Disney's Aladdin The Hit Broadway Musical is Spectacular

“You ain’t never had a friend like me.”

There is a number at the end of Act One that is a show stopper.  Literally.  On Opening Night of Disney’s Aladdin at the Cadillac Palace Theatre (151 W Randolph), the audience gave the cast a standing ovation after “Friend Like Me.”  One of the five original songs from the 1992 Academy Award winning animated Disney film, “Friend Like Me” has everything you want from a Big Broadway Number:  an iconic, hilariously energetic, lovable, scenery-chewing Genie, played by Anthony Murphy in his National Tour debut;  an earnest and likable, big-voiced Aladdin, played by Adam Jacobs, who also played the role on Broadway; a tap-dancing chorus; over-the-top opulence in costuming:  there are 8,644 Swarovski rhinestones on each man’s gold finale costume; and pop culture references galore (Cubs! Indiana Jones! Dancing with the Stars! Oprah!)  The finish on the Cave of Wonders, the set of “Friend Like Me” is the same used on C-3P0 in the Star Wars films. 

Spectacular.  It is just spectacular. 

Maybe it’s that Disney money, maybe it is the three years they have had to work out the kinks that kept Aladdin from winning the Tony in 2014, but this production is fun and familiar and worth the ticket price.

All of the costumes are custom made, by hand, for the show by 342 people in 26 different shops.  There are 2039 different fabrics and trims used in the show’s 337 costumes, which is 100 more costumes than any Disney on Broadway show in history. Fabrics are from Morocco, Turkey, India, Uzbekistan, China, Tahiti, Japan, Guatemala, Mexico, France, Italy, England and Germany.  Jasmine’s wedding dress weighs 12 lbs because of all the crystal beading.

Translating the tale from animation to live action demanded a few key replacements.  Jafar’s parrot, Iago, is now a charmingly evil human sidekick, played by Reggie de Leon; and Aladdin’s monkey, Apu, has been replaced by his best singing and dancing con-men bros, Babkak (Zach Bencal), Omar (Philippe Arroyo) and Kassim (Mike Longo).  Their song, “High Adventure” is also a treat.

Don’t you dare close your eyes.  Hold your breath.  It gets better.”

The other swoonable scene is “A Whole New World.”  Aladdin and Jasmine take a magic carpet ride and sing the Oscar-winning song.  The carpet really does seem to be magic:  from my seat, I could see no cords.  Disney imagineering strikes again.  There are a number of illusions throughout the show, but the carpet is the most jaw-dropping.  The real jewel in this crown is the song, of course.  Written by Alan Menken and Tim Rice, “A Whole New World” won the Academy Award for Best Original Song and the Peabo Bryson/Regina Belle recording of the tune hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.  Further, “A Whole New World” is a particular favorite for people of a certain age.  Somehow I was transported to the early 1990s, driving around Indianapolis and arguing with friends about who would sing the Aladdin part v. who would sing the Jasmine part.  That time travelling….that’s the real magic.

Take your kids.  The 7 year old little girl in front of us was transfixed by the show.  And super excited when she recognized the songs she knew.  Me too, kid, me too.

This production will be in Chicago at the Cadillac Palace Theatre (151 W Randolph) for a limited premiere engagement through September 10, 2017.






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