Theater: A whole new ‘Aladdin’

Aladdin Broadway
Courtney Reed is Jasmine and Adam Jacobs stars as Aladdin.
Credit: Cylla von Tiedemann

You could say that “Aladdin” is the world’s most expensive children’s show. It’s an enjoyable and well-executed musical, adding new scenes and songs to the storyline from the animated movie. The sets and costumes have Disney dollars dripping from them, making this play the Broadway spectacle that kids will remember well into their adult years. The only problem is that those of us already there may find the jokes juvenile and the story simple. It’s not that the musical isn’t worth the price of admission, it should just cater more to the people out of whose pockets that cost came. Then again, not everyone is looking for more than entertainment, which “Aladdin” packs in spades.

Let’s get to what you really want to know: Yes, the magic carpet flies. It’s outstanding to behold as the stage transforms into a blanket of stars to swaddle the swooning, crooning lovers. Aladdin (Adam Jacobs) is charismatic but lacks some of the cunning of our movie protagonist, while Jasmine (Courtney Reed) is a slightly more feminist representative of the spoiled princess from the original film. Both of them sing and speak just like their animated counterparts, without impersonation or caricature; in that sense, it’s great casting. But the real standout is Genie (an extraordinary James Monroe Iglehart) and “A Friend Like Me,” during which director Casey Nicholaw pulls all the stops to create a song-and-dance extravaganza worthy of the New Amsterdam’s sumptuous stage.

It’s also an ode to old Broadway, stylized as a romantic comedy that’s emceed by our big, blue, bottled wish-granter himself. The huge ensemble of sequined, high-stepping singers, dancers and acrobats — excitingly ethnically diverse — are the ones who steal the show in lieu of special effects. It’s a consistent and commendable decision, and no one can say the millions of dollars invested aren’t being well-spent, but some ticket-buyers may expect a little bit more big-stage flash and dazzle from puppets, technology, stage tricks or even pyrotechnics — after all, it’s not 1992 anymore; Broadway has come a long way, and that’s not always evident while watching this fun but fairly straightforward “Aladdin.”

What’s different about ‘Aladdin’ on Broadway?

In this “Aladdin,” we’ve tragically lost some of our favorite anthropomorphized sidekicks, including monkey Abu, tiger Raj and even the personably mute Carpet. Instead, we have handmaids for Jasmine and a band of thieves to serve as Aladdin’s best buds; everyone sings and dances and, yes, falls in love. Iago (Don Darryl Rivera) the parrot is now more like an Igor, serving as a human henchman to Jafar (Jonathan Freeman — who, fun fact, voiced the villain in movie, too!).

If you go

New Amsterdam Theatre,
214 W. 42nd St.


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