Saturday April 29th 2017

Disney’s “Aladdin”

genieHighly Recommended **** Years ago, Chicago did get to see a version of “Aladdin” based on the animated film of the same name. In fact, twice! Once on the stage of Chicago Shakespeare Theatre and the other on the much smaller stage at Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire (in the round). These were 50-60 minute versions geared for the smaller children, and sort of geared to bring them into accepting “live theater”. I know that this concept has been a great one for my grandkids, who love theater, and in my mind, it is due to these theater’s bringing this type of musical adventure to life on their stages. For this, I thank both of the aforementioned venues, but also all others who make theater for younger audiences a part of their program!

Tonight, a Broadway production of Aladdin” opened on the large stage of the Cadillac Palace Theatre as part of Broadway In Chicago’s 2017 season! What a production it is! There is no question that this is a “Disney Theatrical Production”, from start to finish, almost two-hours-thirty minutes (including an intermission), audience members were thrilled to see the much larger-than-life spectacular that is in Chicago through the end of Summer. It is not often that we get a touring company for this long, but they know what they have and it is powerful! It is a mixture of “cartoon”, spectacle”, Musical-Comedy” and powerful story-telling in what we might term, an entertainment experience for the entire family!

Disney Theatrical Productions under the direction of Thomas Schumacher presents Aladdin, the new musical, music by Alan Menken, lyrrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, book and additional lyrics by Chad Beguelin at the Ed Mirvish Theatre in Toronto, Canada, starring: Adam Jacobs (Aladdin), James Monroe Iglehart (Genie), Courtney Reed (Jasmine), Brian Gonzales (Babkak), Brandon O'Neill (Kassim), Jonathan Schwartz (Omar), Clifton Davis (Sultan), Don Darryl Rivera (Iago), Merwin Foard (standby Jafar/Sultan), Michael James Scott (standby Genie/Babkak) and Jonathan Freeman (Jafar) directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw

 

Adapted from the Academy Award-winning animated film ( I think back in the 1990’s- is that possible?), “Aladdin” is the old folk-tale “One Thousand and One Nights” and others to a whole new “high”. The story is about a Princess, Jasmine (the adorable Isabelle McCalla) who is being prepared to marry a prince. Any Prince, but one that her father (J C Montgomery) feels is the perfect match. Those are the “rules” of his kingdom. She has never been to the town nearby and so escapes the castle for the day and upon arriving, meets a young thief, Aladdin, with whom she falls in love with. She goes back to the castle thinking he is dead, but instead, he has been sent to do an errand for the story’s evil villain Jafar (an amazing portrayal by Chicago favorite Jonathan Weir) who along with his sidekick Iago (not a parrot in this production), the hysterical Reggie De Leon, desire to rid the Sultan of his throne and take over for him. They send Aladdin ( played to perfection by Adam Jacobs) to a cave where he is to bring back an old “lamp”. We all know that this is the “magic lamp” wherein the Genie awaits being released. The Genie (Anthony Murphy is as down-home as one can get with his interpretation of the character, and a ball to watch and listen to) is the magical part of the equation and very lovable.

8 Adam Jacobs (Aladdin) & Isabelle McCalla (Jasmine)_ Photo by Deen van MeerWhat we witness during these two acts is the falling in love, the couple, finding out who they truly are and how important an honest relationship can be. The play also teaches the audience about “good triumphing over evil” and the magic that love can bring to those who find it. Directed and Choreographed by Casey Nicholaw on a magnificent set by Bob Crowley, the music (Alan Menken) and lyrics (Howard Ashman, Tim Rice and Chad Beguelin) bring the story to be “A Whole New World” ( one of the songs from this wonderful story and the one where they journey on a flying carpet admiring the stars and the moon)- breathtaking!

As I said earlier, my grandkids have grown up on attending live theater and to give you the proper perspective, I brought one with tonight. Sarah is a nine-year-old, budding actress/dancer herself and she was very excited to attend an opening with her grandparents. The anticipation was a small part of the evening as once the curtain fell and the orchestra began to play this amazing score, Sarah was transported to the world that Disney always wanted kids to feel- “fantasy”. (To be honest, I was as well!).

Musical numbers such as “Arabian Nights” (the opening), “A Million Miles Away”, “Diamond In The Rough”, “Friend Like Me” ( a showstopper number that is absolutely amazing) that received a standing ovation, “Prince Ali”, “Proud of Your Boy” and of course the reprise of “A Whole New World” with pyrotechnics and all- this is an evening of special that has every part of what makes a musical special; tumbling, acrobatics, great voices, powerful dancing (every type), glitz (costumes by Gregg Barnes were unbelievable and the changes were right before your eyes- magical)- you name it! This show has it!.

Disney Theatrical Productions under the direction of Thomas Schumacher presents Aladdin, the US tour, music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, book and additional lyrics by Chad Beguelin, opening night April 19 at Cadillac Palace Theatre in Chicago, starring: Adam Jacobs (Aladdin), Anthony Murphy (Genie), Isabelle McCalla (Jasmine), Zach Bencal (Babkak), Mike Longo (Kassim), Philippe Arroyo (Omar), Jonathan Weir (Jafar), Reggie de Leon (Iago) and JC Montgomery (Sultan) directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw

While it appeared that the ensemble has three dozen members, there are in actuality  twenty -three plus the trio of Aladdin’s buddies played by Zach Bencal, Philippe Arroyo and Mike Longo. This ensemble works very hard changing costumes and characters throughout the musical numbers, doing line dances, tap dances, and, all in all, being the part of the puzzle that make the show complete for those who pay to view. It is also very nice to see that the tickets for this show can be purchased for as little as $44 (but I wish they were even lower, so more families can take in this special entertainment experience that is meant to see “as a family”)

Disney’s “Aladdin” will continue at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, located at 151 West Randolph Street through September 10th with performances as follows:

Tuesdays: 7:30pm
Wednesdays: 2:00pm & 7:30pm
Thursdays: 7:30pm
Fridays: 7:30pm
Saturdays: 2:00pm & 7:30pm
Sundays: 1:00pm & 6:30pm

 

To purchase tickets, visit any of the Broadway In Chicago box offices, call the Broadway  In Chicago Ticketline at 1-800-775-200,, all Ticketmaster outlets or online at http://www.BroadwayInChicago.com I suggest using public transportation, but there are city lots a block west of Wells street that will cost you under $20, allowing you some extra for souvenirs (which you know you will buy).

To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at Disney’s “Aladdin”Aladdin_Homepage_680x445_Copyright

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