Aladdin the Musical

  
It is widely accepted that the story of Aladdin originated during the Islamic Golden Age, sometime between the 8th and 13th Century. In the UK though it has become synonymous with Pantomimes and actually, on these isles, it has been told in this form for almost as long as it has been known. The first English translation of the Arabian Nights book that it is a part of came out in the early 1700s and within 100 years it had been dramatised for the comedy stage. It has been rolled out at Christmas ever since. When Disney released their animated version in 1992 we were presented with a new version of the familiar story that had added incredible action sequences, spectacular visuals and, in Robin Williams’ Genie, a brilliantly funny piece of characterisation. The thing is, that when you take all of that away as this West End production has had to do, what you are left with is just a posh Panto.

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We still get Menken and Ashman’s catchy tunes, and a few new ones by Menken and Elf the Musical lyricist Chad Beguelin, but the cave of wonders escape sequence has gone, there is no Abu, the ending is less epic and the Genie is less capable of grand transformations. Other aspects are similarly simplified; the carpet is just conjured up for Aladdin by his new magical buddy and it is merely a flying carpet not a character in its own right. At the beginning at least you can’t help but feel you are watching it in some provincial theatre on Boxing Day. The show is built on familiarity with the movie but it suffers by comparison. There are lots of things missing that you wouldn’t miss if it were a totally original work.

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Having said all of this, it is hugely enjoyable. It may not be as sophisticated, as witty or as moving as a lot of other productions on the London stage right now but it is a great family show. Also, like the feature film, things liven up considerably when the Genie appears. The cartoon would not have been the same without Williams and this musical similarly hangs on the performance of Virginian Trevor Dion Nicholas who has travelled with the show from Broadway.

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The rest of the cast are good too, particularly Jafar, and Al’s little monkey friend has been replaced by three human buddies who add a great deal of fun to proceedings. The staging of two of the well known songs; Friend Like Me and fittingly A Whole New World, are also particularly spectacular.

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It this new show unmissable? Not really. Is it a good night out? Absolutely, especially if you are under ten or taking an under ten. It might just feel more appropriate to wait until December.
  

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