Aladdin: Live on Stage made it’s world debut in Toronto at the Ed Mirvish theatre. It is being tested and worked on here, as they prepare it for its rumoured arrival on Broadway in the summer of 2014. The show starts with three narrators introducing us to Agrabah with “Arabian Nights”, it follows the movie’s lyrics pretty closely, with a bit of modification for the stage. But an interesting line that kind of sets up the show, and the live humour of it goes something like this:
“….in a land of magic, a land of wonders, a land with no animal sidekicks… (Then spoken) What? Just trying to curb expectations. (laughter)…”
And yeah… there were no animal sidekicks. No Abu, No Raja, but Iago was in it. He just happened to be a human. When it came to Iago, there were a bunch of schticky puns and jokes about him being a bird brain, etc.
The set design through the desert of Agrabah, and then into the marketplace, was pretty cool. They really got the feel of the movie, with the vendors, the shops, etc. The Music was about 60% from the movie, and then the remaining 40% new numbers. The familiar tunes were all toe tapping, sing along, feel good songs. The new ones were at best O.K. There was a song that was reprised a few times throughout called “Proud of Your Boy”. It’s intended to bring the relationship with Aladdin’s mother into the story. With the message of “you can do anything you set your mind to,” it wasn’t really necessary. Another of the new songs, “Somebody’s Got Your Back”, was very well done. It was sung between Aladdin and Genie, when the Genie gets Aladdin out of a tight bind, and Aladdin promises to set him free.
There were a few real highlights of the show, and without a doubt one was the Genie! He has an amazing presence and charisma. His entries and exits into scenes were very well done – entertaining and magical. The show stopping number of the entire show was “Friend Like Me”. It was filled with electricity and energy. It really spotlights Genie’s Magical powers. It was kind of like a Vegas-style fast-paced magic show, put to familiar music and off the cuff comedy. In fact, during the song the Genie veered off to other well known Disney-inspired music from many other movies, including Beauty and The Beast, Lion King, Little Mermaid, Pocahontas, and more. How does he pull it off? again… Magic!
Obviously the big number, the one we are all waiting to see, the money shot as it were, was the Magic Carpet ride and “A Whole New World”. All I can say is, it doesn’t disappoint. Aladdin and Jasmine board the Magic Carpet against a backdrop of the night sky, the stars and moon, and eventually fly over the clouds, and beyond the atmosphere into space looking down on Earth. The mechanism and rig to allow flight is completely top notch compared to anything else ever seen in live theatre. (If you are a non-believer, and really wanted to see the “ropes” or lift mechanism, you could if you really strained to see it). Overall, it was incredibly well done.
Another hidden gem, or diamond in the rough, of this performance was Jafar. He has played by an actor named Jonathan Freeman, who is best known for…. well… JAFAR! That’s right, he voiced Jafar in the movie. It’s rather eerie watching him come to life in front of you. But the star of the show was obviously Jasmine. Her initial entrance had the crowd gasping and applauding. She was the perfect choice to play the role. Her costumes were identical to what we’ve all come to know and love. And her performance was spot on.
The story line mostly mimicked the movie, with some subtle variations. The demise of Jafar was handled rather quickly. Meanwhile, the whole Aladdin mother story seemed to drag. Some hidden surprises, or dare I say it, HIDDEN MICKEYS, were found throughout. I counted three, but I am sure there were more (and I question whether one the ones I found was a legitimate hidden Mickey). Here are the ones I found:
1) In the Cave of Wonders, above the stage, there are a few layers of setting drops to add some forced perspective dimension to the scene. At the centre of it, right in front, was a HUGE semi circle with two large circles placed perfectly to make it appear to the discerning eye that the entire scene was wearing a Mickey Ear hat.
2) In the castle, the set includes some large murals representing stained-glass windows with numerous designs throughout. Right at the top corners were inverted Mickey’s. There were six or so of them.
3) The one I am skeptical of – remember, I mentioned the three narrators. Well when they come out they are standing in three spot lights. It appeared more than a couple times that the two spotlights on the ends were placed a bit higher than the spotlight in the middle. This made it look as if the spotlights were forming a Mickey head.
All in all, I have to say this show is a MUST SEE for any Disney fan and all DISDads. I was realllllly looking forward to this show for quite some time, and even with really high expectations, I was not disappointed in the least.