Aladdin on Broadway : “Exactly what you wished for!”
“Do not be fooled by its commonplace appearance. Like so many things, it is not what is outside, but what is inside that counts. This is no ordinary lamp! It once changed the course of a young man’s life; a young man who, like this lamp, was more than what he seemed: a diamond in the rough. Perhaps you would like to hear the tale? It begins on a dark night, where a dark man waits… with a dark purpose.”
This is how Aladdin’s story begins. Now, it is time for me to tell you about my “Aladdin story”.
A few weeks ago, one of my dreams came true: I had the opportunity to go to New York City and see a Broadway show. I had already been to New York a few times, and it still amazed me, but I wanted to try something new. I’ve always enjoyed musicals and Disney movies but I never really considered seeing a Broadway show. To me, it evoked a room, crowded by tourists taking pictures of every thing surrounding them. However, when I saw there was an Aladdin Musical, I decided to go and see it: I knew and liked the plot, the characters and a few songs.
The magic began even before arriving at the New Amsterdam Theatre: Times Square at night is one of the most mesmerizing places I’ve ever been to. The theatre in itself is breathtaking: it was built in 1903 and its first production was A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Shakespeare. The New Amsterdam Theatre hosted the renowned Ziegfield Follies from 1913 to 1936. Unfortunately, it had to close because of the Great Depression; it reopened one year later as a movie theatre. The first movie which premiered was none other than A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Mickey Rooney. In 1942, the Walt Disney Company purchased the theatre and renovated it. It opened once more in 1997 and the world premiere of Hercules took place there. Its vintage style and comfortable seating arrangment made it the perfect place to host the Aladdin musical.
Some changes had to be made in the plot because a few original elements were not suitable for a live representation. For instance, Aladdin and Jasmine’s best friends – respectively Abu the monkey and Rajah (Jasmine’s pet tiger) – were not easy to reproduce so they were replaced by human characters. That means Aladdin had three fellow funny thieves as best friends while Jasmine confessed to three of the palace’s maids. One of the best characters of this adaptation was Iago, although he was in a human form rather than a parrot. The actor playing Jafar’s sidekick is hilarious, and was probably the funniest character of the story along with the Genie. The magic carpet’s role was not as important as it is in the movie, but it was still there for A Whole New World.
Some of the songs performed during the show were deleted from the movie, although I think they are wonderful: Proud of Your Boy is really moving and well-written; I had no clue Aladdin was such a fragile and thoughtful character.
The musical numbers were incredible: stunts, sword fights, dance moves and special effects were overwhelming but in a good way. A Friend like me by the Genie was both funny and outstanding: the props used really contributed to the scenery, and most of the audience knew the song by heart even though no one sang lest they would not hear the performance. The moment all of us were waiting for was A Whole New World. Unfortunately, I could not find this performance online but here’s the audio:
And trust me, I was literally gaping during the whole performance. It was stunning, and even though I knew the lyrics by heart (please don’t judge me) I did feel like a little girl discovering this fairytale. Obviously, ten minutes later this feeling had faded but it was so great that a few minutes of such astonishment would justify seeing the whole show according to me. I may sound too enthusiastic about this show, but I really enjoyed it and I hadn’t felt this way for a very long time.
Something struck me: Jonathan Freeman, who plays Jafar in the show, is actually the man who voiced this character in the original cartoon. I did some research and found out that this was unique in Broadway history, so if you make the wise decision to go and see this show, you’ll be able to boast about it. What is more, James Monroe Ingleheart (the genie) has won a Tony Award for his performance in Aladdin. I don’t know if you have an idea of what it is, but it is a big deal in Broadway: it is the theatrical equivalent for an Oscar.
Another outstanding element of the show: the costumes and props. I would not even have noticed such things usually but these sparkly and colored outfits were a true delight for the eye. The booklet I was given at the theatre says “Our costume and scenic design team has imported fabric from 9 countries for ALADDIN including Morocco, Turkey, India, Uzbekistan, Guatemala, France, Italy, Germany and China. Thankfully, our magic carpets are equipped for Trans-Atlantic flights”. To put it in a nutshell, these clothes have probably travelled more than you and I have. Should we be jealous?
Here are a few figures I found at the end of my booklet:
17: “The number of collective Tony Award our creative team has won”
337: It is the number of costumes created for the show. Once again, this is more than what I will ever have in my closet; I am truly jealous now.
180: The number of people working for the production of Aladdin. This includes the cast, the staff and the crew.
1428: “The number of Swarovski crystals sewn into one pair of chorus members’ pants in the finale of ‘Friend Like Me’ . That’s a lot of bling!”
I can’t write a proper conclusion telling you to go and see it if you can, as I have done that throughout the whole article so I leave you with some wise words…
“Today’s special moments are tomorrow’s best memories” – Genie.