aside Aladdin… a Disney Spectacular

@lukesmithdj reviews for @MTAS_Official

I must start by admitting I’ve already seen Aladdin in London twice since it opened but since the first was in previews I wanted to wait until it had officially opened to write my review.

I had such high expectation for this production following seeing it on Broadway last year and London doesn’t disappoint but whilst it’s the same songs/script/choreography it isn’t the same show. The main difference I must admit is the audience. An important fact to keep in mind is that Americans don’t have pantomime and therefore it is seen as a comedy show where British audiences will see characters as pantomime and therefore interpret the production differently.

The production is a West-End transfer of the Disney mega production featuring all the songs you know and love from the movie and some new ones which were omitted from the film version. The first thing you’ll notice is that this is a BIG budget show, for a start they re-upholstered the entire theatre for the show giving it purple seats to match and it has the ‘disney shine’ all over it, quite literally in The Cave of Wonders…Designer Bob Crowley has given it the same gold finish they used on C3PO in Star Wars!

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My main problem with reviewing this production is that it’s such a tale of two halves. There are moments at which it is simply the best thing you will ever see on stage and yet others which are actually a bit dull!

The star of the show without doubt is Trevor Dion Nicholas as Genie, the energy he brings every time he steps foot on stage brings this production to life as his larger than life character resembles all that the incredible Robin Williams did in the film and then some. The 9-minute long version of ‘Friend Like Me‘ is without doubt the best single performance you will see in the west end presently with countless costume changes, amazing effects and perfect humour throughout.

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The rest of the cast are good but can’t compete with Nicholas. Dean John-Wilson looks the part as Aladdin but this production is a huge step-up from anything he has done before and whilst he has a lovely singing voice interpreting ‘Proud of Your Boy‘ beautifully his acting can’t quite live up to those around him. Ex-Sugababe Jade Ewan looks stunning as Jasmine and again has a beautiful voice but the character to me is a bit wet and annoying as she complains her way through the story. The other stand out moment of the show is ‘Whole New World’, not for the song but for the effect. Jeremy Chernick is the special effects designer who has made the magic carpet a magic moment for the audience, getting it’s own applause at the start of the song. I’ll put money on you not seeing the wires!

Rachid Sabitri, Stephen Rahman-Hughes and Nathan Amzi provide the majority of the comic moments as Aladdins three friends (Omar, Kassim and Babkak) who are new characters to the story. They have a couple of great songs, my favourite is ‘High Adventure’ about them storming the palace to rescue Aladdin. There are moments with these three which don’t quite work this side of the Atlantic however, Amzi’s charachter (Babkak) is constantly making Jewish/food related puns which got huge laughs on Broadway but here we don’t have the whole ‘Jewish Comic’ thing going on.

The pantomime element is most clearly seen in the interpretation of Jafar and Iago. Don Gallagher and Peter Howe are acting it like a traditional panto villains with over the top evil laughs, capes and make-up. Once you accept this they are a good duo and provide funny moments. Personally I think this is more an error on Casey Nicholaws (director) part to understand the translation across the pond.

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All in all this is a show which looks the part and if you have younger ones then I’m sure they’ll be stunned but despite all the Disney touches for me it is more style than substance. It is a visually impressive show and I’m sure it will clean up at next years awards (If Nicholas doesn’t win for supporting actor I’ll eat the magic lamp!) but despite some amazing stand out moments it doesn’t capture the magic for the whole show!

Verdict: 3.5 / 5 
(Just Friend Like Me – 6/5!)

Aladdin is currently booking at the Prince Edward Theatre until 2017 and you can see the Official West End Trailer here.

Have you seen Aladdin?
If so, what did you think… do you agree with our review?
Leave your feedback/comments/thoughts in the comments below, we’d love to hear from you!

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