Well, after the week we’ve put in, isn’t it good to escape to a whole new world?
That’s what it felt like on opening night at Disney Aladdin on stage at Shea’s Buffalo Theatre until Sunday, November 27. It’s everything you expect a Disney stage production to be; dazzling costumes, lots of stage magic, a catchy score, and a high energy cast.
The story – if you missed the 1992 film – is a retelling of “Aladdin and His Magic Lamp” from the collection of Middle Eastern folktales “A Thousand and One Arabian Nights” albeit with a Disney spin. It’s actually the perfect set up for practically every Disney story, where the kindly poor one encounters another one of privileged means, and while obstacles and meanies are thrown in their way, goodness and love will prevail. In other words, it could be Lady and the Tramp on two legs with two nasty humans instead of those wretched cats.
Cynicism aside, this Aladdin is everything you need it to be. From the opening number “Arabian Nights,” the Genie (Marcus M. Martin) completely endears you with his beguiling charm. You want to have a friend in him. Martin’s rich and luxurious voice is the finest in this cast and his perfect articulation overcame some opening night muddiness in the sound mix. Aladdin (Adi Roy) is the heart-of-gold leader of his street gang-of four. They roam the marketplace, get in little bits of trouble, start their own boy band to earn some money, and will keep you laughing, even though the fat-guy-with-food-on-his-mind gags run their course pretty fast. Of course there’s Princess Jasmine (Senzel Ahmady), who’s disenchanted with her lot in life (marry a Prince, let him rule the kingdom) and wants to be the modern woman of her day. Jafar (Anand Nagraj) as the bad guy had the perfect spooky-evil laugh and his sidekick Iago (Aaron Choi) was as well-balanced and annoying sidekick.
Besides the Genie rightfully stealing every scene he is in (Martin really is THAT good), my other favorite part of the Aladdin experience is seeing how many kids were there with grown ups or with groups. That is how the next generation of theatre goers is built: one kid-appealing show at a time. And if it takes a Disney on stage extravaganza (with some well-placed ‘adult’ one-liners) to get them hooked, that’s OK. My parents started me with British light opera at Melody Fair (The Student Prince and Naughty Marietta when I was literally a babe in arm) and heck, it worked.
So yes, it’s pretty formulaic. The Menkin-Ashman-Rice-Begulein score is very familiar. It’s not the deepest of the deep plotlines. And yes, there is a marketplace of merch for sale and a lobby kiss and cry with Aladdin’s lap made for selfies. Embrace it. Get lost in the sparkle. Take that magic carpet ride, just enjoy yourself. And don’t you dare close your eyes.
Disney Aladdin runs about two hours with a 15-minute intermission. There is no show on Thanksgiving and performances double-up for the weekend with rush priced tickets to boot. Get the details at www.sheas.org.