Thursday, 16 June 2016

Review: Disney's Aladdin at the Prince Edward Theatre

Disney's Aladdin
Prince Edward Theatre
Reviewed on Monday 13th June 2016

Disney's blockbuster musical adaptation of Aladdin has crossed the pond, two years after opening on Broadway. It's a huge show with a multi-talented cast and big design elements. Similarly to The Lion King, the musical is very similar to the 1992 Disney film it's based on. The show also features some numbers that were cut from the film - most notably 'Proud Of Your Boy' - as well as a few new compositions. 

When I saw Aladdin two years ago on Broadway, the audience were hyped up from beginning to end, and gave two mid-show standing ovations. Traditionally West End audiences are a little more reserved, therefore I was quite taken aback when the Monday evening audience went bananas from the second the pre-show announcement began! The London crowd lapped up the show, applauding everything from blackouts to scene changes - the buzz in the theatre really was extraordinary. 

Aladdin is certainly a safe option - it's an easy crowd pleaser. It's interesting to see the piece in the UK where this Christmas it will be competing with hundreds of pantomimes of the same title. I personally wouldn't describe Disney's musical as an expensive pantomime - there's a lot more to it than that - but funnily enough there are sporadic moments of direct address and a few cheap gags which are reminiscent of panto. 

Aladdin is in good shape; the book has been updated to feature some relevant British humour. The show feels fresh, and not simply a carbon copy of its Broadway counterpart. The cast also seem to have been given some freedom which always works wonders. 

Having understudied the role on Broadway, U.S. actor Trevor Dion Nicholas is making his West End debut as the Genie. This is without doubt Dion Nicholas' show - he is the King of Sass and sets the stage alight. The highlight of the entire show is Dion Nicholas' big production number 'Friend Like Me'. It's a marathon of a song; Dion Nicholas has made it his own and aces it. I smell an Olivier Award... Of course a big mention must go to the show's director/choreographer Casey Nicholaw whose staging of 'Friend Like Me' is nothing short of sensational.

Dean John-Wilson gives a career defining performance as Aladdin. He has also made the role his own, performing with a spark in his eye. Jade Ewen struts her stuff as Princess Jasmine - she is the spitting image of her animated counterpart. John-Wilson and Ewen share strong chemistry and pull off the second highlight of the show, 'A Whole New World'. As they soar around the stage singing their hearts out it's impossible not to be cast under their spell. It's a beautiful moment (and a stand out performance is given by the mystifying magic carpet). 

Elsewhere Nathan Amzi, Stephen Rahman-Hughes and Rachid Sabitri bring lots of light relief as Aladdin's right hand men. Their numbers are hilarious - all three are stellar comedic actors. The ensemble work their socks off, they regularly seem to have multiple quick changes during musical numbers - I can't begin to imagine how crazy it is backstage.

Some elements of the design are spectacularly grand, whilst others lack imagination and look a little cheap. For instance, for most of Jafar's scenes a simple cloth is lowered to allow scene changes to go on behind which seems like a lazy option. However, when at its best the set is grand and astounding.

Overall I wish Nicholaw's production had taken more risks. It all feels very safe, and a couple of scenes start to drag in places. Nevertheless, I think I actually enjoyed Aladdin more in London. It feels at home inside the glorious Prince Edward Theatre which is even fitted with purple seats. It's wonderful to see how the show has evolved  for London - it's safe to say that a lot of people will be thoroughly charmed by Disney's Aladdin.

Reviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

Disney's Aladdin is booking at the Prince Edward Theatre until 11th February 2017.
Please visit for further information and tickets.

Photo Credit: Deen van Meer ® Disney 

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