Aladdin transformed the Academy of Music stage into a wondrous display of Disney’s magic. Based on the 1992 animated film of the same name, the musical tells the story of a lovable street urchin who, with the help of a genie, learns that love is not contingent on class.
The show opens with a short but hearty speech from Genie (Michael James Scott), followed by an effortless transition into “Arabian Nights” by the company. Tones of red, orange, and yellow served as the backdrop of the stage as the audience was introduced to the fictional Arabian city of Agrabah. The cast — made up of varied body types and ethnicities, suggesting a nod toward diversity and representation — had the opportunity to showcase their vocal agility right from the start, foreshadowing the belting that was to come.
Disney’s penchant for the fantastical was on display throughout many aspects of the show, particularly in the opulence of its set design. But, alas, there were cracks in the magic. In a moment when the audience was transfixed by the flamboyantly golden Cave of Wonders, a large golden rod fell from the top of the stage to the floor, prompting an impromptu intermission during the finale of Act One. The magic was not deterred as the company picked the show back up with spirited reprises of “Friend Like Me” and “Proud of Your Boy,” which closed the act to riotous applause. It was the highlight of the night.
The show suffered another unexpected intermission during the seminal “A Whole New World.” Aladdin (Clinton Greenspan) and Princess Jasmine (Isabelle McCalla) took their places on the magic carpet that we didn’t know was supposed to move until after yet another scene interruption. When the show resumed, the now-functional magic carpet soared through the air of a star-studded set with Aladdin and Jasmine atop.
As for the decadent costumes designed by Tony-winner Gregg Barnes, the details were in the diamonds. Nearly every costume was embellished with sparkling stones. There was also much attention to proportions and silhouettes, the costumes felt less like costumes, and more like fashion.
Genie was perhaps the show’s most pronounced character, with his larger-than-life persona and vast arsenal of jokes, but at times the over-the-top sensibility felt like it leaned on stereotypes of black gay men. Overall, these moments weren’t unbecoming and didn’t take away from the much-appreciated vibrato that Genie/Scott delivered in every scene.
At its core, Aladdin is a musical that encourages self-discovery and the power of imagination, in keeping with the ethos of the Disney brand. Despite a couple of production issues, the cast performed with a sense of authenticity and determination that’s hard to come by. It earns its place as the hottest ticket of the summer.
- Through July 1 at the Academy of Music, 240 S. Broad St. Tickets: $50-$160. Information: 215-790-5800, kimmelcenter.org.