It’s unlikely that anyone, let alone a genie, will grant you three wishes.
That’s too bad, because a ticket to “Aladdin” at the Orpheum Theater wouldn’t be a wasted wish, even considering all the other things you might want.
The musical grabs you from the moment the curtain rises on a stage filled with brilliant color. It’s way more vivid and in-your-face than the animated film — and it can leave you mesmerized. It’s not hard to believe that designers used more than 2,000 fabrics in the sumptuous costumes. Lights magically create a starlit desert night, a sun-soaked marketplace and an unusual cave. And you have to see the scenery to believe it, especially the aforementioned cavern.
It’s all what you’d expected from a Disney product. And, befitting the brand, it’s more than just a visual treat.
This show requires performers to be expert vocalists, athletic dancers and comic actors, and, for the most part, this touring cast is up to the challenge:
» Clinton Greenspan, who plays Aladdin, was a competitive gymnast when he was younger. He uses that to his advantage as he runs, leaps and dances. If he’s onstage, chances are he’s moving. He’s a credible actor, as well, embracing his character’s brash-street-kid-with-a-heart-of-gold persona.
» Michael James Scott excels in everybody’s favorite role, the Genie, which requires rapid-fire dialogue and way, way over-the-top delivery. He was the crowd favorite.
» Jonathan Weir made it easy to hate the villainous Jafar, and Jay Paranada was lovable as his sycophantic sidekick, Iago. They were the quintessential Disney bad guys.
» Lissa deGuzman portrays Princess Jasmine as a confident, no-nonsense (even a little hard-edged) woman, an example of how Disney heroines have evolved since I was a kid. She has a lovely singing voice — Jasmine’s signature duet with Aladdin, “A Whole New World,” was breathtaking, and not only because they were soaring above the stage on a magic carpet.
The carpet ride was one of many elements that made it from the film to the stage. It was handled so skillfully that it was impossible to see how it was achieved. Add in some surprising pyrotechnics (watch for them), and the special effects in this show were indeed special.
Songs from the movie, including “A Whole New World,” “Prince Ali” and “Arabian Nights,” were familiar and welcome, especially with the 30-somethings in the crowd. But my favorite song, “Proud of Your Boy,” isn’t in the movie.
The plot is substantially the same as the film: Aladdin, a street rat, finds a magic lamp and gets three wishes from a genie. He uses them to woo Princess Jasmine, whom he meets when she escapes expectations at the palace for a brief visit to the marketplace.
Part of Aladdin’s motivation is to live up to the example of his deceased parents, and “Proud of Your Boy” gives that plot element some depth. Greenspan performs the ballad with feeling in the first act.
One departure from the film is the absence of Abu, Aladdin’s monkey friend. He’s replaced by three street-kid friends for Aladdin, played by Zach Bencal, Philippe Arroyo and Jed Feder. They were a worthy substitute.
In the end, I found the show to be dazzling and a little dizzying. My companions said it may have been the best musical they’ve seen at the Orpheum (a lot of their opinions were based on an absolutely show-stopping production number, “Friend Like Me”), but I stopped short of that.
The show moves so fast that you just can’t grasp some of the lyrics and dialogue, and I always detract points when that happens because I leave feeling cheated. Chad Beguelin’s book and lyrics by Beguelin, Howard Ashman and Tim Rice (set to tunes by Alan Menken) deserve to be understood.
Kids won’t care, however, and they were having a blast at Thursday’s performance. I was surprised that it kept the attention of the youngest people in the audience. Their parents were having a marvelous time, as well.
And, for the most part, the show’s amazing sights and sounds were enough for me, too.
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