BWW Review: ALADDIN Animates The Hobby Center with Showmanship and Spectacle
ALADDIN is a vibrant kaleidoscope of extravagant costumes, choreography, and vocal performances. An entertaining musical comedy jam-packed with a cast of over 30 members, there is always something to marvel at throughout the show for children and adults alike. It's glitzy, dynamic, and sure to entertain. Directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw with orchestrations by Danny Troob, this show packs an impressive punch when it comes to presentational musical numbers.
Based on the animated film released in 1992 which went on to receive several critical awards, this musical adaptation of a beloved Disney classic boasts its own list of award-winners. The design team alone has earned a grand total of fifteen Tony Awards amongst themselves, including scenic designer Bob Crowley, costume designer Gregg Barnes, sound designer Ken Travis, and lighting designer Natasha Katz. Rounding out the team are Josh Marquette as hair designer, Jim Steinmeyer as illusion designer, and Milagros Medina-Cerdiera as makeup designer. I do not believe audiences tend to realize how essential the quality of designs are to the performances they see. From the transformative sets of Agrabah to the thunderous roaring of the Cave of Wonders, these designers had their work cut out for them.
With a script written by Chad Beguelin, ALADDIN has enough modern jokes and comical bits woven into the show that you could almost mistake it for a night of comedy. As an audience member, you can count on the clever jokes to get you through the parts of a Disney story that can sometimes feel slow or contrived when translated to the stage. For the most part, ALADDIN takes advantage of the charicature-esque Disney style by embracing the cheesy moments and inevitable happy accidents. A challenge with adapting a beloved Disney film to the stage is in ensuring that the classic moments of the film remain endearing when performed by human beings as opposed to cartoons.
The benefit of buying a ticket to a Disney production is that you can trust you will get what you pay for -- an over-the-top, magical performance of one of your favorite films in "real life". There was no shortage of detailed dance numbers and stunts that kept the audience wowed throughout. Disney Theatrical Productions puts on decadent performances complete with all the tricks of the trade necessary to pull off a show like ALADDIN. And yes, the magic carpet really does fly.
A precious gem of the production is easily Major Attaway's "Friend Like Me" which truly felt like a show within itself. Attaway pulls out all the stops in this nearly ten-minute number that received (literal) show-stopping applause. Serving as part-narrator throughout the show, Attaway's larger-than-life personality made Genie a deserved crowd favorite. "Friend Like Me" was just one of the many major ensemble numbers sprinkled throughout the show, each containing intricately synchronized choreography and what seemed to be an endless amount of glittery costumes.
Clinton Greenspan was a picture-perfect Aladdin, with a voice and build that looked much like the cartoon character himself came to life to perform for you. You can't help but like him as he swings, jumps, and dances his way through the towers of Agrabah. Since he is nearly always onstage, the role of Aladdin is certainly no easy feat.
Kaeneonalani Kekoa absolutely glowed as Princess Jasmine with a voice that seemed to soar in each and every song. I'm sure every little child that came decked out in their finest Princess Jasmine wear were convinced they just saw the real Jasmine onstage.
Aladdin's witty comrades Babkak (Zach Bencal), Omar (Ben Chavez), and Kassim (Colt Prattes) were always entertaining when onstage, and help propel the show forward in slower plot moments. Reggie De Leon is hilarious to watch as Iago, sidekick to the menacing Jafar (Jonathan Weir).
After seeing ALADDIN on Broadway a couple years back, I was interested to see how the show would translate to the touring stage. This tour is certainly comparable in quality to what I saw on the Broadway stage, and there is no doubt you are paying to see top-notch talent in a well-oiled machine of a show. While some might argue that commercial theatre can lack the meaning or depth of other genres of theatre, ALADDIN delivers its share of theatrical thrills that made even the adults in the audience stop and open their eyes to the skill being shared onstage.
Photography Credit: Deen Van Meer
ALADDIN will be in performance at the Hobby Center in Houston through Sunday, July 14th. Performance times are Tuesday - Thursday at 7:30 pm; Friday at 8:00pm; Saturday at 2:00pm and 8:00pm; Sunday at 1:00pm and 6:30pm. There will be additional performances on Thursday, June 27th at 2:00pm and Monday, July 1stat 7:30pm. Please note there are no performances on Thursday, July 4th. Tickets start at $35 and are available by calling (800) 982-2787 or visiting www.TheHobbyCenter.org or www.BroadwayAtTheHobbyCenter.com.