By Barry Sublett
The audience was on its feet before the first bows were taken and the flurry of colorful streamers floated to the floor.
Tuesday evening was the opening performance of an 8-show run of Disney’s “Aladdin,” presented by Broadway Theater League in the Mark C. Smith Concert Hall at the Von Braun Center. Directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw, the show is a magnificent mix of lavish costumes, spectacular sets (especially the glittery golden cave), talent galore, and fantastic music both familiar and new.
For those like me who have never seen the 1992 Disney film (although I was familiar with the songs “A Whole New World” and “Friend Like Me” from dabbling in community theater years ago), here’s the plot: Aladdin, a poor street rat (brilliantly played by understudy Daniel Brackett on Tuesday evening) frees a genie (Marcus M. Martin) from a lamp and is granted three wishes. He soon discovers that evil, power-hungry Jafar (Anand Nagraj) has sinister plans for the lamp and Princess Jasmine of Agrabah (Senzel Ahmady). Can Aladdin save Jasmine and his love for after she discovers he isn’t what he appears to be? It’s a tale as old as time (oops, wrong show) but good conquers evil and presumably, all live happily ever after.
The stage adaptation mostly follows the film but with some changes: Jafar’s assistant, Iago, is now a comical sidekick rather than a parrot, and instead of his faithful pet monkey Abu, Aladdin has three buddies, Kassim, Babkak and Omar. Pop culture references are sprinkled throughout the show by Aladdin, the genie, Iago, and others.
Martin is sheer genius in his portrayal of the robust genie. He masterfully blends comedy with energetic dancing, powerful vocals and stage presence not only in the amazing 10-minute presentation of “Friend Like Me” but from start to finish. No wonder applause during his bows was thunderous!
The chemistry between Ahmady and Brackett was apparent throughout the show but especially during their magic carpet ride (yes, it flies!) during “A Whole New World.” Other standouts in the cast are Colt Prattes as Kassim and Aaron Choi as Iago (just looking at his facial expressions made me laugh).
Choreography is spectacular in every musical number and casting is incredible. I have a tendency to hone in on one or two cast members in shows, but this was the exception.
Although the run-time was 2 ½ hours, “Aladdin” moved quickly and kept the audience mesmerized and wanting more. Rarely have I seen a Broadway musical that I want to see again. “Aladdin” is one I’d gladly repeat.
Performances are tonight and Thursday night at 7:30, Friday at 8PM, Saturday at 2 and 8PM, and Sunday at 1 and 6:30PM. For tickets, visit www.broadwaytheaterleague.org.