If you love Disney as much as I do, you’ll be well acquainted with the emptiness that one might experience when there is a lack of Disney magic in one’s everyday life and the Walt Disney World® parks are over 1,000 miles away. You have no idea when your next visit will be and there’s no new masterpiece of a Disney film to look forward to in the immediate future. What is a Disnerd to do in hard times like these? If marathon-ing all of your favorite Disney movies just isn’t doing the trick this time, the next best thing to being at one of the parks (as I have recently discovered) is to see a Disney show, whether it be on Broadway, or if you are lucky enough that the shows make their way to a city near you!
Before this summer, the closest I had ever come to seeing a Disney Broadway show was when I would catch the 30-minute performances of the Disney classics that are scattered around the actual parks, such as Tarzan, The Lion King, and Beauty and the Beast. But of course, in those circumstances, I was already IN Disney and sufficiently immersed in the magic of it all without the help of the shows. Until experiencing my first ever Disney show on Broadway and the newest addition to the Disney-Broadway production repertoire, Disney’s Aladdin, my longing for Disney had been rapidly increasing. Thus, seeing the show was the quintessence of the magic I had been dreaming of. Being a huge fan of the movie, I was extremely excited for the show and very curious to see what changes or additions would be made to the story, characters, songs, and especially how the original, beloved animation would be translated to live actors and physical sets.
The verdict: Everything was amazing (would you expect anything less?). There were very few changes and the only ones that were made were, in my opinion, appropriate and fitting. For example, the animal sidekicks from the movie version of Aladdin were portrayed as humans instead or removed altogether (i.e. Iago the parrot was portrayed as a human but still virtually the same in all other aspects while Abu was cut completely but replaced with three human friends for Aladdin). I was caught off guard at first, but after giving it some thought, I realized that it would be quite hard to make the animal characters come to life on stage and do them justice without it looking a bit silly. These two characters were originally so vibrant and quirky, and I believe much of that was due to their animal form. The creators of the characters used the natural personality traits of a monkey and a parrot as a way to give them interesting yet relatable qualities, such as mocking and talking too much for Iago or being greedy yet playful for Abu. However, in adapting Aladdin into a Broadway performance, the writers and director still managed to maintain the familiarity of Iago and Abu by keeping their original characteristics in the show and representing them with the human characters.
The sets, costumes, acting, and singing were all fabulous as well. I was absolutely blown away and, after experiencing both on and offstage areas in my high school’s theater society, I have learned to appreciate every bit of hard work that is put into a show from the props to the ensemble. But, I was really amazed by how beautifully everything was reimagined and redesigned so that it could still be easily recognizable despite the fact that it wasn’t directly copied from the film. For example, Aladdin didn’t have his signature red fez and purple vest combo, yet everyone knew instantly who he was supposed to be because his outfit was a similar style and the actor flawlessly embodied all of Aladdin’s expected mannerisms and expressions. The Genie was not blue from head to toe but he was just as vivacious and entertaining as the original that we know and love. Turning an animated film into a live production does not seem like an easy task, but it is clear that much attention was paid to the details in the animation of the characters and their original design in order to properly bring them to life.
If you want to read more about this enthralling production, check out fellow WDW Radio Blogger Rich McNanna’s Exclusive Interview with cast member Daisy Hobbs!
If you have yet to witness the wonder of a Disney show, I strongly recommend you do so immediately if you cannot get your hands on some Park tickets and are still craving that extra special Disney immersion. I myself am addicted to it, so I think seeing Disney’s Aladdin on Broadway only made me want to go to a Disney Park even more… but it was still well worth it!
(Photos from the author’s personal collection.)
Which Disney classic would you love to see come to life on Broadway? Leave a comment below!
Need an even more accessible fix for your Disney craving? One thing that always works for me is fan art! Whether I’m drawing it myself or just enjoying someone else’s work, I always find it entertaining. Check out some of my own doodles below!
*In memory of Robin Williams*
Alyssa Schulman is currently a student at Rhode Island School of Design. She was born in Florida but moved to Massachusetts at age 10. Alyssa’s heart has belonged to Walt Disney World® for as long as she can remember, but something very high up on her bucket list is to visit all other Disney locations. She intends to pursue illustration in the hopes of being even half as inspirational, or at least entertaining, as Disney Animation continues to be to her.