By Kat Kaderabek
With the Aladdin remake reeling in over one billion dollars in the box office, it’s no wonder the hit Broadway show chose to revitalize the classic Disney tale for a North American Tour. Recently, the Kennedy Center hosted the show from July 18th to September 7th in the Opera House.
The show itself follows the same plot as the 1992 Disney movie, but with key differences. The beloved monkey Abu, while lovable in the film, was too unrealistic to have in a Broadway show. To supply the comedic aspect of the musical, alongside the Genie, are Aladdin’s thieving and passion-driven friends, Babkak, Omar and Kassim. While at first I was skeptical of their roles, the three friends became quite the act throughout the show, providing politically charged laughs and modernistic humor that combated the archaic setting of the show. The trio’s additional song “High Adventure” was a refreshing and kept the audience laughing until the very last note.
The Genie, played by Major Attaway, was phenomenal because of his originality. There was very little imitation of the original Genie, played by the late Robin Williams, as Attaway made the character his own. Attaway had great timing and skill, especially when breaking the 4th wall, deeply involving the audience in the show.
Title character Aladdin, played by Clinton Greenspan and his love interest Jasmine (Kaenaonalani Kekoa) possessed the singing and speaking voices that make a Disney prince and princess. This portrayal of the story allowed for more of Aladdin’s background and Jasmine’s identity to show in the form of songs “Proud of Your Boy” and “These Palace Walls.” Both of these songs offered insight into the characters’ lives that was lacking in the film. It is revealed that Aladdin’s mother had recently passed away at the start of the story, a devastating fact which spurred him to achieve greatness as he would later wish for. While his prince-charade was meant to win the heart of Jasmine, it was also directed towards making his mother proud.
The costume and set design were stellar in this production of Aladdin. Not only were the costumes themselves works of art, full of jewels and bright fabrics, but the way in which the characters interacted with them was fascinating. The on-stage costume changes drew various “oohs” and “aahs” from the audience and the mid-scene shifts were pulled off with great precision. The sets were also moved and shifted in a timely manner. The Cave of Wonders showcased unexpected pyrotechnics and shimmering sets that had the audience leaning closer. It is in the Cave of Wonders that the Genie performs one of the most iconic songs, “Friend Like Me.” Stacked with the entire cast, glittering costumes that changed before your very eyes, and explosions left and right, the number left the audience screaming for more.
The musical’s villains, Jafar and Iago, were entertaining. However, Iago’s antics were not as humorous as that of the Genie and Aladdin’s friends, leaving a disappointing element to the role. Jafar (Adam Stevenson) possessed a voice so similar to that of the original voice, Johnathan Freeman, that it seemed as if the same character had walked out of the television screen and onto the stage.
Closing out the show, and featured during Aladdin’s attempt to have Jasmine’s love, was the song “A Whole New World.” The musical’s rendition of this scene was particularly breathtaking. Not only did the main leads board a carpet that literally flew around the stage, but the theater was filled with stars so brilliant that it brought tears to my eyes. The song itself was delivered powerfully by the main leads and later by the entire cast to close out the Kennedy Center’s production of Aladdin.
Overall, the production can be described as a vibrant celebration of the classic Disney story, bringing back the classic songs and characters, while also revitalizing the story with heart, humor, and hopefulness for a whole new world.