Review Roundup: ALADDIN on Tour, What Did the Critics Think?
Disney's "Aladdin" is currently flying around America, entertaining audiences nationwide with the Agrabah glitz and glamour. What are critics in the various cities saying about the tour? Check out their reviews from tour stops like Tempe, Salt Lake City, San Diego and more below!
Aladdin Tour Cast
The Aladdin tour cast currently stars Clinton Greenspan in the titular role. Major Attaway comes directly from the Broadway company as Genie. Kaenaonalani Kekoa plays opposite Greenspan as Princess Jasmine, with Jerald Vincent playing her father, Sultan. Jonathan Weir and Reggie De Leon play the evil duo as Jafar and Iago, respectfully. Zach Bencal, Ben Chavez and Colt Prattes round out the principles as Babkak, Omar and Kassim.
Los Angeles Reviews
Deborah Wilker, The Hollywood Reporter: Of course not everything that Disney transfers from screen to stage or from animation to real life works seamlessly, but Aladdin on Broadway has been a unique triumph: glorious to look at, funny, topical - and definitely not just for kids. (A full-circle moment arrives next year when director Guy Ritchie's live-action Aladdin, starring Will Smith, lands in multiplexes.) Given all the brand-extending - toys, video sequels, theme park attractions and more - that went on in the decades prior to Broadway, it's really kind of amazing that producers pulled off such a warm, witty show. That they've cloned it so expertly for the road seems even more of a miracle.
Margaret Gray, LA Times: Although the original collection of six songs is thin for a stage musical, it could be argued that the newcomers don't add enough to the story to justify the time they take. We don't really need "Proud of Your Boy," in which Aladdin sings of his desire to be more than just a criminal. By the time we've sat through the laborious hijinks of "Babkak, Omar, Aladdin, Kassim," in which the four pals try busking for a living, we have begun to suspect the show of stalling for time. Is there some technical problem backstage?
Marc Snetiker, EW: Revisiting the show now on tour, it's evident that age has not weathered any of the magical spirit that Aladdin brings, whether to Los Angeles or beyond. It's a show built on a non-stop whirligig, with a book laced with hummus jokes (for the adults) and slapstick (for the kids, and maybe the adults, too) and a score that fills in Alan Menken, Howard Ashman, and Tim Rice's existing suite with a few rich new baubles ("Babkak, Omar, Aladdin, Kassim" and "High Adventure," both sung by Aladdin's newly-created coterie of street buddies, are standouts). Chad Beguelin's is a fast, funny script that may roll a few more eyes than heads, but to its great credit, it never lets up the pace, which in turn makes the slow moments (like villain Jafar and sidekick Iago's vaudeville proscenium asides) slower, but also allows its dizziest runs-e.g. anything emerging from the show's Genie du jour, Michael James Scott-to fly even faster.
Michael Quintos, BroadwayWorld: Alas, as entertaining as the show is, it accomplishes the task despite a few flaws. The Genie, as you might expect, is a ball of kinetic energy filled with sass and snarky snaps that keep the audience in stitches. The hilarious Attaway truly steals the show with every appearance, so understandably, it takes a while for the show to perk back up whenever he exits (his involvement at the top of the show was a smart reimagining of the opening song). The show doesn't really get super caffeinated again until Greenspan's Aladdin gets trapped in the Cave of Wonders and is introduced to the Genie, who, after "Friend Like Me" literally stopped the show. Anything after that moment is indeed a tough act to follow.
Dino-Ray Ramos, Deadline: Despite my allegiance to the animated feature, Aladdin the stage musical has an enthusiasm and joy that makes for quality family-friendly Broadway entertainment - and it might be a taste of what's to come with Disney's upcoming live-action version starring Will Smith. Like the movie, it has the ability to take you on a thrilling magic carpet ride and want a Genie of your own.
