Monday, July 18, 2011

Aladdin belongs to the Genie

I was all set to dislike the production of Aladdin that's running at the 5th Avenue Theatre. We just don't need all of this Disney crap. (Misha Berson recently reported in the Seattle Times that Disney is considering a musical stage version of Freaky Friday. Wha-what??) Furthermore, the 5th did something of a bait-and-switch on us; I actually bought tickets for Oklahoma!, but that production was ditched when The Mouse came along with a scheme to gin up a musical version of the hit 1992 cartoon. Geez, was it that long ago already?

James Monroe Iglehart
steals the show in the role
of Genie.
Thus I was pleasantly surprised to enjoy a number of entertaining moments during the show, which should be re-named Genie!, because James Monroe Iglehart owns this sucker! Iglehart amped up the energy level tenfold whenever he appeared on the stage, as with show-stopping numbers "Friend Like Me" and "Prince Ali." (I'm often tempted here to steal the Noel Coward line: He stopped the show, but then it wasn't moving very fast.) Iglehart played in Memphis here in 2009 and then originated the role of Bobby on Broadway. He's a marvelous stage presence and a pleasure to watch.

Adam Jacobs and Courtney Reed were fine as Aladdin and Jasmine. Their magic carpet ride during the rendition of the Oscar-winning song "A Whole New World" was a marvelous bit of staging.

Many of the supporting characters were more fun, though. Babkak, Omar, and Kassim (Brian Gonzales, Andrew Keenan-Bolger, and Brandon O'Neill) were funny as Aladdin's street-band sidekicks who didn't make the cartoon version. Jonathan Freeman was diabolical as the meanie Jafar, and Don Darryl Rivera was great as Jafar's toady Iago.

Director and choreographer Casy Nicholaw keeps things moving. The dance is good as always. One beef with the costuming, though: this was the most demure group of harem girls one ever didn't get to lay eyes on. Damn Disney.

Aladdin is a work in progress. It's been running since July 7, though the "official" opening isn't until this Thursday, July 21. In fact, it was announced before the show that the creative team was in the audience today checking on reactions. One might guess there could be changes as they continue to tweak it.

The 5th plans to do Oklahoma! next season. Unless that Freaky Friday thing bumps it, or maybe The Mouse will want to do a musical version of The Love Bug.

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