Hot on the heels of the Aladdin film that hit the big screens on 23 May 2019, the Broadway Musical of Aladdin has also arrived the Marina Bay Sands’ stage on 21 July 2019. Complemented with set pieces that transform smoothly between sets and dazzling stage effects, Aladdin is a bold and extravagant musical that sweeps audiences into an exotic world of daring adventure, classic comedy, and timeless romance in this production that was nothing short of genie-ous.
Set in the city of Agrabah, the Aladdin tale follows the eponymous Aladdin, a common thief and ‘street rat’. Upon discovering a magic lamp containing a powerful yet sassy genie, his life changes forever, as he makes the most of his three wishes to attain fame, riches, and a shot at making princess Jasmine the love of his life.
Unlike the Disney animation of Aladdin that has been around since 1992, the Broadway musical sees some changes in characters and tracklist. Firstly, all the animal characters have been removed from the play – this includes Jasmine’s tiger Rajah, Jafar’s parrot Iago and Aladdin’s capuchin monkey Abu. Instead, Iago joins the musical as Jafar’s evil sidekick and three new friends and fellow thieves – Babkak, Omar, and Kassim – joined Aladdin in his misadventures.
The production also features a full score with new tracks written especially for the stage, including “These Palace Walls”, Jasmine’s first and only solo number in Aladdin.
Aladdin was able to successfully portray the grandeur of Agrabah with its stunning sets and props, glamourous outfits and most of all, the vibrant energy that was maintained throughout the show. The musical’s two showstopping numbers “Friend Like Me” and “Prince Ali” are a testament to how the production does not hold back in its fanfare. With close to 500,000 Swarovski crystals used on their costumes, there were times where I had to squint my eyes from the bright shimmers that reflected the spotlights – and even then, I could not peel my eyes away from the stage. The dancers were also perfectly synchronised. They were as good as the back-up dancers you would see in Indian films, if not better.
Moving from shimmers to flashes, The Cave of Wonders was an intricate yet majestic set that included 120 pieces of gold. “Friend Like Me” saw the magical entrance of tap dancers and event confetti launchers and lots of spotlights that blinding but a much-needed emphasis to immerse the crowd in the shimmering gold set on stage.
And let’s not forget the greatest magic of all – the Magic Carpet. A tight-lipped secret in the musical’s production, you will be left awestruck at the mesmerizing scene of Aladdin and Jasmine riding on a carpet that seems to be floating mid-air among the stars. As there weren’t any visible cables attached to the carpet, our best guess is that it’s probably a drone of sorts – or maybe just pure Disney magic. It was a magic carpet ride indeed.
Graeme Isaako and Shubshri Kandiah were flawless in portraying Aladdin and Jasmine respectively – you’d almost think the chemistry was real! Their greatest scene of all was when they caught each other’s eyes for the first time. You wouldn’t think it were possible to watch two actors on stage fall in love at first sight, but they did it in such a heartfelt way that we felt instantly roped into their world.
I really liked Shubshri’s portrayal of Jasmine as a feminist who wants equal rights despite royalties’ customs that were set in stone. Perhaps it was because the musical would have deviated too far from the original, but I thought that there was room for a more in-depth exploration of Jasmine’s feminist persona.
In addition to Jasmine’s unique persona, I could not get enough of the comedic antics of Babkak, Omar, and Kassim – played by Troy Sussman, Adam Di Martino and Rob Mallet respectively. They were also a great insight into the difference in lifestyles of the people at the market versus those in the castle, as the original storyline simply made Aladdin out to be a thief with barely any explanation as to how or why, which made it seem like it was done out of choice.
Patrick R. Brown and Doron Chester – who played Jafar and his meddlesome sidekick Iago respectively – made us laugh out loud with their over-dramatic evil laughs. They are as comical as they are evil and sinister, and their compatibility with each other really shows throughout the film. Strangely enough, Doron Chester makes me feel like Iago the parrot never left, as he portrayed Iago in such an anthropomorphic manner – including the seemingly endless chatter.
The highlight of the show, however, was Gareth Jacobs’ Genie – anyone who has seen Aladdin will agree. In fact, he got the most applause and the loudest cheers – even screams – at the end of the performance. Gareth breathed life into a more wholesome and undeniably sassy Genie that I had never seen before, and it worked remarkably.
On top of his fantastic voice, boundless energy and jazz hands, expect to have a humourous time that gets the entire theatre roaring with laughter every time the Genie is on stage. Granted, Gareth’s Genie felt like it existed for all the teens and adults out there. Maybe kids will get a reference or two, but I thought that the Genie got the most reactions from the adults.
Look forward to a Singaporean joke thrown in now and then, and even film references during Genie’s entrance scene. A diva through and through, Gareth’s Genie in itself is reason enough to catch one of the best Disney musical productions made.
Date: 21 July to 1 September 2019
Tuesdays to Fridays: 7:30pm
Saturdays: 2pm & 7:30pm
Sundays: 1pm & 6:30pm
Venue: Sands Theatre at Marina Bay Sands, 4 Bayfront Avenue, Singapore 018973
Ticket prices start at S$68. For more information, visit https://www.sistic.com.sg/events/aladdin0919.
Photos by Soloman Soh of the DANAMIC team. Other visuals courtesy of James Green and Jeff Busby.