After our first day in the city, we started off day two by sleeping in. It was around 11 by the time we made it to Central Park, and after lunch at Shake Shack we stopped back to change and get ready for Broadway! I was the only one of the four of us who had ever been to New York City before, so my mother, brother, and sister were clearly not getting out of there without seeing a show! We took the subway to Penn Station first, just to see the Empire State Building (“Oh, yeah, it’s tall…”) and pop into Macy’s (“Let’s get out of here. This place is too confusing. I can’t find anything.”), before heading up to Times Square for some pre-show entertainment.
We went to Toys R Us. We went to the Disney Store. We went to the M&M store. We ate pizza. We danced with a lot of orange-turbaned people at the Diwali celebration taking place all over Times Square. And finally, it was time to take our seats for “Aladdin.” I picked Aladdin because it was my sister’s favorite movie from ages 13-34, and because it did not, to my knowledge, contain anything that would make me uncomfortable to see while sitting next to my mother. No sex. No religion. No politics. No problem.
As we walked into the theater I saw that they were selling Aladdin Christmas ornaments, which you know I needed for my collection, so I tried to buy one. The big sign said “Only $15 with your purchase of $25 or more!” So I asked them how much they would be if I didn’t purchase something for $25 or more.
“Oh, I’m sorry. They are only available if you buy something else for $25 or more,” I was told by a smiling salesperson. “You can’t buy them alone.” I begged. I pleaded. I tried to get other strangers to buy something for $25 in hopes of piggybacking off of their purchase. No luck.
“Go sit down, and I’ll see you in five minutes,” my brother told me. He is ex-military you know. I sat down in my seat, and a few moments later an Aladdin ornament flew across the aisle and landed in my lap. “Don’t ask. Just buy me a beer later,” he said, and so, ornament in hand, I relaxed and waited for the curtain to rise.
“Aladdin” the musical is slightly different than Aladdin, the classic Disney movie. For one thing, there are way more songs in the Broadway version. And the songs that they use from the movie are generally longer. So, for instance, they start the show with the song “Arabian Nights,” just like in the movie, but this new version is much longer. iTunes tells me that the song on my movie soundtrack is 1:19 long. The stage song was at least 4 or 5 minutes. And the genie sang it instead of that little Tupperware salesman. Which was fine. Not a big change. Some other changes were much more noticeable.
One of the biggest, and to me most unexpected, changes was that there were no animals in the stage show. Having seen “The Lion King” and all of the crazy cool things that they can do on stage to represent animals, it was a bit shocking to lose Abu, Iago, and Rajah. Yes, Iago was still there, albeit as a human, but Rajah was nowhere to be referenced, and Abu was replaced by Aladdin’s dance troupe buddies in the sidekick role. Yes, that’s right, Aladdin has a group of friends that become street musicians and dancers. No, I don’t know why. But they were funny, and the songs were good, so I am not going to nitpick.
Aladdin was pretty good at singing and dancing. Good job Aladdin. Jasmine, however, was kind of terrible. I don’t want to just randomly insult people on the internet from the safety of my little chair here, so let me say that the woman playing Jasmine is probably a lovely person with many talents. I just don’t think singing happens to be one of them. Her voice sounded weak and nasally to me, pretty much the entire time, which took away from a lot of the show. “A Whole New World” could have been amazing, with some incredible flying carpet effects and amazing choreography, except the bad singing was a real distraction.
The one person that was the opposite of terrible was the Genie. He won a Tony for his role, and it was pretty easy to see why. This guy was incredible! So much energy, cartwheeling across the stage, his singing was powerful and soulful, and, most importantly of all, he was hilarious! Also, even though I could clearly see from way up in the Mezzanine how they were doing it, having him appear and disappear into the stage was awesome every single time. I would pay money just to see him do his Genie thing. “Friend Like Me” brought the house down, and this too was much longer than the film version.
The biggest problem I had with the show was the ending. For one thing, it felt very rushed. We had so much build-up, and then we get about 90 seconds of Jafar with the lamp, and then Boom! It was over. I get that they couldn’t really send Aladdin to outer Mongolia, and I guess giant snakes weren’t in the budget after that carpet scene, but still, it didn’t feel earned when Aladdin tricked Jafar and saved the day. Also, side-note about that ending, they made a huge point of building up Jasmine as a progressive female independent hero type, and then they took away any part she had in defeating the villain at the end. I loved how, in the movie, she picked up on what Aladdin was doing and started faux-seducing Jafar in order for Aladdin to try to get the lamp. Sure, it’s not post-modern feminist Frozen, but it was something. It was teamwork. She played a part in it all. Not in the stage version. Pure damsel-in-distress. Boo.
But these minor quibbles aside, it was a great show. I’d go see it again. I think all four of us loved it, and there was no sex, religion, or politics in it at all, just as I suspected. If you get the chance, and you like Aladdin, check it out. And if you want the lamp ornament without buying anything else, ask my brother how he did it. Or maybe don’t ask. Just smile and nod and get the beer money ready.