Arts & Culture

Review: Whole new world at the Orpheum


We are all familiar with the famous rags-to-riches story about a young Arabian street thief who finds a magic, gold lamp, releases a genie and uses three wishes to win the heart of a princess. For those of us who grew up on the classic 1992 Disney version of the tale, the play production of “Aladdin” will create feelings of nostalgia and astonishment.

The audience gets to relive the magic of this Disney classic through every act, song and segment of cartoon-like humor. This production draws viewers into the fictional world of Agrabah from start to finish with the use of bright and boldly colored costumes, elaborately detailed set designs and the wonders of closeup magic and visual effects. It was amazing to witness Aladdin and Jasmine going on an actual magic carpet ride that hovered over the stage, combining movie magic with live theater.

Just like the film, this production is slightly more animated than other musical productions. It makes use of bright lights, slapstick comedy, quick one liners and well-choreographed song and dance numbers, along with the use of fireworks and sparklers.

Adam Jacobs does the leading role justice with his boyish charm and cocky attitude. However, it is none other than Anthony Murphy, who played the Genie, who turns street rat Aladdin into Prince Ali of Ababwa, who steals the show. This was his national tour debut, and he embraces the role with every wisecrack and every high note. His energy and style bring down the house, especially in his introduction song “Friend like Me.” This is where the music and scenery goes to extremes with big show lights, fireworks and chorus line dancers that appear out of nowhere like a Disneyland parade. In the number, he breaks into a medley of songs from other Disney musicals in the company’s franchise while also poking fun at current pop culture. All in all, Murphy’s character was the heart and humor that drives the show so completely.

There are other changes that people won’t find in the animated film. For instance, Aladdin’s monkey sidekick Abu is replaced by a trio of bumbling buddies serving as his crew. The same goes for Jasmine (Isabelle McCalla), who, instead of a pet tiger, has three chamber maidens giving her advice. The villainous Jafar, played by Jonathan Weir, had a golden serpent staff that basically served no purpose to the plot, but in the movie, he uses it to hypnotize the Sultan. There are also several new songs, making it a good two and a half hours long.

The main theme in this musical is breaking limitations. Many of these characters face imprisonment in their own lives, and they all struggle to break free and be themselves.

It also talks about the importance of self acceptance, inclusion and empowerment. Even though there is no talking parrot, and the Genie does not sound like Robin Williams, Aladdin will certainly keep the children entertained and give adults a carpet ride back to the magic of their childhood.

Featured photo by Miles Scroggins

This article first appeared in the Friday, October 6, 2017, Edition of The Echo.