It’s hard to believe that it has been one whole year since Broadway’s hit musical of Disney’s Aladdin burst into London’s West End, with the show quickly winning acclaim from critics and theatre fans alike.
Trevor Dion Nicholas flew across the Atlantic to reprise his role of the Genie, which he was widely praised for in his New York run, and in recent weeks Matthew Croke has replaced Dean-John Wilson as the show’s title character.
With the story of Aladdin holding a special place in the hearts of millions of people across the globe thanks to the beloved 1992 Disney classic, it’s fair to say that the theatre production has its work cut out for it when it comes to retelling the story that patrons already know like the back of their hand.
Thankfully, the talented cast, dazzling special effects and brilliant tweaks to the original film mean that this is one theatrical experience unlike any other, but if you’re not convinced enough already then here are five reasons why you should check out Aladdin at Soho’s Prince Edward Theatre:
Trevor Dion Nicholas
Let’s get this one out of the way; Trevor Dion Nicholas is absolutely fantastic as the Genie, which is arguably the most difficult character to pull off. With the charming character originally voiced by the super-talented, late Robin Williams, it’s easy to assume that stepping into the Genie’s shoes is no mean feat.
However, Nicholas manages to pull off the role with effortless skill, paying enough of a homage to Williams that it is respectful but not completely mimicking the film’s version of the character in a way that would appear insincere or like a cheap parody.
If you watch the original Aladdin film, the joy of the Genie comes from Williams’ ability to reel off a multitude of funny pop culture references, and that is exactly what Nicholas does on stage. He has updated the quips and pop culture jokes so that they are relevant to a modern audience and seamlessly drops clanger after clanger in a way that is absolutely hilarious but never overbearing or ‘too much’.
The much-anticipated performance of the Genie’s introductory song ‘Friend Like Me’ is one of the definite scene-stealing moments of the show and Nicholas continuously bounces around the stage with the energy and charisma needed to really do the Genie justice.
The Rest Of The Cast
Although the Genie is the stand-out character of both the film and the show, the rest of the cast really manage to hold their own and there isn’t a single weak link throughout the entire production. Newcomer Croke perfectly captures Aladdin’s boyish charm, even sneaking in some of the title character’s borderline dorky side as he desperately tries to win over the stunning Princess Jasmine, played by Jade Ewen.
Ewen, on the other hand, maintains the Princess’ cool upper hand throughout the show, honing in on Jasmine’s determination to be treated as an equal to men and her disdain for the outdated laws with the sass and no-nonsense attitude that Jasmine is famed for.
Meanwhile, Don Gallagher makes the perfect villain as Jafar with his sidekick Iago, who is played by Nick Cavaliere and has been transformed from a parrot to a human for the sake of the show. The two are able to be both menacing and humorous without ever crossing the very close line of becoming ‘panto’.
Understandably, the stage production of Aladdin had to make one or two changes to the characters from the film, which includes Aladdin and Jasmine’s animal sidekicks, monkey Abu and tiger Rajah, being cut from the show. Arguably a worrying move for hardcore Aladdin fans, however, we’re pleased to report that Aladdin’s three human sidekicks who replace Abu are nothing short of absolute gold.
With Daniel De Bourg as Kassim, Miles Barrow playing Omar and Leon Craig as Babkak, Aladdin’s best friends and fellow thieves bring a plethora of comic relief to the story in a way that Abu never would have been able to do.
A credit to the three actors’ comic timing, their two titular performances of ‘Babkak, Omar, Aladdin, Kassim‘ and ‘High Adventure‘ are real high points of the entire show and make you really care for the previously unheard of characters.
The stage musical restores multiple songs that were cut from the original film, including the poignant ‘Proud Of Your Boy‘ about Aladdin’s late mother, and also includes a selection of brand new tracks, all of which are instant classics and fit in perfectly alongside the classics such as ‘Prince Ali’, ‘One Jump Ahead’, and the aforementioned ‘Friend Like Me‘.
In fact, although it’s the most famous tracks that you will be singing on your way into the theatre, on your way out you’ll probably find yourself humming one of the catchy new songs that you hadn’t previously heard before.
A Whole New World
Of course no discussion about Aladdin’s music would be complete without mentioning ‘A Whole New World‘, the heartwarming love song that Aladdin and Jasmine sing as they fly around the world on Aladdin’s magic carpet.
Considering the limitations of a stage set, it’s safe to say that the audience held low expectations on how this song would unfold, however, it turned out to be the single most beautiful piece of musical theatre that we have ever seen.
Not wanting to give too much away, a collective gasp echoed around the Prince Edward theatre as the stage illuminated with a starry night sky and the song began, with every single person sitting in the audience both wide-eyed and open-mouthed for the scene’s entirety.
In short, this is one performance that will stay in your mind long after the curtain call.
All things considered, Aladdin is just one of those stories that will always take you back to your childhood. From the moment that the chilling first note of ‘Arabian Nights‘ starts playing the nostalgia sets in in the best possible way.
The talented and energetic cast make the show one to remember and the regular slight changes to the original Disney movie means that the story avoids becoming stale or boring.
Although there are dozens of shows in London’s West End at any given time, none of them will give you quite the same feeling as being swept away to Agrabah with Aladdin – a magical journey that you will never want to end.