Aladdin Glides Into The Pantages – Opening Night Report

Aladdin landed at The Pantages, where Disney first enjoyed live production success nearly two decades ago after helping to refurbish the venue for the arrival of The Lion King. (The venue was chosen because it was architecturally similar to the New Amsterdam, where The Lion King was enjoying its inaugural run).
Aladdin is the most colorful production in eons, reminiscent my daughter says of Coco; is that film in theatrical pre-production?
Nonetheless, Aladdin’s first act starts off less than promising. The obligatory introduction of the characters and scene establishment lumbers a bit through the first few somewhat forgettable songs. Once the love interest is brought forward (“A Million Miles Away”), things begin to gel.
The princess Jasmine (Isabelle McCalla) chafing against the strictures of tradition and facing a forced marriage invariably finds the orphaned street urchin title character rather intriguing (Adam Jacobs).

Arabian Nights Men. Photo by Deen van Meer.

Fluid stage sets evoke well the marketplace and palace, but once inside the cave the stage really explodes (“Friend Like Me”).
After the Genie’s introduction during the opening number, he finally reappears when Aladdin is trapped in the cave. The Genie’s over the top persona, coupled with an explosive song and dance routine, brought the house down with a standing ovation on opening night. The remainder of Act One hits on all cylinders. Aladdin and the Genie (Michael James Scott) develop an intriguing relationship, the Princess is nearing some important decisions and the evil Jafar (Jonathan Weir) is plotting a nefarious outcome.

Adam Jacobs (Aladdin). Photo by Deen van Meer.

Isabelle McCalla (Jasmine). Photo by Deen van Meer.

Michael James Scott (Genie). Photo By Deen van Meer.

Act Two kicks into gear with the big hit “A Whole New World” and soon all the plot threads become intertwined and tied together.

The flying carpet (and an earlier disappearing trick) triggered the desired ‘how did they do that’ response. A reference to bringing home the bacon has somehow slipped past infinite script reviews.

Alan Menken’s arrangements rely heavily (and successfully) on big band structures, especially when Scott takes center stage. His persona is a delightful blend of Little Richard, Louis Prima and Morris Day. Scott originated the role of the Genie on Broadway, as did Jacobs the role of Aladdin. Their rapport is well-tuned. Weir’s Jafar is perfectly malevolent, and his sidekick Iago (Reggie De Leon) proffers the usual humorous, obsequious foil.

Casey Nicholaw deserves kudos for his direction and choreography, as does Gregg Barnes (costume design) and Bob Crowley (scenic design).

Brad Auerbach has been covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.