BWW Review: ALADDIN in Brisbane is Genie-Us
Based on the two-time academy award winning Disney animated film of the same name, Aladdin the musical encompasses all the magic that the movie has and more. In fact, I believe it's more magical than the movie and here's why. I've only had my draw drop twice in the opening number of a musical; first was The Lion King and now, Aladdin can be added to the list. I've tried to think of the words to explain the extravagance of the set. The word magical is the closest I can find but even that's not enough. It's Disney and it's budgetless. Six-time Tony Award winning set designer Bob Crowley draws from Middle Eastern, North African and Asian designs and eras to produce the most immaculate storybook middle-eastern silk back-drops, market-place scene furnishings and the inside of the palace walls. The cave of wonders featured golden treasures that transformed into skyscrapers but none more beautiful than the flying carpet which carries the lovers aloft in the air. As it spins and turns through Natasha Katz's (lighting designer) star-strewn night sky, the audience is left not wanting to believe their eyes and wanting to know the answer as to 'how they did it'.
Crowley's saturated palettes are complimented by Gregg Barnes parade of costumes; encompassing a range of vibrant colours and elegant silhouettes; made of rich materials that feature elaborate ornaments and sequins which sparkle in light. There are more than 300 costumes in the show; with there being 80 costumes alone in 'Prince Ali' so you can imagine how quick and how frequent the costume changes were throughout the show. The townspeople's costumes were one of my favourites with their shades of blues, greens and various other cool colours which completed the green orange dunes backdrop.
Casey Nicholaw's choreography had an aura of magic to it; it made you feel like you were experiencing an Arabian night. The movements animated the score and gave it a cartoon-like quality, with its richness and diversity in styles, tempo and acrobatic tricks which I didn't even know existed. 'Friend Like Me' was definitely the highlight of the spectacle with its chorus of whirling showgirls and valets, a 'dancing with the schimtars' ballroom break, a hoedown, game-show interlude, medley of popular Disney tunes from other musicals, an exquisite tap routine and a finale with a kickline. As you can imagine, my draw dropped several times and it took me all of the second act to get it back up again.
But if I had to choose my favourite part of this musical it would be the ensemble. The actor's in the ensemble shared and more so took the spotlight of the leads. My eyes were drawn to the ensemble; captivated by not only their dazzling choreography and colourful costumes but their individual characters. Whether they were villagers hurrying about the square doing their daily business, the Sultan's soldiers, Princess Jasmine's maids; they all had such a powerful stage presence and you couldn't help but not look away. The ensemble carried the show; they were the narrators and the leads were their characters and the audience wasn't sad about it.
In terms of the acting; Jafar (Adam Murphy) and Iago (Aljin Abella) stole the show. You could tell how much time they'd put into the development of their characters and their rapport through the way they bounced off of each other throughout the performance; a crowd favourite being their repeated villain laugh. Another relationship I thoroughly enjoyed which additionally added more humour and dimensions into the plat (and had been removed from the movie), was between Aladdin and his three friends (Kassim, Babkak, and Omar), with 'High Adventure' being a crowd favourite.
And of course, who could forget the genie. Gareth Jacobs had the audience in the palm of his hands from the get-go; a 'one-man extravaganza' who takes you on a magic carpet ride with his infectious energy, flamboyant and charismatic personality; not to mention his impressive vocal presence. Although I enjoyed the tenderness Ainsley Melham's rendition 'Proud of Your Boy', I felt disappointed that the chemistry between Melham and Hiba Elchikhe (Jasmine) was not quite there. Overall, I felt that Elchikhe was flat in her role and thus struggled to find the connection between her character as well as others onstage, in both the dialogue and music.
This show is not a spectacle to be missed. It will transport you into a world that you will never want to leave.
Aladdin the musical
Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC)
Playing until Sunday 3rd June