered for almost a minute.
But the song that made me bawl like a baby was “A Whole New World”. Not only was it beautifully sung, but it was INCREDIBLY staged. I wish I could show you guys a video, but even that wouldn’t do it justice. Here’s a gif to give you a little bit of an idea of how magical it is:
The carpet literally looked like it was flying. I swear I couldn’t see the cables. At one point, all lights illuminating the actors went out and all you saw was the carpet flying among the stars, and you just sat and listened to the music as they flew around the stage. It was ridiculously magical, and it’s impossible to describe. I hope you all get the chance to see it at some point.
We actually saw one of Aladdin’s understudies the night we went; normally, the part is played by Adam Jacobs (who I would still love to see), but we saw Joshua dela Cruz. Not gonna lie, at the beginning of the show, I was a little concerned that he wasn’t going to be great. “One Jump” includes a lot of running around and jumping and fight choreography, so it’s incredibly difficult to sing without sounding winded, so I was a little nervous. Until he got to “Proud of Your Boy” and he completely blew all my concerns out of the water. His voice was gorgeous, and it was such a pleasure to hear him sing the title role.
James Monroe Iglehart as Genie was brilliant. As crazy theater majors, my friends and I went to every stage door of every show we saw to get actor autographs/photos and to talk to the actors. I told James that I so appreciated that he didn’t try to do Robin Williams Genie; he makes it completely his own and is larger than life in the best way in this part. He is nominated for a Tony Award, which he most definitely deserves.
Courtney Reed as Jasmine wasn’t my favorite character, although I think that was because of the script and not her performing. She’s beautiful and a very talented actress, but the part is pretty 2D, which was disappointing. There wasn’t even a very good song to add to an Audition Book for MT people. It’s definitely a great show for the guys, but not so much for the girls. Also, if you’re looking for the trusty animal sidekicks, they won’t be found on the Broadway stage. Rajah is not even mentioned as far as I can remember, and Abu is only referred to during “Prince Ali”.
Because it’s a kids show, the conflict is a little weak. In the movie, there is a magnificent battle between Aladdin and Co. and Jafar. This battle was sorely lacking and the last scene seemed a little rushed and forced. This was the only part of the show that I was like “hold on…there should have been more there”.
The best part of a Disney movie becoming a Broadway show is they take the same looks of everything and make it even more spectacular. At Disney World, the shows are made to look as if you are watching the exact movie in real life, so the costumes tend to be very cartoonish. Well here, you can easily recognize the characters, but the costumes are rich and beautiful rather than cartoonish. It’s more suggestive of what it looks like in the movie and creative.
There were some fun new characters, including some sidekicks for Aladdin, who add lots of comedy, and also some very nice, tight harmonies in a few hilarious songs.
I could go on and on about all the things I loved in the show, but even that wouldn’t be enough to explain the magic you would experience in seeing it for yourself. It’s a wholly magical and thrilling production, with excellent performances, spectacular special effects, beautiful sets and costumes, and a score that is so nostalgic and entertaining, you’ll be out of your seat cheering long before curtain call.
And…just for fun, here’s the splendid Act 2 opener, “Prince Ali”: