Review: DISNEY'S ALADDIN at Ottawa's National Arts Centre

An escapist and entertaining musical, especially for fans of the animated film.

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Broadway Across Canada has brought the touring production of Disney's Aladdin to Ottawa for the first time as part of its 2022-2023 season. Celebrating its ninth anniversary on Broadway, it was obvious that audiences have been waiting a long time for the musical to visit and there was a sense of excitement in the air. Predictably, the audience was a mixture of all ages since the animated film that inspired the musical was released over thirty years ago, back in 1992.

Senzel Ahmady (Jasmine) and Adi Roy (Aladdin),
Aladdin Tour. Photo by Deenvan Meer ©Disney.

For those who aren't familiar with the general plot, Disney's Aladdin is based on "Aladdin's Wonderful Lamp", a story associated with One Thousand and One Nights, a collection of Middle Eastern folk tales compiled during the Islamic Golden Age. The stories were first published in English and French in the early eighteenth century. Disney's version tells the story of Aladdin (Adi Roy), a poor young man, who is enticed by a vizier named Jafar (Anand Nagraj) into entering a booby-trapped cave to retrieve a magic lamp. When Aladdin inadvertently rubs the lamp, a genie (Marcus M. Martin) is released, promising to bestow three wishes upon him.

Meanwhile, after rejecting multiple suitors, Jasmine (Senzel Ahmady) is told by her father, the Sultan (Sorab Wadia), that she must marry a prince, and quickly. She feels like a caged bird, longing to be free to make her own choices. When Jasmine meets Aladdin, the two feel an immediate connection. Aladdin decides to use a wish to become a prince so he can marry Jasmine and live happily ever after. Of course, Aladdin's plans are thwarted at every turn by Jafar and his sidekick, Iago (Aaron Choi).

Anand Nagraj (Jafar) and Aaron Choi (Iago),
Aladdin Tour. Photo by Deenvan Meer ©Disney.

The musical numbers include songs that will be familiar to audiences who know and love the animated movie, such as "Arabian Nights", "Friend Like Me", "Prince Ali", and "A Whole New World". Some new songs have been added to help further develop the characters, including "Proud of Your Boy" and "These Palace Walls". This was a rare musical where I thought that the acting stood out above certain vocal performances, notably for Roy and Ahmady. The two had good chemistry, but lacked the ability to do the heavy lifting on some songs. This was particularly evident during "A Whole New World"; seeing the magic carpet twisting and turning as it floated through the air was dazzling, but the number required more vocal prowess to make the moment truly magical. I should note that many of cast, including Ahmady, are having their professional debuts on this tour. With their potential, it is obvious that the experience they gain here will reap rewards for them in the future.

Martin carried the show almost single-handedly, oozing infectious charm with larger-than-life charisma. His many one-liners were delivered effortlessly as if, rather than being carefully scripted lines, they were completely improvised. There were a couple of local references thrown in that added to the fun and the audience loved it. "Friend Like Me" was by far the best number in the show, and that was entirely thanks to Martin's delightful, over-the-top performance.

Marcus M. Martin as Genie, Aladdin Tour.
Photo by Deenvan Meer ©Disney.

Nagraj nailed Jafar's deep voice and evil laugh, while being able to hit a surprising range of notes in his main musical number, "Diamond in the Rough". Unfortunately, Iago is a sometimes funny, but mostly obnoxious character. However, Choi did a commendable job with what he had to work with. I would have liked to see a little more of Adriana Negron in the second half, as she had a couple of moments in the first act where she stood out as the Fortune Teller.

Abu, Aladdin's pet monkey in the animated feature, was replaced by three devoted human friends in the musical: Babkak (Jake Letts), Omar (Ben Chavez), and Kassim (Colt Prattes). They were an entertaining trio (and Letts' running gag about food somehow never got old), whose main number, "Somebody's Got Your Back" was a highlight of the show for me.

There was a sound issue during the first act that quickly became irritating, but it seemed to be resolved after intermission, so hopefully that was just a one-time thing. The sets (Bob Crowley) were serviceable, but seemed rather basic compared with other, more lavish, Disney productions I've seen. This was offset by the outstanding choreography (Casey Nicholaw) and costumes (Gregg Barnes). The costumes literally sparkled and seeing the talented ensemble swirling among swaths of brightly coloured fabrics and scimitars was spectacular.

Jake Letts, Ben Chavez, Adi Roy, Colt Prattes, in
Aladdin Tour. Photo by Deenvan Meer ©Disney.

This is a fun show to watch, especially for fans of the animated film. The musical brings some of the movie's most memorable songs to life in the best possible way and everyone, no matter their age, seemed to leave the theatre with a smile on their face. Shows like Disney's Aladdin are meant to be entertaining and escapist, so what more can anyone really ask for?

Disney's Aladdin is playing at the National Arts Centre's Southam Hall through Sunday, March 26th. Click Click Here for more information or to purchase tickets. Broadway Across Canada still has two shows to come in its 2022-2023 season; click here for more information.


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The North American tour of Disney’s Aladdin launches on Tuesday, October 11 at 7:30pm at Proctors Theatre in Schenectady, NY, where the hit Broadway musical comedy will play for two weeks through Sunday, October 23, 2022. Check out rehearsal photos and videos here!

From This Author - Courtney Castelino

Originally from Montreal, Courtney loves the theatre, in general, and Broadway, in particular. She saw her first show when she was thirteen years old: a touring production of The Phantom of the Opera ... (read more about this author)


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