BWW Review: ALADDIN at ASU Gammage
BWW Review: Aladdin
While this "Diamond in the Rough" is a departure from the film, it captures the energy and magic of the film in surprising ways. There is a strong theme of honesty, integrity, and friendship. Aladdin is a spectacular for the eyes, and nostalgic for those who grew up watching the film.
The show really belongs to the Genie. Played by Michael James Scott, he opens the show with a bang. He wails his way through the familiar songs and provides never-ending energy, laughs, and heart. With the incredible ensemble, Scott stops the show in the first act with "Friend Like Me". There are several costume changes, a glittering set, and fantastic choreography. This number exceeds every expectation one would have while watching a professional Disney production.
All of the musical numbers are well thought out and executed which speaks to the talent of the ensemble. With several moving stage pieces and non-stop action, the ensemble effortlessly travels from scene to scene. The ensemble features strong singing voices, with layered harmonies that blend perfectly. It is a wonder they can sing at all with the extensive choreography they are performing.
Instead of Abu, Aladdin is flanked by his three life-long friends: Babkak, Omar, and Kassim. This trio, played by Zach Bencal, Philippe Arroyo, and Jed Feder, respectively, provide much of the music in the show. Their second act number "High Adventure" is exciting and fun to watch. All three have stellar voices and carry their parts well. The Sultan is played by Jerald Vincent. He has a delightful singing voice and a contagious energy that kept him in the minds of the audience even when he was not on stage.
The magic carpet does make an appearance, but not as a featured character. Rajah has been replaced by three, female attendants who urge Jasmine to follow her heart. Iago is still Jafar's stooge, but in this version, he is human and played by Jay Paranada. Jafar is played by Jonathan Weir, and the two share a villainous chemistry. Always lurking in the shadows, Weir and Paranada provide several laugh out loud moments while carrying out their sinister plans. The final showdown between Aladdin and Jafar lacks the pizzazz of the film, but Weir is a commanding presence perfectly coupled with Paranada.
Jasmine is played by Lissa deGuzman with the role of Aladdin being played by Clinton Greenspan. Both show incredible skill with the physical demands of the roles. They share a sweet and believable chemistry. Their voices sound wonderful together, and the ambience during "A Whole New World" is lovely. The audience cannot help but root for the lovers to overcome the divide between them.
The technical elements of the show are second to none. The moving set pieces ensure there is no lull in the action and keep the story moving. The costumes are stunning. There is a menagerie of color on stage, with costume changes that surprise and delight the audience. The orchestra, led by Faith Seetoo and Danny Taylor, adds another layer of enjoyment as they perfectly underscore the entire performance.
Production photos by Deen Van Meer, courtesy of Disney