Disney are about to send their second mega-musical, Aladdin, into the West End to join the astronomical success that is The Lion King. Both productions are of an epic scale, but would be nowhere without their captivating narratives and the enormous characters that emerge.
Perhaps two of the mightiest are the evil uncle of Simba, Scar, and the deceptive Sultan’s vizier, Jafar. Both betray the ones closest to them in order to gain their own power, but which of the villains is worse? And who would we rather play?
Now we do have the added bonus of knowing a lot more about how Scar works on stage – The Lion King has been running since 1999 and, in fact, was the first ever West End show I saw at the tender age of 10! Meanwhile, Aladdin is yet to open in the West End but tickets are on sale for the run starting March 2016.
In The Lion King, Scar tricks his brother, the King Mufusa, into falling into a wildebeest stampede. He then banishes his nephew and rightful heir, Simba, and sends his hyena army to kill him. As the musical continues, Scar begins to descend into madness, haunted by visions of his dead brother, and attempts to make Nala, a lioness, his mate. Nala finds the banished Simba, and they return to fight Scar. The evil lion falls from a cliff, and is eaten by his starving and malnourished hyena army.
In Aladdin, Jafar plans to usurp the Sultan from his throne, searching for a way to enter the Cave of Wonders. When told that only Aladdin can get him in, he finds the street urchin and sends him to bring him the magic lamp. He later tricks Aladdin – posing as Prince Ali – into visiting the Princess Jasmine in her room, despite it being against the law. Jafar then has Aladdin arrested and thrown in the dungeon, although he is saved by the Genie. Jafar steals the Genie’s lamp, and exposes Aladdin as the urchin that he is. Jafar uses his wishes to become Sultan; however, Aladdin tricks Jafar into wishing he was a Genie, seeing him sucked into a lamp of his own forever.
Now, Scar seems undoubtedly more evil than his Arabian counterpart. He willingly kills his brother, and tries to kill his nephew as well, whilst Jafar sees nobody dead as a result of his hand. Furthermore, Scar has no attempts at running a successful kingdom, just craving power, whilst Jafar could run a sustainable and reasonably good Agrabah, given his role as vizier for the Sultan.
Furthermore, Scar’s song ‘Be Prepared’ is one of the strongest of the whole musical. It presents a really great opportunity for a strong male singer to show off their own personal skills in a show which is built upon a strong chorus. Nevertheless, Jafar has some really solid numbers: ‘Diamond in the Rough’ is a jazzy up-tempo track and contrasts with the more sinister nature of ‘Prince Ali (Reprise)’, allowing a wide range of emotions from the villain rather than consistent evil.
Whilst Scar seems the evilest – whether that is a title to be proud of or not is debatable – I think I would choose to play Jafar. An increased amount of stage time, a variety of songs, and the ability not to be universally hated by every single character on stage (his minion Iago supports him throughout, although transformed from a parrot to a human). Then of course I may be wrong! I suppose the only way to know for sure is to buy tickets for both…
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