BWW Review: Disney's ALADDIN Soars Into Cincinnati's Aronoff Through June 10th

BWW Review: Disney's ALADDIN Soars Into Cincinnati's Aronoff Through June 10th

Disney is part of our collective history. Starting 90 years ago as small animated shorts starring Mickey Mouse, it grew into an entertainment empire with feature length films and massive theme parks. It migrated into malls with stores packed with plush, and into our homes with whole television channels, a slew of DVD's, radio stations, websites, tooth brushes, sheet sets, underwear...this is beginning to become way too intimate, but I think you catch my drift.

Disney keeps spreading like the Roman Empire swallowing up everything in its path from Fox, to Marvel and Lucasfilm, taking advantage of its newly acquired rights by flooding theatres and steaming services with new fare from beloved franchises such as Star Wars and The Avengers. But some argue that quantity doesn't necessarily mean quality.

Disney's Broadway production of Aladdin is just one of many animated films adapted for live performance since Disney began its uber-successful march on Broadway with Beauty and the Beast in 1993. And, with its not-so-secret recipe (scrappy underdog faces adversity and prevails with the help of silly sidekicks and the intervention of magical beings), it manages to strike a chord with young and old. Audiences are comforted with bad guys who are the epitome of evil, good guys who are purely good, and, of course, a happy ending. There is nothing too complex here.

The book and additional lyrics by Chad Beguelin could be a source of frustration to those who crave a little more substance in their theatre fare. While trying to lengthen the already flimsy story, Beguelin missed an opportunity to develop Aladdin and Jasmine as characters, perhaps deepening their connection. Instead, the audience must simply trust in love at first sight, and the fact that girls are suckers for guys with fancy cars, or in Aladdin's case, flying carpets. Somehow, even the villains are less interesting, and instead of filling out what was already there, Beguelin decided to create three new male best friends for Aladdin, who seemingly enjoy more stage time than either Jasmine or the Genie. These friends all speak as if they are from Agrabah by way of New Jersey, for some reason, and squeeze out as many laughs as they can from their one-note personas. They're only slightly less flimsy and one dimensional than Jasmine's nameless and practically lineless female friends.

Clinton Greenspan is a winning Aladdin and Isabelle McCalla a convincing Jasmine, but Michael James Scott, as the Genie, steals the show. Despite a wobbly opening monologue, he returns near the end of the first act with a number that blows the roof off of the theatre. He's successful in channeling the spirit of Robin Williams' frenetic performance in the original but manages to imbue it with his own, very humorous, personal touches.

The songs that were not a part of the 1992 animated film just didn't have the same flair as the originals, which invigorated when combined with incredibly high energy of the ensemble. In fact, it seemed like they would do almost anything to please, packing the show with dancing, acrobatics, confetti canons, eye-boggling sets, blinding lights, smoke, mirrors, and technical wonders that make you wonder aloud, "How the heck did they do that!?" The audience gasped, smiled, and squealed with delight at the several legitimate and well-executed magic tricks (including the flying carpet! I couldn't see any strings!) But, the real magic is the spell that the Disney name still manages to cast, and the Aronoff will no doubt benefit from this smart choice for their season.

Aladdin runs through June 10th. Tickets are limited! Go here for more information.

(Photo: Provided/Photo by Deen Van Meer)

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From This Author Abby Rowold

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