After readers voted Aladdin as their Best Theatre Production at the 2018 Group Leisure & Travel Awards, Laura Sexton went along to the West End to see what all the fuss is about.
As a Disney fan, I didn’t take much convincing to head to the Prince Edward Theatre, getting in before the musical ends its incredible run in August, 2019.
For those of you who haven’t seen it, the musical opens with everyone’s favourite Genie, played perfectly by Trevor Dion Nicholas, who introduces the show with a rendition of Arabian Nights. Nicholas has previously starred in the Broadway version of Aladdin in the same role, which won’t surprise you; as soon as he sings the first line you realise it’s a role he was born for.
But the much-loved Genie isn’t the first thing that bowls you over. Aladdin is possibly the most colourful and magical show you’ll set eyes on. I haven’t seen a production with such magnificent scenery, from the glittering gold Cave of Wonders to an actual flying carpet. It’s simply stunning and those who haven’t seen the show are in for a real treat.
The storyline, as you can imagine, follows the same path as the 1992 animated hit. We are introduced to our protagonist, Aladdin, played by Matthew Croke, with the song One Jump Ahead, which like the film, involves him terrifyingly leaping between Arabian rooftops to escape the law after stealing bread.
Plenty of the Disney songs feature in the show but you’ll also fall in love with some of the musical’s original stage songs, such as Proud of Your Boy which gives you a taste of Aladdin’s background, A Million Miles Away, and Somebody’s Got your Back.
Croke couldn’t look more like the Disney character if he tried and charms the audience with his winning smile and cheeky charisma. Despite most characters being a little overshadowed by the Genie, Croke for me was the best thing about the show, hitting every note, direction and line effortlessly.
Other notable mentions include Jade Ewen as Jasmine who rocks the independent princess who doesn’t want to be forced into marriage; Fred Johanson as Jafar who certainly would win for best evil laugh; Jermaine Woods who transfers the character of Iago the parrot into a brilliantly annoying human version; and Irvine Iqbal as the conflicted Sultan.
I cannot go on without mentioning Aladdin’s friends too, who have been created for the stage adaptation. Babkak, Kassim and Omar, played by Leon Craig, Daniel De Bourg and Julian Capolei revitalise the story, add depth and get some of the best laughs throughout.
As a Disney show, you know that from the moment you take your seat, there’ll be laughter, catchy songs, a heartfelt story and characters who are able to transport you from the world we live in to a new, shiny, seamless one. This is something that Disney, whether it’s on a screen or a stage, is so good at and one of the many reasons so many people return to see the show and readers voted for it as the Best Theatre Production of 2018.
Aladdin is truly a beautiful show, from its sets and designs to its costumes, choreography and cast. But the most significant thing you’ll take away with you is joy, a happiness that is incomparable, infectious and unrivalled. This show is a must for anyone searching for a whole new world….even if just for the evening.
Aladdin is still booking at the Prince Edward Theatre in London until August. www.aladdinthemusical.co.uk.
Lead image: Aladdin credit Disney.