Ever since it was announced that everyone’s favorite street rat from Agrabah was making his way to the Big Apple, I was both excited at the prospect and nervous that it wouldn’t live up to the film’s magic. Aladdin remains one of Disney’s most beloved masterpieces, featuring the gut-wrenching comedy of the late Robin Williams and the beautiful score from the fabulous Alan Menken. It was an integral part of my childhood movie collection, with the genie standing out as one of the funniest and most charming characters to ever grace the screen. Last weekend, I finally caught the Broadway rendition of the classic story. Was it absolutely faithful to the movie? No. Did it delight me from start to finish? Absolutely.
If you go into Aladdin on Broadway expecting a live-action version of the movie, then I’m afraid you have been misguided. This isn’t a shot-for-shot adaptation, but rather a spin on the classic Disney story. It feels refreshing with modern humor, new characters, and a jazzy soundtrack that is sure to keep the toes tapping and the hands clapping.
What has changed? For one thing, the city of Agrabah is just as magical as ever. I have seen my share of Broadway performances, and I can say that Aladdin blew me away in the props and costuming department. The fictional Arabian city is colorful, lively, and has more dimensions than its cinematic counterpart.
Although the animated film is timeless, the writing has been modified to attract a new audience, and its jokes keep the comedy fresh despite the source material being almost twenty years old. The Genie, masterfully portrayed by the charismatic James Monroe Iglehart, whips up jokes about viral Internet videos and recent Disney classics. The play enjoys poking fun at itself and even breaks the fourth wall to get the audience engaged, a bold move, but it succeeds on all fronts.
By far the best element of Aladdin comes from its wicked cast. The play has eliminated some of the more minor characters and introduced new ones that I now miss seeing in the movie. Aladdin’s friends include a trio of street rats named Babkak, Omar, and Kassim, who at various points throughout the production, absolutely steal the show with their contrasting personalities.
Overall, Aladdin is a treat on all fronts, and delivers a thoroughly entertaining evening for people of all ages. We highly recommend allowing this brilliant cast to take you to a whole new world without even leaving the New Amsterdam Theatre.