Disney’s classic movie Aladdin has been a favorite of mine since it came out in 1992. I admit to being skeptical when the musical was announced, but hopeful that the magic of the Broadway stage would bring a new flavor to my special film.
In August 2015, my mom and I took a trip to New York City to see the Broadway smash of the year, Hamilton. We also had tickets for a Saturday matinee of Aladdin, so after lunch we headed over to the New Amsterdam Theater. The Disney magic was evident from outside the theater, where guests are able to have their photo taken with the Genie’s lamp. Once inside, the décor of the lobby is straight out of Agrabah itself, with bright golds and purples and reds. The show curtain reminded me of the shifting desert sand.
The show departs from the movie a bit, most notably in the replacement of animal characters with humans. Abu is absent, and instead Aladdin roams the city with his friends Babkak, Omar and Kaseem. Iago is there, but he’s a toady little human instead of a wisecracking parrot. Sadly, Rajah is not in the show, replaced by a set of handmaidens to Princess Jasmine. Iago is exactly what you’d expect from Jafar’s wickedly sarcastic sidekick. Aladdin’s buddies are also a lot of fun – in the musical number where we meet them, they try to earn money from the residents of Agrabah by taking their dubious performing talents to the street in the hopes of earning tips. Both their introductory song, Babkak Omar Aladdin Kaseem, and their Act 2 appearance High Adventure were written for the film by Howard Ashman but were removed when the character Abu was conceived.
The main characters look very much like their movie counterparts. Adam Jacobs was adorable as Aladdin, and broke my heart in the best possible way during his ballad Proud of Your Boy, which was also written by Ashman for the movie but cut. It’s a lovely song in which Aladdin hopes that one day, his deceased parents will approve of how he lives his life. Courtney Reed was the picture-perfect Jasmine. Jonathan Freeman, the original movie voice of Jafar, played the villain onstage and was incredible.
The character of the Genie is the most fun of all. He’s a fast-talking, wisecracking, blue-clad man who literally glitters as he bounds across the stage. His energy fills the space and Trevor Dion Nicholas, the actor performing the role, was amazing. His dancing was smooth, his voice golden and his timing impeccable. From the moment he appears in a puff of smoke (with the help of an elevator below the stage and a cleverly disguised trap door), your attention is completely captivated. His show-stopping numbers Friend Like Me and Prince Ali are as epic on stage as they were in the film.
Jasmine gets a new number, These Palace Walls, to explain her discontent with palace life. Likewise, Jafar and Iago sing their way through the evil Diamond in the Rough as they plot to use Aladdin to get the lamp from the Cave of Wonders. There is also a new duet for Aladdin and Jasmine. Still, the familiar favorites from the film Arabian Nights, One Jump Ahead and A Whole New World are all are present as well. The latter takes place on the magic carpet, a spectacular effect conceived by Disney Theatrical.
This show is a ton of fun, and I highly encourage Disney fans to see it either in New York or in the event a touring production comes to your nearest city. Fans of the film will find it a comforting blend of the new and familiar, and of course in the Disney tradition it remains family-friendly. Young children may be scared by the volume of a professional theater and the scarier aspects of the story, but if they are familiar with the movie this shouldn’t present too big of an issue.
I’ve seen almost all of the Disney Theatricals productions, and my favorite is a toss-up between The Lion King and Aladdin. Let me know in the comments if you agree, or if you have another favorite: Beauty and the Beast, Mary Poppins, The Little Mermaid? I can’t wait to find out!
Lobby photo c/o author’s personal collection. Stage photos c/o Deen Van Meer
Aly Miller is a lifelong Disney fanatic. She recently discovered the WDW Radio Podcast and became a member of the WDW Radio Nation. When she isn’t obsessing over all things Disney, she and her husband run Chad Miller Auto Care, an independent full service automotive repair shop in San Antonio, TX