I'll openly admit that I've never really liked Aladdin. If asked, I'll be the first to suggest that A Whole New World is probably the most overplayed song in the history of Disney Music (closely followed by anything from The Little Mermaid), and that while some of the characters are interesting, there's just nothing special about them that's truly appealed to me in my 21 years of life. In fact, and no one murder me for saying this, I realized recently that the most likely reason I've never really enjoyed the film is that the chemistry between Aladdin and Jasmine seems forced and unrealistic in the film, among other things. I do love Genie though, so there are some redeeming qualities here.
Obviously, my feelings toward the film made me cautious going into the musical. I've only listened to the soundtrack a handful of times (mostly to avoid hearing A Whole New World for the 8 millionth time), and other than watching a video here or there over the past year out of curiosity about Adam Jacobs, I kept away from the show altogether. My family does, however, have a history of taking in the newest Disney musical when it arrives in Chicago, and that meant that at some point before September 10, we were bound to make the four hour drive to see the show.
Overall, I'll say this about Aladdin: It was good, but not the showstopping extravaganza Hamilton is, with the exception of Friend Like Me and Prince Ali. In fact, Friend Like Me might just be one of the best things I've ever seen on stage, and that's saying something. The near 10 minute Genie feature is full of glitter and glam and everything you'd expect from the Genie. The dance breaks (specifically the tap) are full of energy and honestly, the entire number looks just plain exhausting, but is equally musical, hilarious, impressive, and magical.
Prince Ali is similar, with bright colors and a high-energy atmosphere that brings the audience right back into the story at the opening of the second act. It was also in this number specifically that I marveled at the quick costume changes for the entire swing company. It's obvious that the creators of the show spent their time working on this piece in particular to bring to life one of the best-known moments in the film, although I do wish the elephant had made an appearance.
The new additions to the musical lineup are nice, specifically Proud Of Your Boy, Babkak, Omar, Aladdin, Kassim, and High Adventure. The entire added Aladdin subplot actually did a lot for me in terms of the story as a whole, as it gave some depth to the character that was missing before. However, that same depth is missing for many of the other characters, but this story is about Aladdin himself, so it was helpful nonetheless.
Not to continue to bash on A Whole New World, but per usual, this is where I thought things were lacking the most. Perhaps it's because I'm not a fan of the song itself, but this number was extremely underwhelming in comparison to the others in the show, and after seeing the Disneyland production multiple times, where the carpet literally flies out into the audience, the on-stage carpet did little to dazzle me. From a production standpoint, I completely understand the point of this, because flying out over the audience severely impacts the viewing of well over half the audience, but there was just so much that could have been done with this number and wasn't. A Million Miles Away was a welcome addition to the show though and added some of that chemistry I was missing in the film, so a few bonus points there!
Plus, seeing Adam Jacobs in person almost makes up any faults in the show. For those of you that aren't constantly following the Broadway Facebook Pages or Cast Lists, Adam Jacobs is best known for originating the role of Aladdin on Broadway, and he's since moved to the Chicago production. It was an honor to see Jacobs in the title role, and his portrayal of Aladdin is spot on in every way. Plus, he's not too bad on the eyes...or did you not notice that he hardly wears a shirt in the entire show?
So does Aladdin rank among some of the greatest musicals of all time, even the Disney ones like The Lion King and Mary Poppins? I'd say so, but it's also not something I'll be rushing back to see immediately. Then again, that may just be my dislike of the film talking, so make your own decision on the show by checking it out on Broadway or at the Cadillac Theatre in Chicago (through September 10), and when it's finished there, Aladdin will head out on a national tour, so watch for when it comes to a city near you soon!
If you've already seen Aladdin, leave your thoughts in the comments below!
Have a magical day!