Dazzling, colorful, hilarious, romantic, and totally tongue-in-cheek, Disney’s musical “Aladdin” is playing at the Fox Theatre through Sept. 23.
“So—life is disappointing? Forget it. In here, life is beautiful.” So says the Emcee in “Cabaret.” For two and a half hours life is beautiful—and magical—in the Fox as Broadway Across America’s national company enchants the audience with this ancient tale. It’s the best company I’ve seen at the Fox (if you don’t count “Hamilton”) in a long time.
And it’s not just for children; in fact, it may help to be “a person of a certain age” to appreciate the abundant and subtle wit.
This show has been composed and executed by professionals: Alan Menken, composer; Howard Ashman, Tim Rice, Chad Beguelin, lyricists; and Mr. Beguelin, book. The direction and choreography are by the brilliant Casey Nicholaw (“The Book of Mormon,” among others). There are four new songs that were not in the 1992 animated film. The show has been running on Broadway since 2014.
The Fox Theatre may be the perfect venue for this show, with its legendary Egyptian-Moorish architecture and furnishings. I do hope the producers take the cast on a tour of this palace (although even the catacombs backstage are apropos!).
A genie (Trevor Dion Nicholas) welcomes the audience to the middle-eastern city of Agrabah—a place of exotic diversity. We meet Aladdin (Clinton Greenspan), a likable, handsome young man who steals from street vendors with his three best friends; but when someone calls him “a worthless street rat,” he wants to prove he is more than a common urchin “One Jump Ahead.” And he feels guilty stealing because he promised his late mother he wouldn’t do that (“Proud of Your Boy”).
In these street scenes the stage fairly bursts with life, color, and joy. We begin to root for Aladdin before we even know him.
Meanwhile, in the Palace of Agrabah, the Sultan (Jerald Vincent) scolds his daughter, the lovely Princess Jasmine (Lissa deGuzman) for refusing yet another suitor. She must marry before her next birthday—in three days! However, the evil Grand Vizier, Jafar (Jonathan Weir) wants to usurp the throne himself, and he and his sidekick Iago (Jay Paranada) contrive to take Aladdin to the magical Cave of Wonders, because only a “diamond in the rough” (Aladdin) may enter.
He enters and finds the magic lamp and inadvertently summons the Genie, who tells Aladdin he’s never had a “Friend Like Me.” This number rocks with bebop, Broadway, gospel, and brings down the house (the Genie tends to do that).
By the way, Aladdin and Jasmine had a previous encounter when she entered the marketplace in disguise (she’d had enough of “These Palace Walls”). The two lovely young people hit it off. Before long, they’re taking rides on a magic carpet—which is a breathtaking effect (“A Whole New World”). However, the course of true love never does run smoothly, as we know, but that’s all you get of the story.
I will say that the Genie, Aladdin and his three pals make quite a team (“Somebody’s Got Your Back”).
Every actor I’ve mentioned, starting with the extraordinary Mr. Nicholas, is simply superb. The acting and singing are exemplary, with a terrific pit orchestra (no recorded music!).
And you really must see scenic designer Bob Crowley’s golden Cave of Wonders to believe it.
In fact, you really must see “Aladdin”; it simply explodes with beauty, joy, and fun. Go and be transported.
For tickets and information, visit foxtheatre.org.