Published on theMusic.com.au, Jul 2018
Living up to its tagline of “A Whole New World” almost immediately, the stage production of Aladdin is immersive from the moment the curtain lifts to reveal a captivating portrayal of the fictional Arabian city of Agrabah.
Fans are greeted by Gareth Jacobs as Genie for Arabian Nights, and his onstage presence sets the tone perfectly, as his charming and infectious energy slides into quirky and fun One Jump Ahead, led by understudy Graeme Isaako as Aladdin.
The songs are big, the choreographed dance moves and bigger and the entire show is loud, fun and inspiring, with enough variety (and fireworks) to hold attention with ease.
Perth’s own Shubshri Kandiah makes the role of Princess Jasmine her own, showcasing local talent with world-class conviction on hits like These Palace Walls, A Million Miles Away and crowd favourite A Whole New World, the latter of which unfolding amidst a magic carpet ride that almost won a standing ovation.
The Cave Of Wonders set was awe-inspiring, with Jacobs delivering a show-stopping performance with a quirky ensemble to Friend Like Me; it was so bold and memorable the rest of the performance struggled to keep up.
Those worried about the absence of Aladdin’s rascal monkey friend, Abu, might find some comfort in the fact that his replacement – a trio of close friends by the names of Babkak, Kassim and Omar – help explore a different side to the main character, while also giving songs like Prince Ali a new edge.
Lago’s transformation into a human sidekick (played by Aljin Abella) also works well, and when you add Adam Murphy’s Jafar to the mix, you’ve got another healthy dose of comedy and commentary that proves the show doesn’t take itself too seriously, which is where half its charm lies.
Nostalgia can be a dangerous emotion to toy with, especially when dealing with iconic ’90s Disney classics, but through carefully placed call-backs to the original and a wealth of new life breathed into beloved characters, the creative team behind Aladdin found the perfect balance between paying tribute and carving a new path; largely driven by Jacobs, whose presence as Genie was uplifting, humorous and gave good pace to the show.