Even if you haven’t watched the Disney animated classic (blasphemous, much?), you’ve probably seen the latest Aladdin live-action film with the outrageously-blue Will Smith playing the Genie. Showcasing the first-ever Disney princess of colour – Jasmine was the first Arab princess back in 1992 – this classic tale is brought to life again with theatre magic to the Sands Theatre in Singapore.
While it’s the first time the English version is playing on Asia’s shores, the Australian cast behind this version of Aladdin first premiered in 2016. Sharing the same producer as the acclaimed The Lion King, there’s many Broadway heavyweights behind this production. Made for the young and old, Aladdin is a fresh interpretation that ties in references from the various Arab folktales we read as children.
For all the hype going around, Aladdin really delivers beyond expectations, and it’s nothing like what we’ve seen on then screen. Watch the entire medley of songs such as “Friend like Me”, “Proud of Your Boy“, and opening “Arabian Nights”, all paired with fast-paced dance numbers. Notable mention: I like how certain song themes are reprised throughout the musical, beautifully weaved into touching moments of character development.
Not to forget the iconic flying carpet scene, where Aladdin and Jasmine croon out “A Whole New World” on a dreamy suspended carpet beneath a blanket of stars. It’s deeply intimate and full of wondrous magic (the production cast doesn’t reveal how it flies) – a real-life replica of a scene that we once thought was only possible with animation or camera tricks. The magic continues to mystify us throughout the show, whether it’s Genie magically conjuring up food or the two-second costume changes from rags to riches.
Designed by a crew of multiple Tony Awards winners, including scene designer Bob Crowley, lighting designer Natasha Katz, and costume designer Gregg Barnes, the entire stage is transformed into the mythical city of Agrabah. 120 pieces of gold form the legendary Cave of Wonders, alongside tonnes of giant stage props for the magnificent Sultan’s palace and colourful marketplace. The costume designs don’t play second fiddle to the intricately-decorated setting either. A myriad of various fabrics, colourful beads, and almost 500,000 Swarovski crystals were used to create the hundreds of fancy glittering costumes.
A big reason why Aladdin truly blows us away – discounting the incredibly fluid set – is the attention to detail. In the Cave of Wonders scene, Aladdin’s voice met echoes when he’d been trapped in the cave. When Genie starts tap dancing (top image) with his loyal dance crew, mics are located optimally to project the acoustics of their tapping feet. And all these are just the tip of the iceberg.
Despite the heavy amount of Swarovski crystals dazzling his outfit, Genie (played by Gareth Jacobs) steals the limelight with his multi-dimensional diva personality. It’s a generous showcase of his vocal expertise and wit through chilli crab jokes and him casually singing lines off random Disney numbers. A consistent character that effortlessly breaks down the fourth wall, he’s one you can’t help but love.
The principal cast also includes Patrick R. Brown as Jafar, and Doron Chester as Iago. Yes, the extremely talkative parrot accompanying the main villain Jafar becomes anthropomorphic, although remaining animal-like. The villain pair displays amazing chemistry, spewing out refreshing comic remarks that works well in tense scenes.
If you’re feeling hesitant because Disney damsel-in-distress princesses are not your cup of tea, this modern adaptation will definitely resonate well with your beliefs. Princess Jasmine (played by Shubshri Kandiah) consistently rejects suitors who fail to see her as an intellectual equivalent, and too ends up in line for the throne. The main takeaway is also highly relevant for all: to proudly be yourself and no one else.
With melodious classic numbers, stunning visuals that sometimes defy logic, and our favourite characters being brought to life, Aladdin is a heart-stealer that I’m certain you’ll love. Watch for a tale of magic, dreams, and lots of laughter.