A stunning and diverse cast sings, dances and enchants as the classic fairytale bursts to life at Sands Theatre, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore.
By combining the modernist approach and feminist overtones from its live-action film counterpart, the high-spirited fun of its animated predecessor, and a whole lot of style, the hit Broadway musical version of “Aladdin” offers a unique experience that stands apart from its cinematic peers.
You see this from the very start, where “Aladdin” sets itself up as the most self-aware iteration of the story yet. “Even the poor people look fabulous…and everybody sings!” declares the Genie, played ably by Gareth Jacobs, as he opens the show with “Arabian Nights” and reintroduces you to Agrabah.
More winks and nods are peppered throughout its approximate two hour runtime, with references to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Britney Spears, Singapore’s very own chili crab, and other Disney movies.
In fact, an extended “Friend Like Me” sequence is the highlight of the musical, which takes place in an impressive Cave of Wonders set comprised of 120 pieces of gold. Jacobs’ Genie belts out powerful notes and even incorporates a mash-up of Disney classics such as “Tale As Old As Time” and “Part of Your World”.
While Genie’s garrulous charm may steal the show, the spotlight is not lost on the rest of the cast, as they chime in with their own sassy wisecracks and rapid-fire jokes. The eponymous Aladdin, played by Graeme Isaako, is a more dashing interpretation of the character, easily winning the hearts of the audience and the cityfolk of Agrabah before his turn as “Prince Ali”. Isaako’s background in dance excels as he effortlessly hops and prances around the stage and set dressing during the musical numbers.
Meanwhile, Shubshri Kandiah as Jasmine is lively and vociferous, but falls short of Naomi Scott’s more developed portrayal in Guy Ritchie’s recent live-action adaptation. Simply put, Kandiah lacks substantial scenes for her to shine and truly sink her teeth into.
That said, both Aladdin and Jasmine have their characters expanded upon from the original story, especially with their solos “Proud of Your Boy” and “These Palace Walls” respectively, which serve to convey their inner thoughts, motivations and the relationships they have with their parents. These are songs, among a number of others, that are exclusive to the musical, some of which were cut from the original animated film and restored for the stage, giving familiar viewers a reason to revisit the story of “Aladdin”.
Other notable additions include Iago’s (Doron Chester) depiction as a human assistant to Jafar (Patrick R Brown) instead of as a parrot, and Aladdin’s new trio of friends and fellow thieves — Babkak (Troy Sussman), Omar (Adam Di Martino) and Kassim (Rob Mallet), whose strong personalities and color-coded outfits endear you to them immediately and bring to mind the Powerpuff Girls.
The glitter, shimmering crystals, sequins and vivid colors of the grand production, which boasts a total of 500 sets and props, will have your eyes trained on the cast. However, moments of magic — such as a variety of costume quick changes, sleight of hand and stage tricks — still mystify and dazzle. Most astounding is the magic carpet, which first makes its soaring and swooping entrance for “A Whole New World” against a star-filled night sky, raising suspicions of hidden moving platforms or wirework; but it returns in a brightly-lit finale without any obvious intervention, leaving you wondering “How did they pull that off?”
Ultimately, “Aladdin the Musical” is more than just a checklist of quips and familiar references, and more than just the old stuff with a new coat of paint. The spectacle on display turns it into an experience akin to Cirque du Soleil or a Copperfield special, complete with fireworks and confetti that rains down onto the unsuspecting audience.
This production of “Aladdin” opened in Sydney in 2016 and has traveled to various parts of Australia before making its way to Singapore as its final and only stop in Asia. You can catch it at the Sands Theatre at Marina Bay Sands, now playing until 1 September 2019.
This story first appeared in Styleguru.