‘Aladdin’ tries out in Toronto

Disney stage musical sets pre-Broadway plan

Disney Theatrical’s upcoming Broadway production of “Aladdin” has mapped out its road to Gotham, setting a tryout run in Toronto this fall prior to a spring bow on the Main Stem in 2014.

The Toronto and Broadway staging will be a new production separate from the 2011 preem of the two-act tuner at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theater. Many of the Seattle production’s creative team will remain on board, though, including helmer-choreographer Casey Nicholaw (“The Book of Mormon”), while Bob Crowley (“Mary Poppins,” “Once”) joins the project to design new sets.

Tuner incorporates the five songs from the 1992 Disney animated film as well as material restored from early drafts of the screenplay. Chad Beguelin (“The Wedding Singer,” “Elf”) pens the new book and additional lyrics for the tunes by composer Alan Menken (“Newsies”), who wrote the movie’s songs with the late Howard Ashman and Tim Rice.

According to Disney Theatrical producer and prexy Thomas Schumacher, the tuner has undergone some rewrites since its 5th Avenue debut, including reordered songs. The upcoming production also will incorporate magic and illusion effects overseen by illusion designer Jim Steinmeyer.

Alongside Crowley, the physical production will be designed by Natasha Katz (lights), Gregg Barnes (costumes) and Ken Travis (sound), all vets of the Seattle incarnation. Unlike its regional predecessors, the Broadway incarnation promises to be a big-budget affair along the lines of Disney’s “The Lion King.”

Like “Newsies,” “Aladdin” was originally developed for the stage in response to demand from the licensing arm of Disney Theatrical. A 40-minute legit version for kid troupes, released around four years ago, prompted requests from professional companies for a full-length stage adaptation that regionals were convinced would make a crowdpleasing addition to their programming.

To hear Schumacher tell it, the Seattle debut repped more of a tryout of the material than of any production elements. Subsequent licensed stagings this year at Utah’s Tuacahn Amphitheater and at St. Louis’s Muny yielded boffo sales, convincing Disney that the show could draw strong auds in Gotham.

On Broadway, “Aladdin” will move into the New Amsterdam, the theater currently occupied by “Mary Poppins,” which recently posted a closing notice for the spring. The “Poppins” decision wasn’t tied directly to the burgeoning potential of “Aladdin,” Schumacher said, noting that based on accumulated data of past years’ sales trends, it had already appeared that “Poppins” was tapering off.

“Poppins” shutters March 3, to be followed by a couple of months of load-out and then around four months of renovation to the venue. “Aladdin” will move into the New Amsterdam sometime in the spring, with exact dates still to be set.

In the meantime, the pre-Broadway tryout of “Aladdin” is inked in for a nine-week run at the Ed Mirvish Theater in Toronto, where the tuner will run Nov. 13-Jan 12.

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