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Review: Caves and Worlds of Wonder in ALADDIN at Clowes Memorial Hall

Review: Caves and Worlds of Wonder in ALADDIN at Clowes Memorial Hall

For all those growing up watching Disney movies, and for the kids who absolutely loved Aladdin, the Genie and Princess Jasmine or even Abu, this is a must-watch! Big band, big sound, big show - with enough energy to light up a few thousand lamps.

Celeste:

There are few more beloved films than animated Disney classics, and amongst them is that diamond in the rough, Aladdin. I, too, fall prey to the nostalgia of the film, so seeing the musical adaptation was a real thrill. I had a magical ride with the incredible touring production and its many talented actors.

You can't be drawn into Aladdin without a top-tier Genie, and Marcus M. Martin did not disappoint. He grabbed the audience from his first syllable to his last, and it made the whole experience that much more engaging. It's hard to pinpoint the magical recipe that creates a performance that is comedically accomplished without being too over-the-top, but he churned out one delicious rendition of Genie. What personally drew me in most was his vocal resonance. It helped to create that all-powerful presence that Genie requires. He also owned every inch of the stage. There was never a sense that he was following some predetermined blocking but that he moved, talked, and tapped 100% as Genie, not an actor simply portraying a role.

Some musical theatergoers may be a little wary when they open a program and see that an understudy is going on in a prominent role. I have the opposite reaction because I have found that most understudies are equally talented, and because they are not necessarily playing the role every night, they bring another level of energy and freshness to the performance. My hunch proved entirely correct when Cody Hernández took the stage as Jafar. In my opinion, he had the best delivery of some iconic one-liners from the film, which made my nostalgic heart ever so happy. He, like Marcus M. Martin, maintained a lot of his presence through his voice. He had the perfect "evil guy" voice and laugh, so it had a blend of sinister with a dash of corny. I loved every second.

For anyone interested in the distinct differences between the film and the musical, you'll find everything you loved plus a little more. There were some song additions that I thought were great fun and in keeping with the spirit of the original. "High Adventure" was a personal favorite, as was the addition of the characters who sang it. There are two trios who join Jasmine and Aladdin as helpful buddies throughout the show, and Aladdin's beloved band of misfits was such fun. Babkak (Jake Letts), Omar (Ben Chavez), and Kassim (Colt Prattes) bring an aura of "bromance" to the production that I found both clever and entertaining.

Beyond the acting, the songs, and the new additions, Aladdin is also visually captivating. There are oodles of colors and crystals and confetti cannons that make it a feast for your eyes as well as your ears. It's hard to catch everything that's happening, but it's so much fun just trying to take it all in.

Dylan:

Like the Disney movie, "Aladdin" on Broadway tells the tale of a adolescent boy living on the streets of Arabian desert empire Agrabah, who sneaks food and is constantly ducking guards. Different the movie, however, Aladdin not only dreams of escaping poverty and discovering the love of his life, but also of making his mother proud of him. Throughout the musical, Aladdin sings multiple songs about this fantasy, which adds more depth to the character than the film.

Aladdin also features additional roles that replaced some of the iconic animal sidekicks from the original movie. For example, Jafar's (Cody Hernandez) parrot Iago has been turned into a comedic character (Aaron Choi) who adds humor to the show and often gained loud laughter from the audience. Abu, Aladdin's monkey companion, was also swapped in the show by three comedic friends who support Aladdin in various ways along his journey.

For me, it wasn't the adjustments to the characters that really made the show for me, but rather it was the high-quality acting. Of course, it's a Broadway show, but this was above and beyond. Genie, played by Marcus M. Martin, is the perfect highlight of this musical. His swagger could be felt all the way up to the balcony and all the way back down. Unlike Adi Roy's depiction of Aladdin or Senzel Ahmady's of Jasmine (hats off to them), the character of Genie is one that required a more nuanced acting to make the show come to life. Without a excellent Genie, the whole show would fall flat.

Aladdin and any other professional Disney show wouldn't be complete without a nod to every aspect of the design. Audience members could reall see the detail of the intricate costumes even from a distance. Every character's outfit, whether be a main character or someone from the ensemble, had a magnificent and colorful design that made the whole show more enjoyable to watch. The musical also utilized various special effects, allowing Genie to show off his magical chops as he rose from the floor of the stage, let magical sparks fly, and made objects appear out of thin air. However, the most impressive of all the effects is none other than the magic carpet. While singing "A Whole New World," Aladdin and Jasmine embark on a "magic carpet ride." The carpet soared above the stage, seeming to nearly touch the top lights, as the background twinkled like stars and a piece of blue fabric is rustled to look like waves below. It is unclear what technology they used to make this carpet fly too, which added to the magic of the show.

If you're ready to be blown away by the visual, musical spectacle that is Aladdin, then be sure to get your tickets soon! It will be on stage at Clowes Memorial Hall through November 20th.



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