Theatre Review: Disney’s ‘Aladdin’ at Shea’s Buffalo Theatre

The North American Touring Cast of Disney’s “Aladdin.”

Wow. Disney does it yet again. Spectacle, glitz, glamor, fantastic effects, brilliant costumes. To say that I was blown away would be an understatement. Disney’s “Aladdin”, now playing at Shea’s Buffalo Theatre is pure magic. It’s an experience. It’s a show that has no dull parts. It’s a show that will rival the longevity of “The Lion King.” Look out ‘Phantom’ I think there is a new sheriff in town.

. . .pure magic. . .a show that will rival the longevity of “The Lion King.”

‘Aladdin,’ based on the highest grossing film of 1992 (that’s right), tells the tale of a street rat who crosses paths with a beautiful and confident princess, who by law, must marry royal blood. After he is sent on a mission to retrieve a magic lamp, Aladdin (Clinton Greenspan), finds a Genie (Michael James Scott) and is granted three wishes. His wish? To become a prince and to win Princess Jasmine’s (Lissa deGuzman) hand in marriage. Sounds traditional right?

Having followed the Broadway production’s journey to Broadway, I was anxious for it to visit Buffalo so that I could see the magic for myself. It lives up to all the New York hype and then some. I think I found a new favorite musical.

All your favorite songs from the film are in the show, including “Arabian Nights,”  “A Whole New World,” and my personal favorite (yeah, I’ve sang it at karaoke and it might be one of my audition songs) “Friend Like Me.” Alan Menken returns to create new music with lyrics by Howard Ashman, Tim Rice, and Chad Beguelin. The new songs feel as though they were taken right from the film and complement the songs that we all remember.

The breathtaking sets designed by Bob Crowley and the flashy and glitzy costumes created by Gregg Barnes are characters in their own right, and wow you just as much as the actors on stage do. The magic carpet, is truly magic and you will be scratching your head in astonishment as you see it fly before your very eyes.

Leading the show is the very talented Clinton Greenspan as Aladdin. He sounds just like the animated film character but makes the character his own. He has great leading man qualities, an exciting confidence, but he also possesses a vulnerability that makes his performance ever so more believable. He does not disappoint.

Michael James Scott brings down the house as Genie. Literally. His performance of “Friend Like Me” actually stopped the show and resulted in a standing ovation. I’ve heard legends that standing ovations happen during show stopping numbers, but I never experienced it myself until today. Scott is funny, entertaining, and is a huge personality that you would expect from a role like this. You will absolutely love him.

Lissa deGuzman as Jasmine is perfect. deGuzman has one of the prettiest voices I have ever heard, and she will make little girls everywhere wish that they were her. Her performance of “A Whole New World” is spot on. She is rightfully cast in this role.

Jonathan Wier is hilariously evil as Jafar in this production. Along with Jay Paranada’s Iago, the two create master plans that we all love to watch. The comedic duo keeps the villainous laughter that we would expect from them going all throughout the performance.

Zach Bencal, Philippe Arroyo, and Jed Feder as Babkak, Omar, and Kassim respectfully are very entertaining and they help push the story forward in fun and exciting ways.

Casey Nicholaw’s direction and choreography bring this animated phenomenon to life on the stage. You will be brought to your feet in excitement. Go see this show!

Running Time: 2 Hours 30 Minutes with one 15-Minute intermission.

Disney’s “Aladdin” runs until August 19, 2018 and is presented at Shea’s Buffalo Theatre. For more information, click here.

First Look: ‘Aladdin’ at Shea’s Buffalo Theatre

Disney Theatrical Productions under the direction of Thomas Schumacher presents Aladdin, the US tour, music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, book and additional lyrics by Chad Beguelin, opening night April 19 at Cadillac Palace Theatre in Chicago, starring: Adam Jacobs (Aladdin), Anthony Murphy (Genie), Isabelle McCalla (Jasmine), Zach Bencal (Babkak), Mike Longo (Kassim), Philippe Arroyo (Omar), Jonathan Weir (Jafar), Reggie de Leon (Iago) and JC Montgomery (Sultan) directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw

Millennials finally have disposable income, and when it comes to the nostalgia of yesteryear, we are first in line to see anything that will take us back to our childhood. The 1992 Disney film, “Aladdin” lives in nostalgia as one of those films that makes us feel good. It is funny, we remember the songs, and we love the characters. It is only fitting that one of the most successful Disney films of all time be made into a Broadway musical. A musical that will be coming to Buffalo, August 8 – 19.

When it comes to well known properties like that of Disney films, the audience has many expectations that need to be upheld. “Aladdin” is no different. “The show comes from well known source material,” says Jonathan Weir, who will be playing Jafar on the tour, “we talk about it in rehearsals that we have a certain responsibility as actors to uphold expectations and make sure that we give the audience a show that they will absolutely love.”

The National Tour of “Aladdin” is not a scaled down production, the Broadway show is literally delivered to every city it visits. “The production quality is awesome,” says Weir, “Nothing is scaled down. There are 350 costumes and tons of magic. Our audiences definitely get the quality of show that Disney is known for.”

Weir has a long history working for the House of Mouse, and was excited to get a chance to play another Disney villain. “I worked for Disney for the last 15 years, as a stand by for various tours and on Broadway. When I learned that they were casting for the National Tour of ‘Aladdin’ I walked my resume to the stage door of the New Amsterdam Theatre. It was very 1940’s of me,” laughs Weir. He was a standby for Scar and Pumba in “The Lion King.”

The North American Touring Cast of Disney’s “Aladdin.”

“Over the course of a few years, I had auditioned a few times, and I was offered the part of Jafar,” says Weir, “I was able to create the signature voice that is so well known.”

In a story that is so well known, one wonders if there are certain parameters that an actor needs to follow when working on a Disney piece. “We were encouraged to make the characters our own, and to bring our own humanity to them,” says Weir.

Weir laughs that he has been cast as two well known villains, Scar from “The Lion King” and now Jafar. “The two have certain similarities, they are both second in command, and they do whatever it takes to get power, but this also causes both of their demises. It is a joy to play the antagonist!”

Audiences are sure to enjoy this production. “This isn’t a children’s show by any means. Children love it, Millennials love it, everyone can find something to enjoy about this story. Nothing can replace the true theatre experience,” says Weir, “the power of laughter is magical, and there is a lot of magic in this show.”

“Aladdin” opens on August 8 and runs until August 19, 2018. It is performed at Shea’s Buffalo Theatre. For more information, click here.