Aladdin: The Broadway Musical - New York City Article
“Aladdin”: The Broadway musical by Alan Menken, Howard Ashman, Tim Rice and Chad Beguelin
The New Amsterdam Theatre
214 West 42nd Street
This long-running production, which premiered in Seattle in 2011 and has been running on Broadway for three years now, is hardly a mere theme-park-style incarnation of a familiar Disney property . In fact, it’s much more of an outrageous cartoon than the classic 1992 animated feature: early on, the creators (music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman, Tim Rice and Chad Beguelin, book also by Mr. Beguelin) realized that the only way to make this work for the stage was to turn it into something more like a vintage variety show than a traditional work of musical theater, and to that end, they made it one of the most entertaining shows currently running. Every second is stuffed with gags, bits, routines, puns, flash, dazzle, spectacle, flying carpets, constant choreography and music, music, music - not to mention and a steady stream of sexy girls in Harem drag. It’s not only for the youngsters, there’s a lot of grown up content - to please those of us who first saw the original movie 25 years ago - and there’s no shortage of bare male chests and undulating, exposed female belly buttons (no “outies”), in other words, something for everyone.
The current production is distinguished by an exceptional cast, with a quartet of heavyweights, the suitably villainous Jonathan Freedman as Jafar, Major Attaway offering a whole new, distinctly African American take on the Genie, the feisty Courtney Reed as Jasmine, and the outstanding leading man, Telly Leung (who is also doing a one man show at the Wall Street Theater in Norwalk on December 11). In fact, Disney is missing a major bet if they don’t cast Mr. Leung as the lead in their proposed 2019 live action / CGI-driven remake. The only thing that might be added to the current Broadway run, not that Don Darryl Rivera isn’t a first-rate Iago, would be a guest shot by Gilbert Gottfried himself in the role he originally created in parrot form a quarter-century ago. As an entertainment package, this show is a two-hour magic carpet ride.
Author: Will Friedwald
Will Friedwald writes about music and popular culture for THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, VANITY FAIR and PLAYBOY magazine and reviews current shows for THE CITIVIEW NEW YORK. He also is the author of nine books, including the award-winning A BIOGRAPHICAL GUIDE TO THE GREAT JAZZ AND POP SINGERS, SINATRA: THE SONG IS YOU, STARDUST MELODIES, TONY BENNETT: THE GOOD LIFE, LOONEY TUNES & MERRIE MELODIES, and JAZZ SINGING. He has written over 600 liner notes for compact discs, received ten Grammy nominations, and appears frequently on television and other documentaries. He is also a consultant and curator for Apple Music.
SINATRA: THE SONG IS YOU - NEW REVISED EDITION (Chicago Review Press, May 2018)