THEATER REVIEW: “Disney Aladdin” @ Playhouse Square by Laura Kennelly

Through Sun 5/27

The lavish Disney theatrical production of Aladdin, the latest in the Keybank Broadway Series now at Playhouse Square, offers spectacle, song and even magic. Thanks to the huge State Theatre stage, there’s ample room for flying carpets, dangerous glittering caves and royal palaces. All the bells and whistles were on display opening night for Aladdin’s first national tour.

The original 1992 animated film’s allure and charm translates well into the 2014 Broadway musical. The Aladdin story was just one of the 1,001 original tales from Arabia said to have been spun by Scheherazade to keep her new husband from getting bored (and getting rid of her).

What sort of musical is it? Well, yes, it has the familiar story line — we all know about rubbing magic lamps and genies and super-spunky Disney princesses who just want to “decide for themselves.” The songs (from the original film, plus some added ones) by Alan Menken with lyrics by Howard Ashman, Tim Rice and Chad Beguelin (Beguelin also wrote the book) are appropriate, but mostly forgettable. The small orchestra in the pit (led by Brent-Alan Huffman) did a fine job of adding what punch can be added to plot-moving-along songs such as “One Jump Ahead” (Aladdin anthem) or “These Palace Walls” (Princess Jasmine’s lament).

Aladdin (likeable Clinton Greenspan) and Jasmine (spirited and lovely Isabelle McCalla) floated musically (and literally) around on their magic carpet as they sang the Oscar-winning “A Whole New World.” While Aladdin’s the titular hero, the Genie (played with appropriately outrageous camp by Michael James Scott) stole the show. It helped that his are the best and bounciest numbers: “Friend Like Me” and “Somebody’s Got Your Back.” While the Genie may start the shenanigans, Aladdin and the perky, ever-hustling ensemble show exuberant dance and vocal chops as they follow his lead.

Set designer Bob Crowley created a magic world, especially the amazing cave where Aladdin found  the lamp. It deserved the oohs and aahs it inspired.

BOTTOM LINE: This light and happy show doesn’t break any new musical theatre ground, but it’s perfectly suited for spring, flowers, and happy thoughts. On opening night, children made up much of the audience and their reactions and responses to the show were wonderful, both joyous and very immersed in the story.

[Written by Laura Kennelly]

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