In June, I had the pleasure of seeing Disney's Aladdin the Musical, which had just flown over from Broadway, plus I also got to tick another show off my 'West End Bucket List' by seeing The Lion King.
So I figured why not give you a fun little 'versus' post, in case you were struggling to decide which Disney show was the one for you!
Story and Characters?
They are both stories and characters we have all heard of, and grown up on, no doubt.
Aladdin gives us a fairy tale full of magic- a young street rat who meets a princess and does all he can to win her love, with the help of a friend in the form of a genie, and on the way he faces a few challenges. It's a slight twist on the film, with some minor adaptations, especially in some of the characters (i.e. Aladdin has human friends, and Jafar's sidekick Iago is made human) but the heart of the story is still there, and if anything is notched up into something even more fun and immersive with a subtle, but tasteful, hint of pantomime.
Whereas The Lion King, gives us the dramatic tale of young Simba who is next in line to the throne, but faces many obstacles along the way - predominantly thanks to his power-hungry uncle Scar. It contains many iconic characters and moments; if you know the film this is a pretty close adaptation, just with a unique contemporary theatre twist - which is perfect for introducing youngsters into theatre.
Both are great tales with loveable and loathable characters, therefore either are a winner on this front!
It's very difficult to decide which show has the superior score, because both are simply genius and iconic!
The score for Aladdin was created by Alan Menken, Tim Rice and Howard Ashman and includes beloved tracks like Friend Like Me, Prince Ali and A Whole New World, as well as that, you get to hear equally exciting songs that were either cut from the film or added especially for the stage version such as Diamond In The Rough and Proud Of Your Boy. (Note: I may have shed a tear at A Whole New World).
As for The Lion King, this score was created by Elton John and Tim Rice, and similarly includes a mix of iconic tracks like Circle Of Life, Can You Feel The Love Tonight and I Just Can’t Wait to Be King; as well as additions like They Live In You. (Also Note: due to the fact that I waited to see this show for SO long, I started crying as soon as the opening title began,)
As tough as it is to decide, I think Aladdin has the edge for me. I just love the mix of the comedy and fun, with the emotional ballads and I probably listen to that soundtrack more.
Set, Costume and Staging?
This is another very close-to-call category.
Aladdin is filled with magic from the cave of wonders, to a flying carpet. It's bursting at the seams with colour, flare and tricks across the board, it is simply stunning and had me in awe.
However, The Lion King is equally stunning and particularly unique due to its ornate puppets and clever tricks. It's a brilliant blend of mixing the actors with the animal puppets and nature objects, immersing you into this world of the creatures great and small and their natural habitat and lives. Again, it left me in awe.
Therefore, while both are an exciting visual treat, I think The Lion King wins this round because it was such a breakthrough piece of theatre at the time, the way it comes together is what makes this show so unique and magical.
Both casts that I have seen (for the ‘16/’17 cast) were stunning, so you will win here with either show; but with that said, Aladdin might just steal it purely because of the genius that is Trevor Dion Nichols as genie. I always thought no one could take on Robin Williams, but he brings a whole new energy to the character.
There is a universal appeal in both - and this one can't really be called because, like anything, theatre is subjective.
I think Aladdin holds more glitz and glam, with subtle adult humour and Disney references hidden in (almost in a Panto style) and it showcases a classic fairy tale story. However, with The Lion King, it's a powerful story where you can admire and get lost in the art of the actors as animals with their puppets and costumes that bring wonder to all ages.
Both are shows that the whole family could enjoy though, no matter how young or old, or how well you know the films so this is another draw.
Well based on each category; Aladdin scored 2 points, The Lion King 1 and 3 draws.
As much as I adore and enjoyed both, I think Aladdin personally tipped the edge for me. Which actually came as a bit of a surprise because I think I’ve always preferred the The Lion King film in comparison to Aladdin; but the stage production of Aladdin ticked so many boxes for me with its humour and hidden jokes, drama, love, power, magic and fun. It left me feeling so uplifted!
But whatever show you choose, I have no doubt you will be left feeling amazed by the magic.
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