Featured Post

Letterboxd Reviews

So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Friday, June 30, 2017

Theater Review - Aladdin

Music by Alan Menken
Lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice
Book and Additional Lyrics by Chad Beguelin
Directed by Casey Nicholaw
Where: New Amsterdam Theater, New York, NY
When: Saturday, June 24, 8pm
Spectacle over substance is the best way to describe one of Disney's most recent Broadway experiences in Aladdin, a musical that mixes adult pop culture references with inane childish jokes in a way that fails miserably onstage despite working well in the 1993 animated feature film upon which this musical takes its cues.  Limply trodding along with its horrible book written by Chad Beguelin, director Casey Nicholaw's production is heavy on similarly choreographed stage numbers, but light on substance, heart, and character.  While not quite as bad as Disney's abysmal production of The Little Mermaid which took up residence on the Great White Way nearly a decade ago, Aladdin certainly ranks in the lower quarter of shows I've seen on Broadway.

For the most part, the story of the stage show of Aladdin is very similar to the film.  The title character, a down-on-his luck street rat (played by new addition to the cast Telly Leung), falls for Princess Jasmine (original cast member Courtney Reed) as she strolls around the dirty streets of Agrabah while running away from her overbearing father.  There's the villain Jafar (played by original film voice actor Jonathan Freeman) who secretly harbors love for the princess and then an eccentric and pop culture-fueled Genie (Major Attaway) who befriends our titular hero.  All that is fine, telling the same story as the film.  Unfortunately, the additions here -- a trio of Aladdin's friends who do little to advance the plot, new songs that while actually decent don't add emotional levels to the ongoing proceedings -- bog the show down as opposed to pulsing it forward.

With all of the big production numbers staged in an all-out toe-tapping manner, "Arabian Nights," "Friend Like Me," and "Prince Ali" all just blend together.  "A Whole New World's" emotional impact is slightly muted by a similarly themed (though well-written) "A Million Miles Away" that precedes it.  A new song for the Genie towards the show's conclusion does little to add to the eccentricity of the character.  Everything about the show feels repetitive and unoriginal.

The late Howard Ashman wrote several songs with Disney maestro Alan Menken that were excised from the film that reappear here and while these songs are cleverly written and jauntily executed, they do little to engage the audience, simply padding the show's runtime rather than creating a well-rounded and emotionally affecting story.  There was a reason the film's original creators removed Aladdin's friends from the motion picture -- they're weren't needed and proved a distraction from the main storyline...and they're not needed here.

Unfortunately, in addition to the lackluster direction and book, the acting company disappoints as well.  Telly Leung is a recent addition so perhaps he's just finding his footing, but his Aladdin felt a little limp and lacking connection with Princess Jasmine.  Then again, original cast member Courtney Reed does little to make Princess Jasmine anything other than a photocopy of the film's princess.  Her vocals were disappointingly weak as well.  I was expecting some excitement from the original Jafar voice actor Jonathan Freeman, but he's given very little to do.  Major Attaway as the Genie was a jolt of life in an otherwise limp affair, but I found the direction of this character -- flamboyant and manic -- disappointing.

And that descriptor - "disappointing" - sums up my feelings towards this whole affair.  Maybe I'm just too old to enjoy a Disney Broadway show.  How then to explain the wonderful Mary Poppins that was the previous inhabitant of the New Amsterdam theater which exuded whimsy, charm, and heart -- three characteristics Aladdin doesn't have in the slightest.

No comments:

Post a Comment