I didn’t really want to see Aladdin. I imagined I’d feel a little like I did when I saw Mary Poppins, disconnected from the experience and wishing I could see it through a child’s eyes. Longing for magic. However, I’m thrilled my husband wanted to see it to celebrate his birthday, because it turned out to be one of the best nights I’ve enjoyed at the theatre.
In the movie, we were left waiting until Aladdin rubbed the lamp to meet the scene-stealing Genie. In the musical version he’s our faithful guide, explaining what was to come and taking us to the magical land of Agrabah. It was a visual feast from the get go, with dancing ladies and muscly men with swords twirling about.
In the midst of it all was an Aladdin, who was soon on the run from the law. I remember marvelling at this scene as a kid, and was impressed with the way it came to life on the stage. Animation allows you to do so much that I worried we’d lose some of the sparkle in the real world, but the clever choreography sucked me right in.
Some things were changed to make the transition to the stage. Iago lost his feathers and became a short-statured man with the voice of Gilbert Gottfried. Abu the monkey was nowhere to be seen, with Aladdin instead relying on the support of his good-hearted “street rat” pals. Robin Williams was larger than life as the Genie in the film version, but Michael James Scott made the role his own. He was an absolute scream, with a killer voice to boot.
I was sceptical about whether Aladdin could whisk me up in its magic, but by the time our hero and Princess Jasmine boarded their magic carpet I was in raptures. While the movie impressed me, those flat images on a screen couldn’t hold a candle to the sight of our young couple taking flight with only the stars and moon to illuminate their path.
By the time the cast took their final bows I couldn’t believe I’d been in the theatre for a couple of hours. It flew by. What a fast-paced, funny, and truly magical experience. Aladdin isn’t just for kids. It’s for the kid that still exists inside us all.