Aladdin At The Prince Edward Theatre: The Perfect Summer Show
| By Shaun Nolan
It’s no secret that I love Disney movies and the 1994 classic Aladdin is no exception to the rule; there is something about the opening bars of “Friend Like Me” that excites my inner child a lot and it’s that kind of Disney magic that I expected when I went into the theatre. When I left, I felt happy and like I’d enjoyed myself a lot, but I definitely came to understand that I was not the target market for the show most of the time: this show is much more child-orientated than Disney’s previous shows like The Lion King.
The stage show is very true to the original film and does try its best to replicate scenes that the film portrays – “Friend Like Me” is a good example of that – and that is certainly something that children will enjoy a lot about this show: the fact that it’s so easily recognisable. The characters don’t even have to speak for you to know who they are because everything about the piece is iconic to begin with and I like that homely feel to it. I also liked how they interpreted some scenes to fit to the stage (like “A Whole New World”, which is the best part of the show in my opinion) and also some of the additional songs, like Princess Jasmine’s new song “These Palace Walls”. The spectacle and vision of the piece was actually the show’s strongest and best element; if you’re looking for being transported to Agrabah, this show can definitely give you that.
The cast were very solid as well. Dean John Wilson, a stage veteran who seems to have never taken the limelight, takes on Aladdin with a suave and smooth sexiness that young children will find cool and parents will surely enjoy as well. His fine vocals are paired with Jade Ewen as Princess Jasmine, the star of the show in my opinion. Her stunning voice and her graceful stage presence and personality made her character so loveable that I began to question why I’d disliked the character from the movie all along. Broadway’s Trevor Dion Nicholas also performs the showstopping “Friend Like Me”, which brings everyone to their feet, with true star quality in his eyes. It’s a performance that’s so much fun, I can see an Olivier nomination in sight for him.
I did struggle with the show’s pantomime element the most, though. I suppose it’s hard to avoid considering the story is very popular with pantomime companies because of its storyline, but it really detracted from the show for me when Jafar was booed every time he entered the stage and the audience were encouraged to join in. In my eyes, it just made me feel uncomfortable even though I was really involved in the show, but I can definitely understand why younger children would enjoy this element, as well as the very child-friendly book penned by additional lyricist Chad Beguelin.
The show’s set was as stunning as its performers though and its grand scale only added to the vast beauty of the space. From the intricate designs on windows in the palace to the beautiful star-lit night time scene during “A Whole New World”, you can see exactly where Disney Theatricals put their huge budget and it does not go to waste. Choreography by Broadway legend Casey Nicholaw was also beautiful to watch and didn’t ever seem to falter, especially during musical numbers like “Arabian Nights” and the costume and lighting design by Gregg Barnes and Natasha Katz respectively – both Broadway big names – was equally as stunning.
At the end of the day, Aladdin is a very good show and is a good example of how extravagant and big Disney Theatricals musicals can be. It can be said though that the elements of pantomime style booing and a very child-friendly book by Chad Beguelin might be a letdown for those who are older than 11, but it’s still a very enjoyable night at the theatre nonetheless and a perfect theatre ticket for the summer holidays.