San Francisco Reviews
Karen, D'Souza, The Mercury News: As in "Something's Rotten!," Nicholaw has a knack for in-jokes that wink and nod to everything from "Beauty and the Beast" to "The Price is Right." These kitschy asides keep spirits bright through some saggy patches, including the endless entourage antics, the cliche evil villain sequences annd an unnecessary detour into "Dancing with the Scimitar."
Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune: Given tours these days, it's important to note that this is a first-class, Equity incarnation, and if Bob Crowley's jovial and extravagant setting has been reduced for touring purposes, no diminishment in glistening gold is visible to the naked eye. "Aladdin" still is a very big and eye-popping show, replete with the requisite magic carpet ride against a backdrop of the glittering (and wire-hiding) lights of a utopian Arabian night, devoutly to be wished.
Kevin Greene, New City Stage: Adapted from the Disney classic, composer Alan Menken augments five of his original tunes for the film (including the soaring "A Whole New World") with new compositions that leave ample room for Casey Nicholaw's fast-paced direction and athletic choreography. With lyrics from Howard Ashman, Tim Rice and Chad Beguelin (the latter offering a book with just enough anachronistic asides to tickle the ribs of a crowd that loves its theater in-jokes), the aural elements are matched equally by the elaborate visual components. With sets (Bob Crowley) and costumes (Gregg Barnes) that look like they would have been cheaper to assemble if they were literally made of money, the powerhouses behind the curtain rightfully raise expectations to vertigo-inducing levels for those in front. And my do they rise.
Catey Sullivan, Chicago Theater Beat: Not for nothing does the touring production of Aladdin have 30 tons worth of lighting and scenery suspended above the stage. The show makes Phantom of the Opera seem like an exercise in stark minimalism. Chandelier, shmandelier. Instead of something simply slo-mo falling via wires you could see from the balcony, Aladdin gives audiences a carpet that swoops up, down and sideways with absolutely no means of visible support. Then there are the fireballs - dozens of them - that get lobbed across the Aladdin stage, their flames shooting skyward as as dozens of dancers flip, tap and tumble around gleaming, four-story high piles of golden treasures.
Des Moines Review
Don McLeese, Des Moines Register: Standouts among the supporting cast include a benevolently regal Jerald Vincent as the Sultan, Jasmine's loving but exasperated father, and Jonathan Weir as Jafar, a Rasputin of sorts and nemesis of all, whose absolute evil provides comic relief. The lighting, staging and costumes, as well as the acrobatic choreography by director Casey Nicholaw, provide the requisite enchantment.
Krista Garver, BroadwayWorld: The musical is an almost non-stop parade of acrobatic dance numbers performed in gorgeous sequined costumes (more than 300 of them!) against a brightly colored background. It's busy and beautiful, all those people in harem pants and belly dancing outfits shaking, shimmering, and sword fighting across the stage. But, the main draw is the genie. Major Attaway, who also played the role on Broadway, brings this iconic character to life in a big way, with a booming but still velvety voice and a twinkle in his eye. His 13-minute "Friend Like Me" is likely the biggest, flashiest song and dance number the Keller has ever seen - complete with magic, tap dancing, and pyrotechnics, all taking place on what must be the shiniest set ever constructed. It's fabulous.
Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway: Casey Nicholaw's direction keeps the pace fast, light and fun and his choreography is a mixture of many types of steps from other cultures, though it lacks some cohesiveness. Nicholaw's light directorial touch works well for this musical that doesn't take itself too seriously. Bob Crowley's imaginative set designs deliver gorgeous, colorful locales, including the gold-encrusted Cave of Wonders. Jim Steinmeyer's illusions and the special effects from Jeremy Chernick provide plenty of spectacle, including the superb magic carpet that Aladdin and Jasmine ride on that will most likely have you asking yourself during its two appearances and long after the curtain goes down, "how did they do that?" Gregg Barnes' costumes are opulent, immaculately detailed, and full of rich colors. Natasha Katz's lighting features warm oranges and cool, deep blues to paint a range of beautiful stage images, from hot and comic daytime scenes to cool and romantic nighttime moments.
