When I went: 20 June 2016
Location: Prince Edward Theatre, London
Performers: Dean John-Wilson (Aladdin), Jade Ewen (Aladdin), Trevor Dion Nicholas (Genie), Don Gallagher (Jafar), Irvine Iqbal (Sultan)
Creative team: Alan Menken (music), Howard Ashman, Tim Rice and Chad Beguelin (lyrics), Chad Beguelin (book), Casey Nicholaw (director and choreographer)
Approximate price: £87
Special points: Suitability for children
Best bit: Friend Like Me
If I could change one thing: Better songs for Jasmine
Aladdin is of course famous from its roots in the 1992 Disney film, where Robin Williams demonstrated his huge talent and comic abilities as the Genie. The film is so well-loved by adults who were children in 1992 and by today’s children that any musical based on it faces the challenge of living up to expectations.
This adaptation makes a few key changes: there is no Abu the monkey (Aladdin gains three male human buddies instead), a song for Jasmine (who only gets a bit of A Whole New World in the film) and more physical humour, suited to the stage. However, the overall effect is a good deal too pantomime-esque, with none of the slick moments or jokes for adults that were in the film.
I have been a fan of Jade Ewen since her performance as Vanessa in In the Heights and was excited to see her as Jasmine as this has always been one of my favourite Disney roles. However, I really don’t think this production gives her enough good material, and it was a missed opportunity for the musical not to include better songs for Jasmine. In addition, she didn’t have much chemistry with Dean John-Wilson’s Aladdin, although both gave good individual performances.
Trevor Dion Nicholas was definitely the star of the show with Friend Like Me threatening to go on for ever and basically holding up the performance. I should say that the performance was also held up in a less welcome way early on, where it stopped and the curtain closed on an announcement of ‘technical difficulties’ – I’m not sure what happened there but it did ruin the momentum quite a bit.
The costumes are super-sparkly in a way that makes Strictly Come Dancing look drab; the kids might love this but it adds to the pantomime effect and makes this musical appear even more childlike and less competent.