An enthusiastic crowd welcomed the cast of Disney’s, award winning, “Aladdin” on its opening night, Tuesday Sept. 10th, at the gorgeous Pantages Theatre in Hollywood. Expectations were high for a great night of magical theater as costumed children, happy parents and Disney fans filled the house to capacity.
“Aladdin” is everything one might expect from Disney Theatricals and director/choreographer Casey Nicholaw. Nicholaw has staged this story of star-crossed lovers to within an inch of its life. A large chorus of dancer/singers, lots of choreography, changing sets and scenery, loads of props, special effects, magic tricks and spectacular costumes, fill the stage from the opening moment until we get to the fairy tale ending a long two and a half hours later.
Based on the Disney film from 1992, book writer Chad Beguelin, along with composer Alan Menken and lyricist, Howard Ashman and Tim Rice have added several songs to the already note-worthy score. With classics such as “Arabian Nights’” “Friend Like Me,” and “A Whole New World,” the new songs seem superfluous and unmemorable with the exception of “High Adventure,” which showcases Aladdin’s three buddies played amusingly by, Ben Chavez, Jake Letts and Colt Prattes.
Marcus M. Martin as the big blue Genie, starts things off with a bang in an eclectic “Arabian Nights” which sets us up for the non-stop hijinks that follow. Martin’s Genie follows in the footsteps of Tony winner James Monroe Inglehart who originated the role after the still inimitable, Robin Williams. Martin does well, he can sing, dance and is funny too but, the toll of non-stop hyperactivity causes him to flag as the evening wears on.
Adi Roy fits the bill as the naive but likeable Aladdin, a poor boy from the streets. Good looking and charming, Roy carries the part well but does not have the singing chops to handle the ballads. This unfortunately also holds true for Senzel Ahmady as Princess Jasmine. She is attractive and brings an independent spunkiness to her Jasmine but vocally she is just adequate. Stronger singing from both, especially in the well-known power ballad “A Whole New World” would have lifted their scenes to a higher level. Unfortunately, on this night the “Magic Carpet” did not fly to a higher level as expected but lifted feebly upstage no more than ten feet above the floor. I speculate that the flying rig was not working properly and this was the necessary fallback position used for safety reasons. Perhaps the vocals would have been better if the young lovers were soaring overhead.
Bad guys, Jafar, a game but not very scary, Anand Nagraj and silly parrot, Iago, Aaron Choi, are exactly right as the conniving conspirators, adding comedic conflict to the story. The naive Sultan and father to Jasmine is aptly played by Sorab Wadia. The tireless ensemble, dances, sings and fills the many small parts throughout the show. And each part has yet another costume!
The multitude of colorfully extravagant costumes, as envisioned by Designer, Gregg Barnes, fill the senses and delights the eye, as does the comic Scenic Design by Bob Crowley. Lighting design by Natasha Katz enhances every scene.
Choreography in the hands of Nicholaw becomes a full-blown or sometimes over-blown production number. These numbers are filled with endlessly clever ideas and tremendous energy and yet, sometimes “more” is “too much” and in spite of the fun, ennui sets in although, admittedly the audience seemed to enjoy every minute. Still an editor’s eye is needed and a clean-up rehearsal might be helpful along with time to settle into the new space.
Overall, the production is an elaborate cartoon, fun for children and Disney fans alike. Because this was opening night, perhaps with time this Aladdin can soar to new heights.
Credit must be given for the brilliant Orchestrations by Danny Troob and Glen Kelly and kudos to Musical Conductor James Dodgson and the terrific Los Angeles musicians. Exceptional sound design is by Ken Travis.
“Aladdin” continues through September 23, 2023. For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit the Pantages Theatre’s website.
Written by Tam Warner for LA Dance Chronicle.
Featured image: Marcus M. Martin as the Genie and Cast of “Aladdin” – Deenvan Meer Disney.