Disney’s Aladdin, now playing at the Prince Edward Theatre in the heart of London’s West End, goes a long way to recapture the magic of the 1992 animated classic on which it is based.
It’s bright, breezy and ebullient, sparkling with colour and enchantments from the very off; the gold-dripping set of the Cave of Wonders has to be seen to be believed, and the sheer magnificence of both the Genie and that thrilling magic carpet ride audiences will no doubt be expecting are worth the ticket price alone. Honestly, how DO they do that carpet ride?!
Trevor Dion Nicholas as the Genie (and previously the understudy on Broadway since 2014), is, in particular, incredible. He’s charismatic, witty, dripping in glitter and infectiously high-spirited. There’s a slight annoyance in the fact that he’s the first thing on stage, immediately captivating his new audience, before he disappears for what seems like a lifetime – the majority of the entire first act, in fact – stuck in a magic lamp, awaiting the “Diamond in the Rough” (Dean John-Wilson’s athletic Aladdin) to free him.
Once the Genie is out of captivity, the show really kicks up a gear, but never more so than during the show-stopping Friend Like Me, which simultaneously feels like something straight out of a Vegas strip show and a quintessential, toe-tapping Broadway number. Quite deservedly, the number receives a standing ovation from the audience, interrupting the show for a good two minutes before act one can officially round out: and such exuberance from the crowd is directed solely at Nicholas’ turn as the spell-casting Genie.
Still, while there can be no denying Nicholas is a downright scene-stealer throughout, it’s not all about the Genie. John-Wilson is suitably cartoonish as our leading man, and his syrupy voice is perfect Disney fodder; the stunningly beautiful Jade Ewen makes a fine Princess Jasmine too, playing the kind of role all little girls dream of playing – her solo number, Palace Walls, thankfully lets her demonstrate a deeper side to her character too, developing Jasmine into much more than a mere maiden in need of being rescued; likewise, Don Gallagher’s cackling villain Jafar does enough to invoke the best boo-hiss you could muster, while Peter Howe as his sidekick Iago probably gets some of the biggest laughs of the night.
Beyond the cast, Aladdin’s other spectacle is its enchanting score. All of the tracks from the movie are there, with additional, original songs added to the mix. As well as Friend Like Me, highlights include the classic Prince Ali, and the stirring High Adventure, led by Aladdin’s pals Babkak, Omar and Kassim – new roles for this adaption, who, while they take some getting used to (what, no Abu the monkey?!) are on top form by this point.
This adaptation isn’t perfect just yet – act one feels too long, there’s some clumsy scene changes and clunky dialogues, the denouement feels somewhat rushed and undramatic – but despite such misgivings, it’s still an amazing production. It’s funny, it’s warm, it’s bright, it’s energetic; and it’s the perfect summer treat for someone looking for the best new show in town.
Welcome to London, Prince Ali, it’s great to have you here!
Disney’s Aladdin the Musical is now booking at the London’s Prince Edward Theatre, secure your seats at Ticketmaster.co.uk.