It isn’t often in life that you find yourself absolutely electrified by the things surrounding you.
But sitting in one of thousands of seats at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, California, merely a few yards away from the stage, I found myself exhilarated by the magic of Disney’s “Aladdin” on Broadway. The music, the set, the cast, the atmosphere — every aspect of the show was captivating to each different demographic in the audience, from starstruck Disney fans to skeptical tagalongs.
I’m a veteran Aladdin-on-Broadway viewer myself, having seen adaptations of the classic story at least a dozen times combined from the Disneyland and Disney Cruise Line versions. But none so dazzling as Disney’s official “Aladdin: The Hit Broadway Musical.”
Elements that were not present in the abridged film and stage versions were exceptionally striking to me, including Aladdin’s inspiring ballad “Proud of Your Boy” and his trio of rag-tag Agrabah rascals.
The inclusion of Aladdin’s friends added more depth and character to the story and the action. Babkak, the food-loving ruffian, Omar, the “little brother” of the group, and Kassim, the unspoken leader, instantly became personal favorites in the Aladdin franchise.
The incorporation of these three characters provided support for Aladdin that is otherwise absent in other versions of the story, adding new emotional facets and relationships that the audience is able to relate to. The friendship and genuine bond between the four rogues and the cast itself brings creative levels of humor to the production and fresh attachments towards characters we wish we had in our own lives.
“Proud of Your Boy,” written by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, is arguably one of the best — if not the best — songs in the entire production. Though it was cut from the original movie, the song encompasses Aladdin’s promise to his recently deceased mother, vowing that he will realize and fix his misdeeds. With Clinton Greenspan’s live performance in the show I attended, along with Adam Jacobs’ version from the original soundtrack, the song has remained one of the most stunning and emotional parts of the musical.
The efforts put in by the cast, both onstage and behind the scenes, are remarkable. The illusion of a starry night sky and a truly magical carpet ride, accompanied by Lissa DeGuzman and Clinton Greenspan’s “A Whole New World” duet, was the paragon of an authentic Disney spectacle, not to mention a set-design masterpiece. Each actor, no matter how vital to the storyline, executed their role with energy and artistry.
And I can’t go without saying, here’s Genie! Major Attaway, who conquered Robin Williams’ iconic role of the Genie, brought loads upon loads of contemporary comedy to the stage, with allusions to TV shows like “Dancing with the Stars” and “American Idol” in his showstopper, “Friend Like Me.”
Even with everything going on around him — the incredibly intricate choreography, the subplots, the scheming malefactors — Aladdin still remained the star of the show. Greenspan’s portrayal of everybody’s favorite “streetrat” carried nostalgia for audience members young and old, from his poignant solo “Proud of Your Boy” to his skillful performance of “One Jump Ahead.”
And still, the most amazing thing about Broadway is the precision that it brings: the ability to makes us forget all time and space around us and escape to a world where we could stay forever and feel like life is — dare I say it? — a million miles away. Amongst thousands of people in one room, the same show is experienced a cosmic amount of different ways. One show, and in turn, an infinite number of possibilities.