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A Diamond in the Rough: ALADDIN on Broadway Review

March 8, 2015 Blog, Review 1 Comment


Logo for ALADDIN On Broadway.

(Heads up! There will be spoilers in this review!)

Man, am I one lucky girl. I got the chance to celebrate my birthday with more than 1,000 audience members and the original cast of Disney’s ALADDIN ON BROADWAY this past week at the New Amsterdam Theatre. And boy, was it a lot of fun!

First, let me start off by stressing how much I admire those who work on Broadway. From the cast to the crew, these people come together 8 times a week to create a magical experience for each audience member that steps into the world that is Broadway. The crew is always on their toes making sure they hit each light/set/prop cue, while the cast continues to make certain costume changes within 15 seconds. It’s live theatre and anything can happen. So, a big THANK YOU is in order to the cast, the crew and the creative forces behind ALADDIN for putting together a stellar, memorable production.

Disney-animated film purists & “Aladdin” fans will be very pleased with this faithful adaptation to the classic story of Aladdin: a young, poor boy named Aladdin (played by Adam Jacobs) dreams of a life beyond the market place in Agrabah while a young princess named Jasmine (played by Courtney Reed) dreams of a life beyond the palace walls. Jafar (played by Jonathan Freeman, who is also the voice of the Disney villain in the 1992 film), Agrabah’s royal vizier, has his own evil plans to take the throne away from Princess Jasmine’s father, the Sultan (played by Clifton Davis), and become the most powerful man in the world. Throw in a hilarious, fast-talking genie (played by James Monroe Iglehart) and a magic carpet, and you got yourself a Broadway hit.

Jasmine and Aladdin at the palace. Click

Jasmine (Courtney Reed) and Aladdin (Adam Jacobs) at the palace. Click photo to enlarge the image.

The leading couple, Jacobs and Reed, have an adorable, romantic dynamic on-stage as Aladdin and Jasmine, respectively. Reed shines with a new number penned by composer Alan Menken called “These Palace Walls,” which helps forward Jasmine’s character development as someone who growing into her own and wanting to be taken seriously as an individual. Jacobs’ rendition of “Proud of Your Boy,” Howard Ashman’s original song scrapped from the film version of “Aladdin,” will tug at your heartstrings. Before the show’s signature song “A Whole New World,” Aladdin and Jasmine have their first duet after meeting in the market place in a new ballad called “A Million Miles Away,” in which they express how they would like to escape their troubles by running away and beginning a new life.

While both leads are in several various scenes in the show (and I *cannot* believe I am saying this), I feel that there are not enough appearances made by the Genie, featuring him and his magical antics. Besides the plot focusing on Aladdin’s dream in becoming something more than a “street rat” and winning the heart of Princess Jasmine, the core of the story, in my personal opinion, is the friendship between Aladdin and the Genie. In the film, we can clearly see a bond forming between the two characters, as Aladdin shows the Genie he is not like past masters who were selfish and cruel. The strong chemistry between this duo makes it all the more heartbreaking when Aladdin goes back on his promise to free the Genie from his lamp, while the Broadway show seems to gloss over this emotional scene quickly in favor of extra time with newer characters.

"Friend Like Me"- Tony Performance with Original Broadway Cast

Genie (James Monroe Iglehart) and Aladdin (Adam Jacobs) performing “Friend Like Me” with the ensemble at the 2014 Tony Awards. Click photo to enlarge the image.

These three new characters include Aladdin’s childhood friends, who are fellow “street rats,” named Babkak, Omar and Kassim (played by Brandon O’Neill, Jonathan Schwartz and Brian Gonzales, respectively) who, don’t get me wrong, have plenty of funny lines & jokes, are enjoyable characters and have fabulous tight harmonies. But, are they needed to tell Aladdin’s story? No, not at all. To be honest, it felt like three was too big a crowd and upstaged time that could have been given to more scenes between Genie & Aladdin, Iago & Jafar, and the Sultan & Jasmine. If Abu the monkey, Aladdin’s friend in the film, had been kept in the show, there could have been a new musical number featuring tons of acrobatic tricks, including a verse off between Iago and Abu, along with the energetic ensemble (picture a funnier version of “Mambo” from West Side Story). It was great fun to see these two characters at odds in the original film, its following sequels and the T.V. show, so why not revisit and play around with that opportunity?

Not only was Abu nowhere to be found in the Broadway production, but the only presence of Carpet, aka the Magic Carpet, can be found in the “A Whole New World” scene (which I must say was a VERY magical sequence and everything an “Aladdin” fan could wish for; pardon the pun!). With Carpet being another central character in the original film (and a very memorable one at that), the star of his own attraction at Walt Disney World and the “Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular” stage show at Disney’s California Adventure (see photo below), it seemed like a no-brainer to cast an acrobat/tumbler to portray the lively magic carpet; yet, it was not meant to be.


Aladdin and Carpet in “Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular” stage show at Disney’s California Adventure. Click photo to enlarge the image.

