Disney classic Aladdin takes to the stage in a whirl of colour. The Newsroom’s Rachel Adler headed to the Capitol Theatre to check it out.
Growing up, Aladdin was in my top five favourite Disney movies. Deservedly so – it has everything you could want including a dashing hero, a smart independent princess, a villain you love to hate and of course, a charismatic genie. So when I heard the stage adaption was coming to Sydney’s Capitol Theatre, I was determined to go – what more could my inner child want?
When I was younger, I could never pinpoint what it was about Aladdin that drew me in, in a way no other fairytale could. Now, as a woman in her early twenties living in the 21st century I have realised what it is; Princess Jasmine. I could never identify with the ‘damsel in distress’ heroine. Instead, I admired the determination and strong will of Princess Jasmine. She doesn’t bow down to society or her father’s wishes to get married and have kids. Rather, she believes in finding a partner who views her as an equal and wants to marry for love. Enter Aladdin – the bad boy with a heart of gold. The kind of man you hope your daughter marries. Seeing this Jasmine/Aladdin dynamic 10 years on was one of the reasons why, on a sunny Wednesday, I had nervous anticipation thrumming through my system as my brother Nathan and I met up outside Capitol Theatre.
Walking into the foyer, we were hit with Aladdin fever . The room was decorated in the Aladdin colours of purple and gold, with themed merchandise including Jasmine and Aladdin dolls, towels, water bottles, program books and even a lamp that plays the Aladdin favourite, ‘A Whole New World’.
Our seats were towards the back of the theatre. We climbed so many stairs, it felt like we climbing up a mountain. As I sat down in my seat, I wondered if my glasses were going to be enough or if I would need high powered binoculars to see anything. The lights dim down, the beginning notes from the orchestra began to play, stirring the crowd’s anticipation. Genie appears and gets us laughing from the moment he steps onto the stage. He set up the opening scene and was joined by other cast members in the opening number, ‘Arabian nights’.
Some aspects were visually different from the beginning, but it was not necessarily a bad thing. For example, instead of a monkey for a best friend, Aladdin had three childhood friends who go pick-pocketing with him. You could tell that although they were a new addition for the musical, the four friends were very close, even giving them a signature song to sing, accurately named after them, ‘Babkak, Omar, Aladdin, Kassim’. The changes also applied to Jasmine and Jafar. Three handmaidens would gave Jasmine advice and a shoulder to cry on replacing her pet tiger and a small sinister sidekick for Jafar instead of a talking parrot.
As the story unfolds, we hear classic songs from the Disney movie like ‘One Jump Ahead’, ‘Diamond in the Rough’, and ‘Prince Ali’. Songs that, if you’re a Disney nerd like I am, can sing word for word. What I found to be most interesting was additional songs that were made for the movie back in 1992. The songs were deemed not right for the film, but when talk about a stage production came about, the songs were put to light. Both Aladdin and Jasmine got more solos including ‘Proud of your Boy’ and ‘These Palace Walls’, as well as a duet, ‘A Million Miles Away’.
Jasmine’s ‘These Palace Walls’ was my favourite from the additional songs because I felt it gave her her character the opportunity to voice her feelings, giving us more insight into what her character represents; her longing to be free from a life with zero choices.
‘Friend Like Me’ , debuting Genie, was my favourite musical number from the live production. Michael James Scott, an American Broadway actor, played Genie and loved to joke around with the crowd. All the cast members acted as if they were in their own little world, and while we weren’t looking on, Genie could see it all. What I liked most about him, and thought was quite clever, was the modern catch phrases he did with a sassy flair. When Aladdin would talk back to him, he would respond with a very loaded “ain’t nobody got time for that” and even left a scene with “bye Felicia”. He also did a little medley of other Disney songs from various Disney moves which tickled our funny bones.
Throughout the show, they would turn a small stage into a whole new world (pun intended), with clever and inspiring props used by all cast members, bringing life to the production. Some props even joined us in the audience. For the big finish, ‘Prince Ali’, streamers came bursting out of the walls, falling onto our astonished bodies. All around you could hear exclaims of wonder and the giggling of children as they got covered in the colourful array. Graphics were used in Jafar’s scenes to give that air of evilness and deception.
They finished the production with the hero saving the princess and living happily ever after defeating the bad guy. Well, what did you expect? It is a fairy tale after all. My inner child was content and happy with the success of the live production. I was quite nervous to see the production in the same way as one is nervous when they favourite book gets turned into a film. When you love something and grow up with it, you have high expectations if a remake takes occurs. Alas, that was not the case this time.
Aladdin the Musical is playing at Sydney’s Capitol Theatre until 8 January 2017. Tickets are available for purchase on Ticketmaster. – Story and photos by Rachel Adler