In Row W Seat 8, I sat and waited patiently for the show to begin. All around me were people of different ages and races coming together to see an amazing production. With “Aladdin” being my favorite movie, I could barely contain my excitement. I flipped through my program and took note of the musical numbers that night. It wasn’t long before they began to confuse me. There were songs that were totally new! I saw the names “Babkak, Omar, Aladdin, Kassim” and thought, “Who the heck are they?!” I didn’t want to shut the musical out, so I kept an open mind and began to get my notebook ready.
At about 7:45 p.m., the lights went dark. There was a voice over the speakers that told us to turn our phones off and to not film during the production. Our editor and chaperone Maurice was quick to let us know about how strictly that was enforced. When the curtain went up, we meet the Genie played by Trevor Dion Nicholas. Let me just say, Mr. Nicholas was cracking me up the entire night! When he “accidentally” pulled out an Atlanta Braves hat instead of the lamp when telling the crowd what Agrabah was known for, I knew this was going to be a night of laughter. When the Genie said that he was from Wakanda, I knew that he was my favorite character of the night.
For fans of the original movie, if you’re looking for Jasmine and Aladdin’s pets, Rajah and Abu, don’t hold your breath. I think the dangers and the responsibility of touring with a monkey and a tiger would be a bit much. Imagine the extensive training and caution you need to be on stage with a tiger and monkey. It took me about halfway through the musical to realize that Omar, Kassim and Babkak were their “replacements,” but this wasn’t a problem to me. I thought Zach Bencal (Babkak), Philippe Arroyo (Omar), Jed Feder (Kassim) did an amazing job of shaping their characters. Their song “High Adventure” had to be my favorite original song of the night. I loved their harmonies throughout the song and how comical it was. I think the addition of the new characters was a great spin from the actual movie while still keeping the same aspects.
The costuming and choreography was AMAZING! While the dancers were performing “Arabian Nights,” there was a point in the choreography when they swallowed swords. The choreography was really fresh but never to the point where I didn’t see any correlation with the movie. The costumes came right out of the movie! I loved every part of the costumes. Jasmine and Aladdin were definitely sparkling with their costumes which I LOVED!
The Cave of Wonders still has me shook til this day, it was SO shiny. They did an amazing job of making it look like the movie. Oh my gosh, I thought I was going to need sunglasses! Everywhere you looked, there was something shining at you. When the Genie was released out of the lamp, there were special effects and lighting. When the Genie made sparks appear, it scared me each time.
The magic carpet was just that – magical. I still can’t figure out how it worked. Seeing Aladdin and Jasmine on the carpet singing “A Whole New World” was mesmerizing. The backdrop was so beautiful and it truly looked as though they were flying in the sky. At the end of the show, the carpet flew again but I still couldn’t figure it out how it moved so smoothly. It was executed very well.
The connection between Jasmine and Aladdin was funny, but it was cute. I felt as though they really loved their parts and it made it feel real to me. Especially after they got off the carpet and Jasmine says, “Wow, I’ve never seen such beauty,” to which Aladdin responds, “You should be standing where I am.” The crowd let out a big “awww” but then suddenly broke out into laughter when we realized how corny that was. They both had great singing voices and really embodied their characters.
My only two cons with this show were the actors. I went in with the hope that the lead actors (at least) would be of Middle Eastern descent, but they weren’t. I feel like this would be the equivalent of having an all white cast in the production of “Black Panther.” It ruins the entire purpose of the plot. I didn’t let this thought affect my way of perceiving the performance or musical because I loved it. My second con with this show is the absence of Abu and Rajah. This con is mainly my fault I must say. I went in with the expectation of the Broadway musical being the same as the movie. Although, I totally understand the executive decision to not have the animals there.
If you’re considering going to watch “Aladdin,” do it. It was really nice and entertaining. It has a very modern appeal to it and it’s fun for all ages. If you want to hear good live vocals and harmonies, I recommend this musical. Simply, if you love the movie, you have to see the musical. It’s only right. Don’t go in like me with the expectation of it being like the movie. You’re going to love the new characters and the new songs. If you love to get emotional from songs, please see this show so you can tear up like me during “Proud of Your Boy.” That is a beautifully written song and Clinton Greenspan sung it beautifully as well. If you thought this movie was good, the musical is “A Whole New World!”
Three VOX ATL journalists got to see “Aladdin” on press night thanks to our partnership with Broadway in Atlanta and Most Valuable Kids-Atlanta, through the “More Than a Ticket” program providing opportunities for local youth to experience arts and culture.
The national touring company of “Aladdin: The Musical” is at the Fox Theatre in Midtown Atlanta through Sunday. For tickets and more info, go to foxtheatre.org.
Arkayla, 16, attends Atlanta International Schoool.