The Sultan’s role is surprisingly small, with no solos or stand-out scenes for the character to be found. It seems like another missed opportunity to have just two small scenes in which the Sultan and Princess Jasmine interact with one another while there are still loose-ends to problems in their relationship, including Jasmine running away from home and being forced to marry so Agrabah has a King that can rule rather than Jasmine ruling herself. A musical number could have been placed in the first act to show both the Sultan and Princess Jasmine’s different viewpoints and frustrations on marriage and who will one day rule the kingdom, but also showing how both are very much alike in their love for each other and Agrabah. Then, by the second act, right before Princess Jasmine’s wedding with Aladdin begins, the Sultan and Jasmine could reprise the same first act duet but this time it would be a quiet heart-to-heart between a father who is about to give his daughter away and suddenly sees her in a different light; she is no longer daddy’s little girl but a mature, young woman who is destined to do great things for her kingdom, with or without a husband. This gives the Sultan more of an incentive to remove the law for good that forces Jasmine to marry a royal suitor after truly listening to what his daughter has to say in the matter and seeing the pureness of Aladdin’s heart.

It was highly entertaining to watch Jonathan Freeman (Jafar) and Don Darryl Rivera (Iago) play off of one another as the main villains in the show. Rivera, who is portraying the character of Iago as a human being in this musical production, had the kids in the audience, as well as the adults, reeling with laughter while suggesting diabolical ideas to the royal vizier. Jafar finally gets his own song (excluding the quick reprise of “Prince Ali”) called “Diamond in the Rough,” in which a tango dance between Aladdin, Iago and Jafar takes place as Iago and Jafar try to convince Aladdin to find the mystical lamp in the Cave of Wonders.

Hands down, the show-stopping number in this production has to be the Genie’s “Friend Like Me.” It is an 8-minute long musical number featuring James Monroe Iglehart (Genie), Adam Jacobs (Aladdin) & the ensemble, which sums up what a Broadway musical is all about. There were magic tricks, amazing acrobats & dancers, fantastic orchestration, a marvelous singer and countless comical moments. Each person on stage gave it their all, with high energy, smiling faces and booming voices; and the audience gave it right back with a thunderous amount of applause that seemed to go on forever (in the best way possible!). Just watching Iglehart and the rest of the ensemble performing the entire number with that level of energy, while constantly singing & dancing, left me just as tired and out of breath as they were when they finished the number; but it was absolutely thrilling!

Iago and Jafar casting a spell. Click to enlarge image.

Iago (Don Darryl Rivera) and Jafar (Jonathan Freeman) casting a spell. Click photo to enlarge image.

By the end of the show, as Aladdin frees the Genie & gets his ‘happily ever after’ by marrying Princess Jasmine, I will admit I started to well up with tears. “Aladdin” was one of the few Disney-animated films I grew up with as a young kid; not only that, I was (and will always be) a huge fan of Robin Williams, especially his performance as the Genie. With it being over six months since the tragic passing of Robin Williams, one of Genie’s last lines in the Broadway show after he is freed from the lamp- “A whole new world, that’s where I’ll be!”- hits home for me, as it did for many other audience members who soon began to cheer even more loudly than they had before after hearing it. Before the curtain fell, the audience and I rose to our feet to give this talented group of performers, both cast and crew, a standing ovation; the experience of the seeing Aladdin on Broadway was just like riding on a magic carpet ride; shining, shimmering, splendid.

ALADDIN on Broadway brings back a ton of nostalgia for those who grew up watching the film as a kid or with their little ones while still giving a fresh, new take on the Arabian Nights’ tale. It includes a perfect cast of actors and actresses who deliver more than 110% of energy and talent in every scene, costumes & sets that are so vibrant & beautifully well-made that they will make you want to travel to Agrabah and the timeless score by Alan Menken, Howard Ashman & Tim Rice that you can’t help but sing along to. Kids from ages 4 to 87 will fall in love with the tale of Aladdin and his friends all over again just like it was 1992. My advice? Don’t miss seeing this diamond in the rough!

Genie Singing "Friend Like Me"

Genie (James Monroe Iglehart) singing “Friend Like Me” in the Cave of Wonders. Click photo to enlarge image.

Have you seen Aladdin on Broadway? If so, what did you think of it? Let us know by commenting on this post, Facebooking us, tweeting us or emailing us!

Here are some of my Fun Five Favorites for ALADDIN on Broadway-

Favorite Standout Lead Performance: James Monroe Iglehart. This guy is unstoppable! He should just receive a Tony each time he finishes “Friend Like Me.”

Favorite Funny Joke: Aladdin and Genie taking part in a “Dancing with the Stars”-like competition right in the middle of “Friend Like Me.” And, they win!

Favorite Touching Moment: Hearing Howard Ashman’s “Proud of Your Boy” sung by Adam Jacobs with a full orchestra. Simply breathtaking.

Favorite New Song in the Score: “These Palace Walls”- sung by Jasmine and her Attendants. A great solo for Jasmine that never appeared the film but was ever so needed.

Favorite Musical Number: “Friend Like Me” with the Genie, Aladdin and the ensemble!

Final Rating: 4 out of 5 stars; would definitely see it again if given the chance.

Get tickets to see ALADDIN on Broadway at the New Amsterdam Theatre here!

Tammy Tuckey is the founder and host of The Tiara Talk Show. Feel free to visit the ABOUT THE HOST page for more info or email her here: tammytuckey@thetiaratalkshow.com. You ain’t never had a friend like her!

Currently there is "1 comment" on this Article:

  1. Pam Tuckey says:

    Awesome article, I want to see Aladdin on stage now !

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