A Whole New World

*Disclaimer My background is in acting and dance. I admit I had a lot of thoughts and emotions running through my mind during the show. I will try my best to not be overly critical. This was my favorite Disney film as a child and I am so so so so thankful to everyone involved in this production. This was a great show.  Thank You.

ACT I

Finally! Finally after two years of waiting, I got to see Aladdin on Broadway this past Saturday. It was amazing!!! I knew it would be. Sadly, James Monroe Iglehart and Adam Jacobs were not in this performance, but Major Attaway and Telly Leung did an amazing job as Genie and Aladdin! The entire cast was perfect. For those of you who don’t know, Aladdin was my favorite Disney movie as a child. Out of all of the princesses, I related to Jasmine the most. I was someone who wanted to choose my own destiny and not adhere to the strict rules of the house I grew up in. I had always imagined what Aladdin would look like as a stage production and this was not quite it (I would have loved to see Abu), but far better than I could have ever fathomed.

“Arabian Nights” was the perfect opening.  Attaway kept the same big personality that Robin Williams brought to Genie in the movie, but he added his own flair to it. Nothing felt forced or fake. I was extremely satisfied that he had the freedom to make the character his own. “One Jump Ahead” was amazing and I love how the cast added a sense of urgency to number. I don’t have any other performance to compare it to, so I can’t say much except that it was exactly how I imagined it as a child. Aladdin running from here to there with people willing to help and others who don’t want to get caught along with him. Hahaha. It was great. The blocking made complete sense. I have seen shows before where characters are meant to run and they literally run around a circle on the stage with no other set pieces to add to the fantasy.  This production brought their A game. “Proud of Your Boy” was never a song I liked. I had heard it on the soundtrack years ago. Leung brought something to it though, or perhaps it was seeing him get to that emotion after running from the guards that stirred something in me. I also like how it gives us more insight into Aladdin’s feelings and thoughts as a young man navigating this world. Suffice to say, I have a new place in my heart for this song.

Two more numbers that I really enjoyed and I feel brought something positive things to the production were “These Palace Walls” and “Babkak, Omar, Aladdin, Kasim” I had only heard them on the Original Broadway Cast Recording, but seeing how they play into the story onstage really makes much more sense. Similarly to, “Proud of Your Boy”, I like that we see behind the scenes of Jasmine’s life and how she interacts with other humans because, while I adore the film, realistically, Jasmine would have had attendants and they would probably be her only ‘friends’ aside from other royal families in the area. Also, I need to give a shoutout to Tia Altinay, Lauryn Ciardullo, and Ariel Reid. They have it all. The whole package, and Reid’s personality just adds to her performance. Love those ladies! “Babkak, Omar, Aladdin, Kasim” was also a good way to give the audience some sort of idea as to who these men were to each other, and how strong their bond was. I like that these characters didn’t just disappear after being chased by the guards but they are all in it together and this number depicts that relationship. This scene was also a good lead in to how Aladdin and Jasmine met each other.

“A Million Miles Away” is one of my favorites from the show. I don’t have much to say about it except that it fit the scene really nicely. ” Intimate and dreamy, like two young lovers. Diamond in the Rough” is also one of my favorites and I love the chemistry between Jonathan Freeman and Angelo Soriano, who play Jafar and Iago. All of their scenes together were hilarious and I appreciate what Soriano brought to Iago, as Iago is my absolute favorite character in Aladdin. He was a gem. Freeman also did a great job of portraying Jafar. He succeeded in making he character his own to command and manipulate as he saw fit. I especially loved what they did with “Prince Ali” (Jafar’s Reprise). It was exactly how I thought it’d be if someone sang it in real life. These two together were a hit. I can’t talk about this number and not talk about The Cave of Wonderrrrrrs. I love this scene in the film, and the on stage cave, let me tell you, it was GREAT! Everything I imagined. Kudos to the set designers and lighting crew. You are all amazing people.

“Friend Like Me” and the Act One Finale were AMAZING! Again we get to see Attaway do his thing as Genie. He entered the stage to well deserved rapturous applause. Truly, absolutely amazing what he did with the character, and the production of this number was the best thing ever. His breathing was great! Thank you for not “hwuaing” into the microphone. I know these are professionals, but truly the number was physically demanding on everyone, but you wouldn’t know it because the he cast was just so perfect. It was everything plus so much more than I imagined. I admit, I cried a little again here like I did at the beginning. There were pyrotechnics just I’d imagined, the costumes (so many costume changes) which were great throughout the entire show, were superb here as well! There was gold, there were beads, and patterns, there was a wonderful tap number. just absolutely stunning. I know it sounds like I’m describing any other musical, but truly I cannot do it justice. You must see it in person.

ACT II

“Prince Ali” was definitely more than I ever dreamed of seeing on stage, just as “Friend Like Me” and Act One Finale. I simply CANNOT do it justice. I half expected them to bring a robotic elephant on stage, but they didn’t. There were however, more pyrotechnics and tap and gold and white and fog and lace and silk.  You simply can’t imagine. You just can’t. You have to see it in person. The cast’s energy was at 100% during this number I mean you could see the emotion and pride beaming from their faces throughout the number and at the end. To go from “Friend Like Me” to this, Perfection. This, and “Friend Like Me” and the Act One Finale, were my favorites. Everyone, and I mean every single person on that stage brought their highest energy and gave their soul into those two numbers.

“A Whole New World”. Okay I have to stop here and discuss this briefly. This song was my favorite from the film but not the show. I know, I’m sorry, but the visuals during this number were cool. I loved how they incorporated the magic carpet and Aladdin and Jasmine flying around the globe then flying around space. It was great, but not how I imagined it in my mind. I understand this is supposed to be an intimate moment between Aladdin and Jasmine but I feel like they could have done so much more.

“High Adventure” is a delightful number and the visuals in this scene were actually quite nice. I enjoyed it.  They set designers and lighting crew made good use of space and technology. The chemistry between Brian Gonzales, Brad Weinstock, and Steel Burkhardt is good. I fee like they could be good acquaintances in real life. They were always a joy to watch and Gonzales’s voice was amazing during this number. Very strong and clear. That’s not something I’ve heard in a while. “Somebody’s Got Your Back” was also a great number. I think both of these numbers were wonderful and again showed more of the relationship that the characters have to each other. The audience is again reminded that Aladdin isn’t in this alone. There are other people his decisions affect and those people are willing to risk their lives for him. They also love adventure.

The rest of the songs, “Proud of Your Boy” (Reprise II), “Prince Ali” (Sultan Reprise), and “Prince Ali” (Jafar Reprise), which was discussed above, all fit in well with the script. Nothing was extraneous or unwanted. I think all of the actors did well in their respective parts in incorporating the emotion and musicality into their performances. The Finale Ultimo was also quite nice, not as nice as the Act One Finale, because I wasn’t ready for the show to be over, but it was a beautiful and sweet happy ending as expected. The lyrics were quite nice haha. I noticed there were a lot of clever remarks on politics and social issues throughout the show and I loved that because at the heart of art, no matter the form, it is used to make everyday issues palpable for audiences everywhere. I wouldn’t say that this is art’s ultimate goal but it happens.

Overall, I really loved seeing Aladdin and I hope that everyone who sees it has the same reaction that I had and enjoys it as much, if not more than I did. It is a great story and the production was PERFECT! From the costumes, to the dance numbers, to the sets and lighting, to the makeup artistry, to the actors, to the singing, everything. It was all that I had imagined as a child and I am so happy that I got to cross this off of my bucket list. Thank you Thank you Thank you to all who were involved in this production.

 

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