Prince Edward Theatre | ★★★★☆
Musicals inspired by Disney films have a chequered track record. Luckily, Aladdin joins The Lion King and Mary Poppins in the halls of success, leaving Tarzan and The Little Mermaid in the doldrums where they belong.
While there were some children in the audience, most appeared to have been dragged along by parents in their early 30s who grew up enamoured with Robin Williams’ Genie. It’s this group the production strives to please, with an ironic – at times meta – sense of humour and a keen sensitivity for its eagerly anticipated musical numbers.
Trevor Dion Nicholas has a lot to live up to as the Genie, but he doesn’t just pull it off, he nails it. The original Broadway cast member is much camper and self-referential than Williams, but has an undeniable warmth and unquenchable enthusiasm that carry him through the iconic Never Had a Friend Like Me. The other outstanding comic performance comes from Peter Howe as Iago, a sarcastic, screechy nod to Jafar’s parrot advisor from the animation.
The number of scene changes is dizzying, and the chorus struggles to keep up, frequently missing cues in sword fights and tripping over their own scarves. But all is forgiven when the glittering Cave of Wonders is revealed – drawing gasps and applause – and A Whole New World lifts off. It would be a shame to spoil the surprise, but it’s worth the wait.
A host of new songs have been written to accompany the production – rather too many, actually, including the smushy Proud of Your Boy, which is suspiciously similar to The Little Mermaid’s Part of Your World, and a couple of vaguely tuneful fillers. High Adventure, a set piece where Aladdin’s friends storm the palace to rescue him from the dungeons, is the only unexpected musical treat, lyrically hilarious and the best-choreographed set piece in the production.
This is a gleeful evening that stops at nothing to ensure children of all ages enjoy themselves.