UPDATED - Review Roundup: Broadway-Bound ALADDIN in Toronto
Aladdin, which will open on Broadway at the New Amsterdam Theatre on March 20, is currently playing at Toronto's Ed Mirvish Theatre (formerly the Canon), where it will run through January 5, 2014.
Adam Jacobs (Aladdin) has appeared on Broadway as Marius in Les Miserables and Simba in The Lion King. Main credits of James Monroe Iglehart (Genie) include Memphis and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Courtney Reed (Jasmine) has appeared in the Broadway productions of In the Heights and Mamma Mia. As Jafar, Jonathan Freeman brings to the stage the role he indelibly created in the animated film. His Broadway credits include The Little Mermaid, The Producers and his Tony-nominated turn in She Loves Me.
Let's see what the critics had to say...
Richard Ouzounian, Toronto Star: What's truly great about Aladdin remains the music of Alan Menken, which can be jaunty as needed, or stir your heart with longing. A new song, "A Million Miles Away," could have given Aladdin and Jasmine the needed dimension if Nicholaw had staged it a bit less flat-footedly and Reed had brought more to the table. The show's big "money" moment is the magic carpet ride during "A Whole New World," and while it initially drew oohs and aahs from the crowd, it soon wore out its welcome, because all we saw was a black disc floating invisibly inside a black box riddled with stars.
J. Kelly Nestruck, Globe and Mail: As for those "indescribable feelings" the leads sing about? Well, there are actually plenty of words to describe them, but I think one three-letter neologism will do: Meh. Chemistry is missing between Aladdin and Jasmine, while charm is AWOL in general from much of the proceedings. Director Casey Nicholaw has done wonders in the past with self-mocking musical comedies like The Drowsy Chaperone and The Book of Mormon. Even though the latter has a running gag making fun ofThe Lion King, he still got this gig.
Robert Cushman, National Post: Just confining comparisons to the Disney stable: it shows up the theatrical Beauty and the Beast for the drearily uninspired Xerox that it was; and though it may not be as outlandishly imaginative as The Lion King, it has its own kind of inventiveness and is frankly more fun. And it has, obviously, a much better score. Alan Menken's music, and the lyrics of the late and much lamented Howard Ashman, have the kind of verve and wit that used to be taken for granted on Broadway and is now mostly a memory to be invoked for spoof purposes - meaning camp purposes - only. Aladdin redeems showbiz tradition by making fun with it, rather than of it: something that now may only be possible in a fantasy setting.
Andrea Baillie, The Canadian Press: Director Casey Nicholaw has served up a thoroughly satisfying confection for kids, who will no doubt delight in the swords, smoke and spectacular tunes of "Aladdin" - and will leave the theatre content to have been transported to "a whole new world."Their parents? Maybe not so much.
Kelly Cameron, BroadwayWorld: The problem is, Chad Beguelin's book fails to make us truly care for the characters - and the special effects can only take the show so far when the investment at the heart of the story isn't making the connection it should. It felt as though the book concentrated too hard on adding cheesy 'current affair' style jokes (think pop culture references and an odd ode to Disney style number) and clunky one-liners instead of giving depth and material to Aladdin, Jasmine and the Genie. Problems aside, there's still a lot of magic in Aladdin. The sights are impressive (despite some cheap looking set pieces by Bob Crowley) and there is some incredible staging by Casey Nicholaw. 'Arabian Nights' opened the show with a bang, drawing the audience into the middle East world and showing off the stellar triple threats within the cast.