The audience goodwill was there even before the opulent red curtain went up. ‘A whole new world’ seemed already to be swirling, dervish like, in the heads of those around me as they hooted and cheered in anticipation even before they’d fully taken their seats. Everyone was here to have a great time and relive one of Disney’s greatest film successes on stage.
Aladdin , lavish, colourful, vibrant, teeming with energetic dance routines doesn’t disappoint memories of that much loved film.
Agrabah, an Arabian city of scimitar-wielding brutes and buxom maidens in copious chiffon is recreated as the backdrop for street urchin Aladdin, stealing, running and singing his way across the rooftops as he evades the palace guards who want to capture him and his trio of loyal but dim friends for their various misdemeanours.
The palace of princess Jasmine, Aladdin’s love interest is as splendid as you’d want a palace set to be. And the cave where Aladdin finds the magic lamp which will bring forth the genie, is as magnificent a set as you’ll ever see on stage.
But how to reproduce the manic genius of Robin William’s genie from the film?
Well, Trevor Dion Nicholas (previously the understudy on the Broadway production) tackles that challenge and pulls it off with camp aplomb. He is, undoubtedly the star of the show and brings real Las Vegas Pizzazz to the show. Funnily, for the obviously genuine American in the show, at times, he goes for the most British, pan to style humour. It has to be said, when he’s not around things do dip a little. Dean John-Wilson as Aladdin and Jade Ewen, a former Sugarbabe, are each given a slither of substance to work with, bereavement (him) and feminism ( her) but their central story is slight. Little really registers on an emotional level. So the lead story needs the larger than life genie, the scheming vizier Jaffar and an assortment of characters and glittering costumes to plump it out.
The spectacle can’t be faulted. Aladdin is indeed spectacular. It’s easy to see the money up on stage. The flying magic carpet alone is worth the ticket price. And the songs are pure Disney. But a little more heart could have made this a complete triumph.
Aladdin is on at the Prince Edward theatre, Old Compton Street.