Colorful, Campy and With All The Fun The Law Will Allow, DISNEY'S ALADDIN Thrills Nashville Audiences

During One of Music City's Busiest Weekends of Entertainment, Disney's ALADDIN Delights

By: May. 05, 2023
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Colorful, Campy and With All The Fun The Law Will Allow, DISNEY'S ALADDIN Thrills Nashville Audiences Colorful and campy, fast-paced and royally entertaining - and about as much fun as current Tennessee laws may allow (our state legislature's supermajority, however, might be clutching their pearls and wailing about "who'll protect the children?" even as the youngsters surrounding me on opening night were having the times of their lives) - Disney's Aladdin has arrived in Music City via magic carpet, bus and truck. And grabbing a ticket to the show's Nashville run should be among anyone's three wishes (along with, of course, tickets for Taylor Swift, Janet Jackson and/or Trevor Noah, all of whom are upping the entertainment quotient - and demand for parking spaces - this weekend) for pure escapism!

Featuring a company of tremendously talented and very, very pretty people who bring the wonder and magic of an Arabian Nights adventure to the stage of Tennessee Performing Arts Center's Andrew Jackson Hall for an eight-performance run through Sunday, May 7, Disney's Aladdin is theater for fans of all ages, with a terrifically hummable score (some of the songs come from the 1992 Disney animated film of the same name, while others were composed for the stage musical), energetic, athletic dancing (in fact, we're told early on that everyone in fictional Agrabah is a dance minor) and eye-poppingly gorgeous costumes and stunning scenic design, lighting, projections and illusions. In fact, there's so much that glitters about Disney's Aladdin that you'll finally know why sequins are in such short supply at present. [Editor's Note: That, gentle readers, is a joke - we know nothing about supply chain issues regarding glitter and sequins.]

Colorful, Campy and With All The Fun The Law Will Allow, DISNEY'S ALADDIN Thrills Nashville Audiences
Marcus M. Martin

In fact, there's so much going on onstage, your eyes may have a hard time adjusting to all the myriad elements that give the show so much pizazz and panache, but by show's end you're emotionally invested in the story of Aladdin, Jasmine and a Genie of the Lamp, who possesses so much flair and so much style - and, in fact, might best be referred to as "a human lightning bolt of raucously rollicking entertainment" - that you won't want to leave the theater when the festivities come to a close.

The musical, which premiered on Broadway in 2014 after a tryout in Seattle in 2011 and Toronto in 2013, and features a book by Chad Beguelin, with music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Ashman, Tim Rice and Beguelin, includes the score that features three songs written for the 1992 animated film that were not used for it, along with four new songs by Menken and Beguelin.

What really sets Disney's Aladdin apart from most musicals derived from animated films is its richly delineated characters and the humor that defines them - humor that is perfectly designed to delight the youngest audience members who have fallen in love with the film that starred Robin Williams' voice as the zany genie - with the skillful delivery and double entendre designed to have adults in the audience responding with equal hilarity.

Colorful, Campy and With All The Fun The Law Will Allow, DISNEY'S ALADDIN Thrills Nashville Audiences
Jake Letts, Ben Chavez, Adi Roy and Colt Prattes

Casey Nicholaw's direction ensures the production is fast-moving and engaging, with his perfect choreography bringing the show to life with his signature style and flair that guarantees any musical theater lover will respond enthusiastically to whatever is happening onstage. Augmented by Bob Crowley's extraordinary scenic design that whisks audiences away to fictional Agrabah and, as if by magic, transforms the cavernous Andrew Jackson Hall into a startling, stunning vista, it offers a visual feast. Each scene seems as if it is more stylistically stunning than the one it follows, despite the fact that on opening night, Aladdin's magic carpet was less than impressive (due, we suppose, to some mechanical failures with no real Genies in in the building to fix it).

Colorful, Campy and With All The Fun The Law Will Allow, DISNEY'S ALADDIN Thrills Nashville Audiences
Senzel Ahmady and Adi Roy

"Friend Like Me" is the most dazzling production number of Act One - thanks to Marcus M. Martin's tremendous presence as the Genie - while Adi Roy's "Proud of Your Boy" is a moving and emotional ballad that provides much of Aladdin's backstory. Another highlight of the first stanza is "Babkak, Omar, Aladdin, Kassim," performed by Jake Letts, Ben Chavez, Roy and Colt Prattes that cleverly introduces the members of Aladdin's posse in a celebration of friendship and brotherhood (a theme that is underscored in Act Two's "Somebody's Got Your Back").

Act Two's "Prince Ali" is great fun, while "A Whole New World" is warmly romantic, giving Aladdin and Jasmine (Senzel Ahmady) a moment of fanciful romance and for their characters' engaging personalities to shine bright in spite of the technical difficulties that transpired on the first night.

Colorful, Campy and With All The Fun The Law Will Allow, DISNEY'S ALADDIN Thrills Nashville Audiences
"Arabian Night"

The plot of Disney's Aladdin follows the traditional tale of Aladdin (the handsome and charming Adi Roy owns the role, with his expressive voice adding emotion and depth to his performance), a poor "street rat," whose chance meeting with the beautiful Princess Jasmine (strikingly gorgeous Senzel Ahmady, whose lyrical voice ensures her musical numbers are well-received) sets him on a journey to retrieve a magical lamp and its Genie (brought to vivid and vibrant life by Marcus M. Martin in such a way that he fairly explodes onto the scene and commands the stage with his wonderfully impressive wit, comic timing and superb vocals) who will grant him three wishes, while he works to thwart the somewhat evil and duplicitous actions of The Sultan's Grand Vizier, Jafar (played to Disney villain perfection on opening night by Dwelvan David, complete with an evil, haughty laughter).

Colorful, Campy and With All The Fun The Law Will Allow, DISNEY'S ALADDIN Thrills Nashville Audiences

Sorab Wadia is warmly paternal and imperious as The Sultan, while Joshua K.A. Johnson steals almost every scene with his inspired performance as Iago. Letts, Chavez and Prattes are terrific as Aladdin's lifelong pals; and Caro Daye Attayek, Victoria Byrd and Lauren Mariasoosay are equally adept as Princess Jasmine's coterie of attendants.

In addition to Crowley's scenic design, the show's aesthetic is electrified by Gregg Barnes' exquisite costumes, Natasha Katz's beautiful illumination, special effects by Jeremy Chernick, Jim Steinmeyer and Rob Lake's illusions and Ken Travis' superb sound design. James Dodgson conducts The Aladdin Orchestra, nine musicians who bring professionalism and musicianship to their performance of the tremendous score.

Disney's Aladdin. Music by Allen Menken. Lyrics by Howard Ashman, Tim Rice and Chad Beguelin. Book by Chad Beguelin. Directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw. Music supervision, incidental music and vocal arrangements by Michael Kosarin. Presented by Broadway at TPAC. At Tennessee Performing Arts Center's Andrew Jackson Hall, Nashville. Through Sunday, May 7. For more information, go to Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes (with one 15-minute intermission).

Photos by Deen Van Meer/Disney