by Lynn on November 22, 2013

in The Passionate Playgoer


At the Ed Mirvish Theatre, Toronto. Book and additional lyrics by Chad Beguelin. Directed and Choreographed by Casey Nicholaw. Music by Alan Menken. Lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice. Set by Bob Crowley. Costumes by Gregg Barnes. Lighting by Natasha Katz. Starring: Clifton Davis, Jonathan Freeman,  James Monroe Iglehart, Adam Jacobs, Courtney Reed..

Disney Theatrical Productions presents Aladdin at the Ed Mirvish Theatre until January 5.

I don’t know what is more eye-popping about Aladdin, the new Broadway-bound musical, now at the Ed Mirvish Theatre, the sumptuous costumes of Gregg Barnes, the dazzling sets by Bob Crowley, or the gleaming white teeth of Adam Jacobs as Aladdin.

The musical of course is based on the beloved animated film. Aladdin is a charming ‘street rat’, a petty thief when he has to be and charming with a big heart. He is coerced by the nasty Jafar, to steal a magic lamp with a genie inside, Jafar intends to use the mighty genie to get rid of the sultan and take the fancy turban (‘crown’ in ordinary stories but this is the Arabian Nights we’re dealing with) for himself. Only a common street person could get by the terrible monster guarding the place where the magic lamp is.

Aladdin does the deed, but somehow winds up with the lamp himself; rubs it; meets the mighty Genie; bonds with him; meets the Princess Jasmine (the Sultan’s daughter); falls in love with her and she him; battles Jafar and his ever-present-sword-swinging-henchmen-takes advantage of the three wishes offered by the Genie; and after a lot of adventure, fights, a magic carpet ride and lots of smiling, it all ends rather well for everybody, except Jafar.

Aladdin has all the dazzling big-Broadway pizzazz that many expect of a Broadway musical. It also has a book by Chad Beguelin that on the one hand pokes fun at itself always reminding us that this is a Broadway musical, and on the other hand has some really sophisticated puns and jokes. The constant swirl of activity, endless sword-fights and lots of pratfalls will engage kids. Gregg Barnes’ ravishing costumes will be talked about for days, and Bob Crowley’s equally impressive sets create that world of riches, sumptuous excess and magic. There is a magic carpet with attendant shooting stars that light the sky—Natasha Katz dazzles with her lighting effects.

The cast is high octane starting with the gleaming-toothed Adam Jacobs as Aladdin. He is charming, always focused in the scene, a young man who is conflicted about his place in the world, but when he sees Jasmine, he is sure she is for him. Jacobs gives a lovely performance of a young man who grows into the person he was meant to be.

As Jasmine, Courtney Reed has sass, takes no nonsense, and she too has charm. The nasty Jafar is played by the deep-voiced Jonathan Freeman. Jafar is a guy just born to be jeered for his nastiness and Freeman (who created the voice of the character for the animated film) now plays him with controlled creepiness. The energy of the show seems to ramp up when the Genie, in the person of James Monroe Iglehart, appears from out of a gush of smoke and loud music. Iglehart jives, shimmies, sways, jumps and struts his stuff while telling of his powers and he can do. Watching Iglehart play this part is liking a tsunami of energy pinning you to the seat, defying you not to be impressed and completely bowled over. Director-Choreographer, Casey Nicholaw knows how to work every aspect of this musical so that this fairy-tale about being true to yourself, disarms even the staunches of curmudgeons. He has an eye for the big picture. He can envision a carpet flying in the dark sky with illuminate planets and stars passing by magically. The show is full of magic—characters disappear over here, and appear over there, costumes change before out eyes, sets float on and off, changing on the journey. Alan Menken has brought his lush music from the film to the musical.

Aladdin has everything to attract kids, their parents’ and their parents and send them home smiling.

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