Review: "Aladdin has finally landed in the West End – and, no, it's not a pantomime"
| By Harriet Wilson
So Aladdin has finally landed in the West End – and, no, it's not a pantomime. In fact, it is an absolutely awesome musical. There are few shows quite as visually impressive as this one, and equally as few so overflowing with life and energy. When I went to see the show, a well justified, complete standing ovation erupted at the end, and I would have expected no less – but to have a partial standing ovation mid-way through a show is quite something, so I was duly impressed when, after “Friend Like Me”, this is exactly what happened. Aladdin is genuinely hilarious, and performed with exceptional flair. Happily, it is just as suitable for adults as it is for children.
Aladdin is really not a pantomime. On the other hand … there isn't much of a fourth wall. But the balance is absolutely perfect – the show is extremely engaging, without being in-your-face or at all tacky. The humour in the show is absolutely genius – there are some genuinely excellent lines and, again, they were handled perfectly. All in all, the show is exceptionally engaging (as evidenced by non-stop cheering from the audience), and I would be very surprised if anybody could see Aladdin without being drawn into it.
The pace of Aladdin is kept up brilliantly. There is always a lot going on, and the stage is always so full of life that there is really never a dull moment. There are no boring-in-the-middle bits, or we-have-to-do-this-for-the-plot scenes; every scene is thoroughly enjoyable in its own right. The musical numbers are placed ideally, so that there is never too long between shows but, equally, you're not bombarded with song after song. Again, there is a lot of humour in the production, and this helps to make it feel like the show is really flying by.
The cast of Aladdin is flawless – and I have rarely been as impressed by an individual performance as I was by Trevor Dion Nicholas' Genie. He is spectacularly engaging and fun, and he lifts the whole show, owning the stage every time he steps onto it. “Friend Like Me”, in particular, is simply wonderful.
Aladdin and Jasmine are played, respectively, by Dean John-Wilson and Jade Ewen. Both characters are played with impressive sincerity and become really likeable; at no point do they appear at all two-dimensional. John-Wilson has an excellent voice, and Ewen's is equally strong.
The rest of the cast are constantly bringing energy to the stage; Aladdin relies on its more minor characters and ensemble just as much as (if not more than) its key principals, and this cast does not disappoint. In particular, Aladdin's friends bring a lot of fantastic, original humour to the production. The cast are all incredibly versatile, fun, and a joy to watch.
I think that Jafar (Don Gallagher) and Iago (Peter Howe) are slightly overplayed in this production, and are perhaps one of the key reasons for people saying that Aladdin has quite a pantomime-like style. However, if you take their characters with a pinch of salt, it is certainly not something that would affect how much you would enjoy the show.
The music in Aladdin is, of course, great – but I hadn't realised how many amazing songs are in the stage production and not in the film. Added to the obvious classics – “A Whole New World”; “You Ain't Never Had a Friend Like Me”; “One Jump” – are songs like “Million Miles Away”, and “High Adventure”, which will be stuck in your head for days after you see the show.
For a show that doesn't revolve around dance, the choreography in Aladdin is surprisingly impressive. There is a bit of everything – even some tap dancing, which I particularly enjoyed – and it is all done with boundless flair, filling the stage with colour, and life. All of this was backed up by an absolutely ace orchestra, which was a force to be reckoned with.
For the duration of Aladdin, the stage is overflowing with life. There is colour everywhere, brilliant costume, and it is never too long before a new piece of scenery is landed on stage. A real “high” of the show is when the magic carpet makes its appearance, but it is not just the carpet that makes “A Whole New World” a visual spectacle. Perhaps even more spectacular was “Friend Like Me”, which was like an overflowing buffet of visual effects, with one “wow” after another.
Very few shows are as visually stunning as Aladdin – I would go and see the show again for that reason alone.
Would Most People Enjoy It? ★★★
If you like Disney at all, you will love Aladdin. Please do yourself a favour and don't be put off by people saying it's a pantomime – it's not, it is a musical with some slightly panto-ish aspects. I can't imagine that anybody could fail to be impressed by the show so, if you like Aladdin as a film, you will fall head-over-heels for the stage production. The recommended age for the show is 6+, and I would agree that anybody younger than 6 would be likely to find the show a little bit scary at times.
The “Wow” Factor ★★★★
Aladdin is one “wow” after another. I was particularly bowled over by “A Whole New World”, “Friend Like Me”, the Cave of Wonders – and, most of all, the Genie. I could go on and on with this list, but suffice to say that it is a tour de force.
Price of Seats ★★★★
Considering the scale of the show, seats for Aladdin are priced very reasonable, starting at £30 if you book with London Theatre Direct. There are certainly a lot of less outstanding shows that sell more expensive tickets.
Aladdin at the Prince Edward Theatre will leave you feeling like you're flying a magic carpet yourself. It is superbly feel-good, full of energy and, if you go to see it with an open mind, I genuinely think that you would struggle not to be impressed. Aladdin has already extended its booking, so you can now see it up until February 2017. There is really no excuse to miss it.