Review: DISNEY'S ALADDIN at Pantages Theatre

The magic carpet flies over Hollywood through September 23

By: Sep. 15, 2023
Review: DISNEY'S ALADDIN at Pantages Theatre

The evergreen tale of the Arabic urchin Aladdin is still wowing audiences around the world centuries after first appearing in the French translation of One Thousand and One Nights. Disney’s 1992 animated feature was a sensation, winning both Oscars and Grammys and becoming the highest-grossing movie of the year, the soundtrack selling more than three million copies. In 2014, the Mouse House plumbed the story again, premiering the stage production on Broadway, winning Drama Desk and Tony Awards and becoming the tenth highest-grossing production on the Great White Way’s history. Not bad for a street rat.

Review: DISNEY'S ALADDIN at Pantages Theatre
Adi Roy

The story is simple: In the fictional Middle Eastern city of Agrabah, Aladdin (Adi Roy), the “street rat,” falls in love with Princess Jasmine (Senzel Ahmady), who is being pressured to marry someone of her stature. Aladdin uses a genie’s three wishes to try to win her over, but, naturally, the course of true love does not run smoothly as the sultan’s grand vizier, Jafar (played with perfect smug smarminess by Anand Nagraj), has his own plans.

With the five songs from the original, the show features new tunes by Alan Menken, Howard Ashman, Tim Rice, and Chad Beguelin (including three that had been cut from the film) with a book by Beguelin. Four new tunes—including “Proud of Your Boy” (Aladdin’s aspirational song) and “These Palace Walls” (Jasmine’s aspirational song)—round out the characters, their desires, and the story.

Review: DISNEY'S ALADDIN at Pantages Theatre
Marcus M. Martin and Adi Roy

The songs are sung capably, yet it’s the stunning choreography by director Casey Nicholaw that elevates the production to near brilliance. The sets by Bob Crowley are so spectacular, costumes by Gregg Barnes so colorful, and the energy from the ensemble (not to mention the audience on opening night) so high, it’s difficult not to get swept away as if on a magic carpet. The supporting players are aces, pulling off the 1940s-inspired numbers with panache, the “Friend Like Me” number being particularly impressive. The lighting design by Natasha Katz and illusion designers Jim Steinmeyer and Rob Lake also deserve a shout-out as the impact would be lessened dramatically without their skill. The stage curtain made of woven carpets is a nice touch as well.

That said, there’s something missing that keeps ALADDIN from being a slam dunk. The leads are mostly good, but Roy and Ahmady are lacking a chemistry that would elevate their love story as well as the stakes of the show overall. Roy has perfect boy-next-door appeal as our hero, and his friends, Kassim (Colt Prattes), Omar (Ben Chavez), and

Review: DISNEY'S ALADDIN at Pantages Theatre
Marcus M. Martin and
the ensemble

Babkak (Jake Letts), are finely delineated sidekicks inhabited by talented performers, but the chubby friend being obsessed with food is a lame joke, low-hanging fruit that is no longer fresh. If it ever was. Some of the comic relief is too broad, even for a show this broad, undermining its effect.

The Genie (Marcus M. Martin) has enormous shoes to fill, following in the footsteps of the legendary performance by Robin Williams, and he does his best, but he struggles with the rat-a-tat dialogue that came so naturally to Williams, and there are times he seems winded so it’s difficult to understand his lyrics. But he is a powerhouse presence, which makes up for much.

ALADDIN is certainly worth the price of admission if you’re interested and/or love the 1992 film. It’s a spectacle that’ll hit your sweet spot. But you might find yourself left wanting once the magic carpet has spirited our lovers away to that whole new world.

ALADDIN is performed at the Pantages Theatre, 6233 Hollywood Boulevard, through September 23. Tickets are available at Click Here and at the box office. The show will return to Southern California at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa May 7–12, 2024.

Photo Credit: Deenvan Meer Disney



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From This Author - Harker Jones

Harker Jones has worked in publishing as a writer, editor, and critic for 15 years. He was managing editor of Out magazine for seven years and has written two novels (including the #1 Amazon... Harker Jones">(read more about this author)


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