×

Disney’s Aladdin, A Musical Spectacular

To add some needed pizzazz to its attendee-challenged California Adventure theme park, the folks at Disney are relying on an eye-popping flying carpet and a zany Robin Williams-like hipster genie.

With:
Narrator - Jamila Ajibade Iago - Ron Buttler Jafar - Jonathan Peck Aladdin - Michael K. Lee Jasmine - Deedee Magno Magic Carpet - Adealani Malia Genie - Nick Santa Maria

To add some needed pizzazz to its attendee-challenged California Adventure theme park, the folks at Disney are relying on an eye-popping flying carpet and a zany Robin Williams-like hipster genie. Housed in the park’s immense faux grand opera house Hyperion Theater, this “Aladdin” features a 50-member cast, 250 costumes, 18 scene changes and a life-size elephant puppet, all stuffed into 40 minutes. The canned orchestrations and miked-to-the-max onstage voices do not convey much sincere human interaction, but the inventive, effects-laden staging of helmer Francesca Zambello and choreographer Lynne Taylor-Corbett certainly evokes the “Arabian Nights” wonder of the 1992 animated pic. Free to park attendees, the show is designed to run four times daily and should do much to bolster the Anaheim theme park’s undernourished coffers.

A five-member team of scripters has reduced the film’s plot down to its bare essentials. Power-voiced Narrator (Jamila Ajibade) sets the scene as the nefarious Jafar (Jonathan Peck) schemes with his wise-cracking parrot, Iago (puppet-wielding Ron Buttler), to steal the all-powerful magic lamp from the monolithic Cave of Wonders, the first in a series of breathtaking sets wrought by Tony winner Peter J. Davison (“Copenhagen”). Of course, street urchin Aladdin (Michael K. Lee) gets there first and, with the help of the lamp’s inhouse genie (Nick Santa Maria) and a pixie-ish Magic Carpet (Adealani Malia), Aladdin is soon flying off to woo and win the love of the comely Princess Jasmine (Deedee Magno).

The slim storyline hangs on a series of grand production numbers. Tony-nominated choreographer Taylor-Corbett (“Swing”) instills a cornucopia of gymnastic virtuosity into Aladdin’s marketplace adventures (“One Jump Ahead”) and elevates Genie’s anthem, “A Friend Like Me,” into a Ziegfeld Follies spectacular, complete with lighted staircase.

The most magical number has to be “A Whole New World,” highlighted by a flying carpet ride that has Aladdin and Jasmine not only whizzing high above the stage, but over the audience as well, thanks to the wizardry of technical director Earle Greene. Also impressive is the over-the-top arrival of Genie-enhanced Aladdin in the guise of princess-courting “Prince Ali,” riding atop an awe-inspiring pachyderm.

The only introspective moment in the show is provided by composer Alan Menken, who has added a new tune to the score, “To Be Free,” sung with an appealing purity by Magno’s Jasmine. Lee’s Aladdin also displays impressive vocal and terpsichorean credentials as he evades a slew of swordsmen in the show-opening “One Jump Ahead” and with the soaring love ballad “A Whole New World.”

The main comic relief is provided by Santa Maria’s motor-mouthed Genie, who does his best to emulate the off-the-cuff zingers of his animated predecessor, voiced by Robin Williams. His contemporary asides usually hit their mark, culminated by the Genie’s vanquishing of Jafar with a dismissive “You’ve been voted off the island.” Loose-limbed Malia is also comically impressive as the petlike Magic Carpet.

Peck is properly villainous as Jafar and displays his vocal chops with the gleeful “He Who Holds the Lamp.” Buttler’s Iago is more understated than in the animated pic but still manages to garner some laughs.

Popular on Variety

Disney's Aladdin, A Musical Spectacular

Hyperion Theater at Disney's California Adventure Park, Anaheim; 2,000 seats; $47 top for park admission

Production: A Disney's California Adventure presentation of a musical in one act, music & lyrics by Alan Menken, Howard Ashman & Tim Rice, book by Chad Beguelin, adapted from the screenplay by Roger Allers, Ron Clements, Ted Elliott, John Musker & Terry Rossio. Directed by Francesca Zambello. Choreography, Lynne Taylor-Corbett.

Creative: Sets, Peter J. Davison; lights, Mark McCullough; costumes, Anita Yavitch; sound, Paul Freeman; music director, Bruce Healey; puppets, Anita Yavitch & Michael Curry; technical director, Earle Greene. Opened and reviewed Jan. 16, 2002. Running time: 40 MIN.

Cast: Narrator - Jamila Ajibade Iago - Ron Buttler Jafar - Jonathan Peck Aladdin - Michael K. Lee Jasmine - Deedee Magno Magic Carpet - Adealani Malia Genie - Nick Santa MariaEnsemble: Deanna Aguinaga, Oliver Almonte, Cherrie Badajos, Nick Baga, Rea Bigelow, Robert Bottoms, Wendy Calio, Victor Chan, Minglie Chen, Angel Creeks, Liz Gandara, Suzanne Guyot, Rovin Jay, Casey Johnson, Matthew Junmar, Jenny Kim, Sarah Kobayashi, Jennifer Kumiyama, Tricia Lilly, Raul Morales, Jermel Nakia, Vincent Ortega, Keith Parks, Robert Pendilla, Heather Provast, Chris Ramirez, Al Reevers, Elijah Reyes, Herby Sanchez, Kelli Shimada, Scott G. Simmons, Monte J. Smith, Alicia Sparks, Rosalie Vega, Shondra Weinberg, Cedric Yarbrough.

More Legit

  • The Rose Tattoo review

    Broadway Review: 'The Rose Tattoo' Starring Marisa Tomei

    “The Rose Tattoo” is what happens when a poet writes a comedy — something strange, but kind of lovely. The same might be said of director Trip Cullman’s production: Strange, if not exactly lovely. Even Marisa Tomei, so physically delicate and expressively refined, seems an odd choice to play the lusty and passionate protagonist, Serafina [...]

  • Obit-Roy-B

    Former NATO President Roy B. White Dies at 93

    Roy B. White, former president and chairman of the National Association of Theater Owners, died of natural causes Oct. 11 in Naples, Fla. He was 93. White ran the 100-screen independent theater circuit, Mid–States Theaters Inc. In addition to his career, he did extensive work on behalf of charities and non-profits. He was vice president [...]

  • Soft Power review

    Off Broadway Review: 'Soft Power'

    The “culture-clash musical” is a familiar template, in which a white American protagonist — waving the flag of individuality, optimism and freedom — trumps and tramps over the complexities of that which is foreign, challenging or “other.” David Henry Hwang and Jeanine Tesori’s “Soft Power,” the new “play with a musical” at Off Broadway’s Public [...]

  • Jagged Little Pill Business of Broadway

    Listen: How 'Jagged Little Pill' Will Rock Broadway

    “Jagged Little Pill” wasn’t originally written with Broadway in mind — but the songs on Alanis Morissette’s smash-hit 1995 album do exactly what good musical theater songs should do, according to the upcoming show’s creators and producers. Listen to this week’s podcast below: The team explained why on Variety‘s theater podcast, “Stagecraft,” in an episode [...]

  • Stephen Moore

    Stephen Moore, 'Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' Android, 'Doctor Who' Actor, Dies at 81

    Stephen Moore, best known for his roles as the paranoid android Marvin in “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” radio series and the Silurian Eldane in “Doctor Who,” has died. He was 81. “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” producer Dirk Maggs confirmed Moore’s death Saturday on Twitter, writing, “Our dear friend Stephen Moore has [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content