A whole new world of theatre has arrived in the West End in the form of ‘Aladdin The Musical’. Already a phenomenal success on Broadway, how would UK audiences, more used to the pantomime version, react to the latest show to hit London?
Based on the beloved 1993 Disney film, this fairy-tale of love, a mystical genie and three magic wishes, is already engrained in popular culture throughout the world. Disney has the experience of transforming an animated film in to a stage musical with the Lion King, yet Aladdin takes it to a completely new level.
Having already seen the Broadway production, I was interested to see how the West End version would compare.
Directed by Casey Nicholaw, music is by Alan Menken with lyrics from Tim Rice, Howard Ashman and Chad Beguelin. This formidable team of creatives have assembled a truly incredible cast.
Dean John Wilson could almost have been born to play ‘Aladdin’, not only does he have the boyish good looks the role demands, he also sings beautifully. It would be impossible for anyone, even a Princess, not to fall in love with the diamond in the rough that Wilson plays so wonderfully.
This is not his first West End outing, but it is, by far, his biggest. Having followed his career so far, I couldn’t help beam with pride as he confidently commanded the stage of the Prince Edward theatre. A new West End superstar has arrived.
The princess does, of course, fall in love with Aladdin, just as we have all fallen in love with Jade Ewen who plays ‘Jasmine’. Had Disney taken a magic wand and lifted the character straight from the celluloid, they still wouldn’t have had such a perfect incarnation as the one Jade Ewen portrays. She has completely encapsulated the very essence of the character.
Trevor Dion Nicholas is astounding. Playing ‘The Genie’ has to be one of the most demanding roles in theatre, yet Nicholas makes it look easy. What really makes him stand out is the obvious passion he has for the role. He is frenetic and full of energy, seeming ready to explode from enthusiasm at every turn, and the audience love him for it, rarely have I seen so much affection for a character.
‘Jafar’ is played by Don Gallagher, how deliciously he plays the villain, some of the most comedic scenes come from this experienced actor. The company as a whole is strong, talented and engaging.
The staging is probably unlike anything you’ve ever seen in a West End musical. At one point the set got a round of applause all of its own! The sets are bright, colourful and mesmerising, while the costumes are some of the most beautiful to ever grace the stage; at one point there are over 80 costume changes in under three minutes. The Disney magic is abundant even the harshest critic could not avoid being spellbound.
The score is lifted straight from the film, with those classics we all love; ‘A Whole New World’, ‘Friend Like Me’ and ‘Prince Ali’. It is truly beautiful to hear it played live under the direction of Alan Williams. There are a couple of new songs too, in particular ‘Proud of Your Boy’, Dean John Wilson sings this song as if he were singing to you and only you, not one person in the audience couldn’t feel proud of this astonishing young man. Prepare yourself to shed a tear or two during this number.
Aladdin the Musical is no pantomime, it is one of the most vibrant, complex and beautiful musicals currently on the London stage. The cast do not perform for you, they welcome you into their world like an old friend. You won’t need to take a magic carpet ride to see the Broadway production because this version is every bit as stunning, if not more so.