Another Disney musical descended on the Hollywood Pantages recently, this time on a magic carpet. Aladdin the Musical went from sand dunes to the stage and I was able to see it.
As you can probably assume, the stage version of Aladdin is based on the original animated film, with some small alterations. I was surprised that there weren’t more significant changes since turning an hour-and-a-half film into a two-and-a-half-hour musical is no easy feat. But the plot was fairly faithful. But there were some changes nonetheless, with some good, some questionable, and some unnecessary.
Let’s talk about the good, both changed and unchanged. They really embraced turning Agrabah into a colorful and magical place, which showed through the sparkling costumes and extravagant sets. The Cave of Wonders set in particular was stunning, nearly blinding with gold sparkly covering everything. It was the most elaborate set of the show, which makes sense when one of the most well-known songs is performed there.
Speaking of that performance, the Genie is hands down the best character in the entire show. He is the funniest, as he should be, and Marcus M. Martin did a phenomenal job. As for other characters that did well, our Aladdin, who was played by understudy Brandon J. Large, was quite charming in the role. Jafar and Iago were also great, although Jafar’s characterization was a little too goofy in my opinion. He wasn’t as sinister as he was in the film, but Anand Nagraj did a great job in the role.
Speaking of Iago, one change that they made that I question is that they replaced all animals with humans. Iago was made human, which makes sense since he was the one who spoke. For Raja, Jasmine had three attendants filling that role. They were very inconsequential and I would have preferred them to utilize puppetry and give us the beloved tiger companion. For Abu, he was replaced with three fellow street rats who were very Three Stooges-coded and completely unnecessary. It isn’t like the show needed comic relief because we have the Genie for that. They got one good song but were otherwise so unnecessary. It would have been better to simply take out Abu and not replace him.
The last side character that was removed, sort of, was the Magic Carpet. I say sort of because the two lovers still go on a magic carpet ride (which was impressive at first and then very boring for the rest of the iconic duet), but it was removed as a character. The only instance of Magic Carpet is in A Whole New World. I have seen other stage versions keep Carpet as a character, having it played by a gymnast, remaining mute, but still interacting with everyone. The cruise line did this and Carpet was my favorite character in that version. This is a small change that I find a little questionable since Magic Carpet is iconic as more than just what they fly.
Now that we’re talking about changes specifically, let’s talk about what they changed with the plot. Like I said before, not much was changed. But they did somehow manage to rush the ending very badly. The climax of the drama through the resolution all occurred in one scene, which is crazy seeing as that includes all of the following: Jafar reveals Aladdin’s true identity, Jafar wishes to become sultan and imprisons everyone present, Aladdin tricks Jafar into wishing to become a genie, Jafar gets trapped into a lamp, all is right and Jasmine and Aladdin get married. This is all one scene, completed in maybe three minutes, and Jaraf doesn’t even change where he stands (he can’t because of costume quick changes, but still). That is the whole second act of the film right there. As an audience member, it feels like the other two hours and 27 minutes of the show was a waste because everything is solved so quickly in the end. If they removed the unnecessary bloat they added with two many reprised songs and the useless friends, they could have expanded the ending so it had more of a natural flow. They could have even done something much grander for when Jafar becomes a genie because all they did was change his costume to red. The end of the show felt more like an amateur rendition versus the official professional.
I know they could have done better because I have seen it done better in two different iterations of Aladdin on stage. The most recent was the hour-long cruise line production which utilized puppetry and special effects to turn Jafar into the giant snake like he does in the film. If they can do that on a cruise, they can do that on a professional-level tour. I won’t even accept the fact this is a touring production as an argument because if Beetlejuice can transport a giant sandworm, they can include something bigger than just a costume change.
Overall, despite my criticism, I still enjoyed seeing Aladdin and I would not be opposed to watching it again. Compared to the other Disney Theatrical show I have seen (The Lion King) I liked Aladdin much better. The cast, especially the Genie, is what sells this show, and the dazzling sets and attire bring that Disney magic alive.
Aladdin the Musical is still touring the USA, as well as still residing on Broadway and touring internationally as well. You can find a show near you here.
What Disney Classic do you think would make a good stage adaptation? Let me know with a comment!
Follow Michelle | A Geek Girl’s Guide
Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Twitch | Pinterest | Google News | Mastodon
Steam | Show Score | Storygraph | Tumblr | TikTok | YouTube | Spotify | Shop
Sign up to receive my newsletter!