For people who know me personally or those who have been reading my reviews know that I am rather partial to cheesy things such as; pop music, films and musical theatre productions, nonetheless, there are moments when the cheesiness takes the biscuit and embarrassing really and some musicals can do just that and this is one such musical. The West End production of, Chad Baguelin, Alan Meaken, Howard Ashaman and Tim Rice’s musical adaptation of the 1992 Disney film, ‘Aladdin’ for me was a rather pitiful and over the top musical which exceedingly lacks in imagination and originality and furthermore, the performances were childishly lacklustre and grated the cheese into its entirety over the entire show.
‘Aladdin’ is set in Agrabah, City of Enchantment where we are made known of beggar, Aladdin who accompanied by his three best friends, Kassim (Stephen Rahman-Hughes), Omar (Rachid Sabiti) and Babbak (Nathan Amzi) are notorious for stealing food in the area. For Aladdin, he has gone against his promises to his mother who is deceased that he’d never thieve again. At the palace of Agrabah, Jasmine the princess has aggravated her father, the Sultan (Irvine Iqbal) as she has once again turned down the marriage proposal to another prince and the Sultan states to his child that she must court a royal prince. The Sultan’s advisor, Jafar is hatching a plan to become ruler of Agrabah with the assistance of Iago (Peter Howe) need to enter the Cave of Wonders to obtain a lamp; unfortunately Jafar needs someone else to collect the lamp. When Jasmine meets Aladdin for the first time, love does indeed blossom and when Jafar and Iago rescues Aladdin from death; they lure him to the Cave of Wonders where Jafar demands that he must bring him the lamp. Over the course of the performance, Aladdin in the Cave of Wonders locates the lamp and as soon as he rubs the lamp a Genie pops out of the nozzle and explains to Aladdin that he has three wishes that the Genie can grant him and as such; Aladdin uses his first wish to become a prince. Aladdin’s friends are posing as royal associates bursts into the palace and announces the arrival of Prince Ali of Ababwa and intends to wed princess Jasmine and throughout this part of the show, Jasmine just does not want to know and Jafar suspects that something fishy is going on here . When Aladdin is given permission to marry Jasmine, Jafar exposes to everyone that Aladdin is just a street-rat and all hell breaks loose and Jafar has manipulated the Genie to be Jafar’s slave. In order for all to return to normal, Aladdin has to rescue Jasmine, the Sultan and his friends to destroy Jafar’s dictatorship and at the finale, Aladdin defeats Jafar, the Genie is given his freedom and the Sultan allows Aladdin to marry his daughter Jasmine and the rule of marrying a prince is then revoked. Baguelin’s narrative is enormously clichéd and relatively unfunny as the musical plotline is a carbon copy of the film’s narrative and the musical numbers such as “Friend Like Me”, “Prince Ali”, “A Whole New World” and “Somebody Got Your Back” did not really cut it for me and was not that creatively written and I would have liked more original musical numbers.
One found the performances by the company of, ‘Aladdin’ to be truly monotonous as well as the vocals and the dance sequences did not make me that engaged and in actual fact I would rather have consumed a few stiff drinks instead of seeing these rubbish portrayals. Dean John-Wilson is disappointing as the lead role, Aladdin; especially how cheesy and tedious he comes across and for me that I could not connect to the character which was saddening and his vocals in “Proud of Your Boy” wasn’t that good really. Jade Ewen is woeful as the pretty Princess Jasmine; specifically how yes she is a pretty woman but I just felt that there should have been more substance to her performance and there needed to be more passion between Aladdin and Jasmine and I didn’t see the romance whatsoever. Trevor Dion Nicholas is tasteless as the supposed flamboyant, Genie; mainly how the one-liners just fell as flat as a pancake and for me his depiction was a bit disrespectful to the late Robin Williams who really invented the character to be so hilariously compelling and I simply questioned his motives for the role. Don Gallagher is unpleasant as the villainous, Jafar; for example how shocking the casting of a white man in a role that should have gone to an Asian actor shows how little to the imagination and realism to the community of Agrabah and some parts of his performance just kept crashing down around the show in itself.
Casey Nicholaw’s direction and choreography is horrendous here as he has not successfully presented an original story that incorporates the film but with a fresh twist and for me, the clichéd elements just did not work in increasing my engagement to what could have been amazing, sadly this is no the case and characterisations lacked fluidity. Bob Crowley’s set design and Gregg Barnes’s costumes designs were not that exceptional as the set was too in-yer-face and the costumes were too vibrant and words could not describe how unimpressed I was by what was shown here and I think the set could have been toned down a considerable amount and I didn’t like it that much. Overall, the experience of, ‘Aladdin’ was not Disney Theatricals’ most polished pieces of work and I just hope that ‘Newsies’ turns up to the West End really soon.