David Appleford, Valley Screen and Stage: There are noticeable differences from the film. Unlike Julie Taymor's animal creations for The Lion King, Aladdin does away with them altogether. Gone is Jasmine's tiger, replaced by three sassy ladies-in-waiting; there's no monkey Abu for Aladdin, he's replaced by three street wise-cracking guys (who were supposed to be in the movie, but cut and replaced by Abu - now they're back again), while the villain's snarky parrot Iago is replaced by a rotund human sidekick of the same name. When the evil grand vizier (Jonathan Weir; rich, dark speaking voice) and Iago (Jay Paranada) exchange evil words played out like a comedic double-act at the foot of the stage in front of a painted screen, they're Abbot and Costello doing panto shtick; Lou Costello as Iago; Bud Abbot as straight man Jafar. "You're so Machiavellian," Iago tells Jafar, adding, "Whoever he is."
Emily Noxon, BroadwayWorld: 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.
Salt Lake City Reviews
Nancy Van Valkenburg, Gephardt Daily: Without buying a plane ticket, you really won't get any closer to seeing a Broadway show than this. The musical is both child- and adult-friendly, and seemed to leave its opening night audience impressed and even a little stunned by the extravaganza.
Tyler Hinton BroadwayWorld: Clinton Greenspan, who plays the title character, is reminiscent of both Scott Weinger, the original voice of Aladdin, and Adam Jacobs, who originated the role on Broadway. He is a leading man who is easy to root for. Major Attaway, who was the first replacement for the Genie on Broadway, commands the stage with a larger-than-life presence that fills the room with warmth, vigor and laughter. Brand new Jasmine Kaenaonalani Kekoa is still finding her footing in the role, but she is vivacious with a lovely singing voice.
Cristy Meiners, Desert News: Like the 1992 Disney film, the musical follows the rags-to-riches tale of Aladdin, the impoverished good-time guy who falls in love with Jasmine, the ahead-of-her-times princess in the fictional Arabian kingdom of Agrabah. Clinton Greenspan certainly looked the part of the unlikely hero Friday night, with his tangle of dark curls and his sweet tenor voice well conveying a young man struggling to discover himself - especially in the tender song "Proud of Your Boy." It also helped that he and Kaenaon?lani Kekoa, in the role of Jasmine, had genuine onstage chemistry, and that Kekoa's powerhouse vocals matched her character's independent spirit.
San Diego Reviews
James Hebert, San Diego Union-Tribune: If you were to make one of those website "word clouds" about what looms large in "Aladdin," it might look something like: jasmine, aladdin, jafar, lamp, GENIE GENIE GENIE. And when Major Attaway, who plays that wisecracking character, gets unbottled just in time to join Aladdin (Clinton Greenspan) on "Friend Like Me," you can feel the show start to levitate as if it's on, I don't know, some kind of magic rug or something. It's a scenery-devouring role, to be sure, and it won James Monroe Iglehart a Tony Award in the Broadway production. But Attaway (great name for an irrepressibly kinetic actor) takes the part and runs with it. (And runs. And runs.)
Pat Launer, Times of San Diego: As Aladdin, Clinton Greenspan is adorable, agile and charismatic. His backup buddies (Philippe Arroyo, Jed Feder and Zach Bencal) are also multi-talented - and often pretty humorous. Lissa deGuzman is a petite powerhouse as Jasmine. As the Genie, Major Attaway, who moved up from standby to main wish-giver on Broadway, milks the audience reaction mercilessly (a lot of that is in the script, but still... it does tend to cloy). He speaks so fast that his words are often unintelligible (not clear if that was an actor or a sound system problem).
How to Get Tickets
Catch the tour in Sacramento, Houston, Washington, D.C., Charlotte and more! For tickets and a complete list of tour stops, tap here.
For tickets and more visit www.aladdinthemusical.com/tour/