REVIEW: ALADDIN at Segerstrom Center for the Arts is a true diamond in the rough
The dessert sands hold a thousand tales and now in Costa Mesa, CA, the classic tale of Disney’s ALADDIN has come to life at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts.
The dazzling stage-production captures the essence of the original animated feature while finding ways to be shining, shimmering, splendid in its own rite. The theatrical production boasts a magical quality that does the 1992 animated counterpart justice.
ALADDIN is a family-fun musical that brings never-ending laughter thanks to a cast that masters the art of comedic timing and stresses the importance of friendship and being yourself — even if that means being viewed as a lowly street rat.
If you ever saw the theme park production of the story at Disney’s California Adventure Park and enjoyed that then this masterfully-done work is an absolute must-see.
Astounding visuals and rousing musical numbers like “Proud to Be Your Boy“ and “A Million Miles Away” are unique only to the theatrical production take up real-estate to extend the 90-minute run-time of the animation for the Broadway production. The original songs added layers to an already strong storyline, a practice that Disney accomplishes time and time again.
The show also included original songs like “These Palace Walls” and “Diamond in the Rough” which amplified Jasmine’s need for independence and Jafar’s desperation for the lamp, respectively.
Of course, the moment everyone waits for is when the stage turns into a night sky as the Academy Award-winning “A Whole New World” shines bright with Aladdin and Jasmine taking a ride on the infamous magic carpet ride. It prompted “oohs” and “ahhs” throughout the theatre and was a musical set that was nothing short of well, magic.
Overall, the music by Alan Menken and lyrics from Howard Ashman, Tim Rice, and Chad Beguelin not only gave the original animation songs new life, but introduced new music that added to the story of our hero and heroine, preventing them from just being fillers for the on-stage adaptation.
Aladdin, played by Clinton Greenspan, not only faced the scrutiny that came with being apart of Agrabah’s lower class, but dealt with the internal battle of trying to make his deceased mother proud. This was a story arc not explored thoroughly in the animation although it was an early throughline for the animated feature. He tries to shake his thieving and scamming history throughout the show, even if it means becoming someone he’s not in “Prince Ali.” Even in Agrabah, a pitiless nobody can turn out to be a noble somebody.
Lissa deGuzman who portrays Jasmine, made her debut as the strong-headed princess on the North American Tour last year succeeding original cast member Isabelle McCalla. Princee Jasmine, not one to be mesmerized by materialism, would give up her crown for true love. Her father, the Sultan, is adamant about traditional ways to rule the throne. Her love for Aladdin goes against everything the fabled ancient society believes in.
There’s no monkey actors in this production. Instead, Aladdin has three loyal companions Babkak, Omar, and Kassim which helpes make the absence of Abu less-noticeable. The three eccentric characters monkey around enough fulfilling the role of a formerly singular simian sidekick. In the original version of ALADDIN, it featured the three loyal companions, but they were eventually suppressed into Abu for the sake of time. The Broadway show was an opportunity to bring the original idea back to life.
One character who wasn’t lacking — and on full display — was the Genie played by Major Attaway. Allowing Genie to break through the fourth wall made it easy to swipe the magic carpet from under Aladdin’s feet and steal the show. It was a performance that did the late Robin Williams’ Genie marvelously. The dramatic and beautifully done musical number “Friend Like Me“gave Attaway a grand introduction fit for a genie. One could only wish Genie was on-stage all the time.
With a stellar Broadway performance one can only wonder how Disney will mimic its success with the upcoming release of the live-action version starring Will Smith as Genie.
Jonathan Weir who portrays Jafar, isn’t new to Disney productions. He was also a standby for everyone’s favorite evil uncle, Scar, in The Lion King. Weir infuses evil into the scheming Jafar so well that even the crowd had to show its gratitude with a rowdy round of applause at the show’s end.
The cast in its entirety were superb, bringing the shows additional story lines of love, friendships, and identity to life in a way that is fresh and appealing to families and young adults.
See it for Yourself
ALADDIN is currently showing as part of its North American Tour at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, CA March 6-23, 2019.