|Adam Jacobs as Aladdin Credt The 5th Avenue Theatre|
If you could rub a magic lantern and ask the genie for three wishes during an evening of musical theater, including 1.) a visual feast of color, costumes, and interesting sets 2.) memorable tunes, fine voices, and well-crafted choreography, and 3.) plenty of laughs and lighthearted fun, I guarantee they would all be granted at The 5th Avenue Theatre's production of "Aladdin" in downtown Seattle. Once again, the city can be proud of a brand new home grown musical, this time adapted from the Academy Award™-winning Disney animated film by the same name. It packs plenty of talent and Broadway ambitions.
"New musicals have become a large part of the mission of The 5th Avenue Theatre and we are thrilled that Disney has selected our theatre to produce the premiere of this new work," Executive Producer and Artistic Director David Armstrong said in a press release. The musical's director, Casey Nicholaw, comes fresh from his Broadway success with "The Book of Mormon."
"I am especially thrilled," Armstrong added, "to have Casey Nicholaw back at The 5th where his amazing career first got started." Nicholaw launched his profession as a choreographer at this theater in 2001, on "The Prince and the Pauper."
|James Monroe Iglehart, as the Genie, takes center stage. Credit The 5th Avenue Theatre|
I never saw the 1992 Disney film, but this production contains many of the same magical aspects of Disney animation I loved as a child. Of course it has the handsome hero, beautiful princess, the funny sidekicks, crazy antics, and the most elegantly evil villain of all, Jafar, played by Jonathan Freeman of Broadway fame, who also provided the voice in the original film.
And it has COLOR. Oh what color! Beginning with a curtain that looks like a patchwork of brilliant Persian carpets, then lifts into a stage-framing drapery of appropriate design, the whole production offered a jewel box of rich, vivid, delicious color with the added indulgence of sparkle, shimmer, and shine. I thought the cleverly designed sets worked well as they changed functions, and the whole thing felt extremely professional.
Aladdin, played by Adam Jacobs, delivered his songs with power, confidence, and sensitivity, danced and leaped around the sets with remarkable agility, in a costume for which he was particularly "suitable" with his sculpted torso revealed under an open vest. Courtney Reed, as Princess Jasmine, brought her own storybook beauty to the stage and put her lovely voice to its best use in the more touching scenes. The culturally shocking insubordination of this princess who revolts against her father (Seán G. Griffen, perfectly cast as the Sultan) lacked believability, but so did the fake camels, the flying carpet, and the sword fights, without taking anything at all away from the fun of this engaging show.
|Credit The 5th Avenue Theatre|
The inevitable funny sidekicks, in this case, Jafar's companion Iago—played by Don Darryl Rivera— and Aladdin's fellow street musicians—played by Andrew Keenan-Bolger, Brian Gonzales, and Brandon O’Neill—provided plenty of laughs, sometimes corny, but so what? Their talent came through, and it was all part of the charm of a production that doesn't pretend to be sophisticated, yet succeeds by being outlandish, clever, and highly entertaining. There is even a moral to the story.
Music Director Michael Kosarin can be proud of the orchestra for its flawless performances of about 15 tunes. My two favorites, both newly written for this production, were "A Million Miles Away" and "Somebody's Got Your Back."
But wait a minute! The story of Aladdin and the moral dilemma caused by his three wishes, could never have existed with the GENIE, brilliantly portrayed by James Monroe Iglehart. The appearance of this charismatic character really did feel like magic, immediately lifting the show's entertainment value up by several notches as he radiated irresistible energy, humor, and charm. His character even took us through some poignant moments, which Iglehart navigated with finesse.I may not be qualified to play the role of a serious theater critic, in the eyes of some, but in the role of an average theatergoer, I know that I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Looking around at the happy faces in the audience, and hearing people's comments, I'd say virtually everyone else there that evening did too. One thing is certain; the talented cast gave it their all through every song and dance. I came prepared not to play theater critic, but just to play. Come to have fun, and I guarantee you will too.
This world premier lasts only through July 31, so don't miss the chance to catch one of these last eight performances. Click here, right now, or call (206) 625-1900, to order tickets and you'll be sure to make some memories for your family, or relive some of your own.