Photo Credit: Deenvan Meer – Disney
Words by Langen Goldstien
I honestly couldn’t tell you the last time I watched Aladdin. Come to think about it, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the full movie. I’m a bit of a scaredy cat and Jafar always scared the crap out of me so, as a young kid, I would always turn the movie off when the snake came up. You know the part. As a child, it was terrifying and I just never went back to see how the movie really ended or anything like that. Well, after Tuesday night, I know how it ends and what a beautiful story Aladdin truly is.
The Orpheum Theatre was buzzing with excitement as my sister-in-law and I took our seats. I loved looking around and seeing people of all ages but, most of all loved seeing all of the young kids. It made sense. It’s a Disney movie that a lot of people grew up on so bringing their kids to a show like this was almost like life coming full circle but I don’t think I was expecting as many young kids as there were. Were these kids going to be subject to the frightful details of the movie in this musical adaptation? Or would the producers of this musical forgo some of the more intense moments to keep this performance accessible for all ages? Or was I just being a big baby and, really, the movie isn’t even that scary?
As the house lights went on, the packed audience was ushered into the world of Agrabah. The set design was on point but it was the colorful outfits that really caught my eye. I really can not applaud the costume designer enough for their work on this musical. It’s no surprise that there was a sense of glitz and glamour in the scenes that took place inside the palace which came from dazzling diamond-encrusted outfits but I loved the way that, even in the scenes from the streets of Agrabah, there was a sense of colorful delicacy in the outfits. I feel like that almost transported you into this whole new world (see what I did there?) more than the set design for the majority of the performance.
That being said, the set design for the time when Aladdin found himself in the cave to find the magic lamp was absolutely stunning. Towers of gold-crusted trunks and gems lined the stage with sparkling gauze hanging from the ceiling making you feel like you were truly in a cave. It felt a bit more extravagant than what I remembered from the movie and was definitely a wow moment for the entire audience when the set was revealed.
Although the cave part isn’t one of the main locations in the performance, it played host to my favorite moment in the musical. From the least surprising news of the day, the performance of “Friend Like Me” was my favorite moment of this entire performance. Set in the glittery cave, the amount of fun that this track brought to the evening was definitely a wow moment that I will be thinking about for years to come. From Genie and Aladdin’s flawless vocal performance to the truly stunning synchronized dancing of the entire ensemble, this was one of those moments when, afterward, I was tempted to shoot out of my seat and start hooting and hollering (I refrained for the sake of my sister-in-law). We got a little bit of everything during this scene from a tap dancing routine to a jazzy and soulful moment that really showcases Genie’s strong vocal talent. I won’t give it all away but, again, this was definitely a wow moment that I know anyone in attendance on Tuesday night will be talking about for the foreseeable future.
Let’s go ahead and talk about the star performer, shall we? Don’t get me wrong, everyone in the performance played their part and did it flawlessly but it was Marcus M. Martin’s portrayal of Genie that stole the show and truly ran away with it all. Marcus’ voice was impeccable throughout the performance but, beyond that, was the attitude he brought to the stage. It definitely helped that Genie is the comical relief in this otherwise fairly serious plot but Marcus had this way of tricking you into thinking he wasn’t acting and was almost organically improvising the majority of his performance. I know that’s not the case and that the entire performance, like most Broadway shows, was carefully scripted and plotted but I loved the fact that Marcus (as Genie) had me fooled multiple times throughout the show.
Again, I have to stress that everyone in this performance did a great job and there was nobody on the stage on Tuesday night who came off as replaceable or non-essential. I particularly loved how everyone worked together. There was a chemistry between everyone on the stage and every given moment that seemed to breathe life into the already lively performances.
Another thing that everyone in the performance did so well was adding a sense of humor to this performance. I know that Aladdin isn’t the most serious Disney movie out there but there is definitely a deep and meaningful undertone to the plot here that could have easily twisted this performance into something a bit dark and ominous. Instead, each performer has a moment where they brought a sprinkle of comedy to the stage. Whether it was Aladdin’s trusty pals and their journey to the palace when they stopped to do a “slow-motion scene” that was quickly judged by a local walking by (okay, that one you kind of just have to see for yourself but it definitely got a belly laugh out of me), or the way Aaron Choi (playing Iago, Jafar’s trusty righthand man — or parrot in the movie) would add to Jafar’s evil laugh only to be judged by Jafar for not being evil enough, there were plenty of moments that had me and the rest of the audience laughing.
Reviewing musicals is a difficult task for me. First, I don’t want to give away all of the twists, turns, and surprises of the musical. Second, I just feel there are certain moments in performances like this that can’t be put into words. That being said, I like the challenge of it all and even though this post may be just a bunch of incoherent ramblings to you, to me it’s the synopsis of a truly lovely night at yet another amazing musical.