On entering the auditorium of the Prince Edward Theatre, the curtain is flying carpet themed, and during the overture you realise this is going to be a show of many, vibrant colours, an Arabian splendour.
‘Aladdin’ was a Disney film from 1992, which notably had Robin Williams firing on all cylinders as the Genie, and here the huge frame and personality of Trevor Dion Nicholas brings this pivotal role to life, as he introduces the setting and the story at the top of the show.
Aladdin himself, played by Dean John-Wilson, is a little bland for my taste, although he has the physique and now and then his singing hits the spot (more so in ‘Proud Of Your Boy, a Menken-Ashman song which didn’t get included in the film, than in some of the wilder and more vibrant numbers). As Princess Jasmine, Jade Ewen (a former Eurovision entrant and Sugababe, although neither are mentioned in her resume) , is good and feisty, but I didn’t sense any real chemistry between her and John-Wilson, while their big duet ‘A Whole New World’ was rather upstaged by the magic carpet they are flying on during the number.
The big spectacle closes Act One, in the catchy and fun ‘Friend Like Me’, in which Nicholas leads a whole troop of dancers doing ballroom, acrobatics, and eventually tap in a cheeky 42nd Street pastiche, all set in a cave lined with gold leaf. Modest and understated, this isn’t. As this is a Broadway show brought to the UK, we get lots of references which are uniquely British: in the Genie’s first scene, he pulls out an umbrella with the Union Flag when he is looking for the lamp, there is a call and response routine which uses Bruce Forsyth’s catchphrase, and there is a brief nod to ‘Strictly Come Dancing’, as well as a Tommy Cooper joke at the expense of Aladdin’s fez before his transformation into ‘Prince Ali’.
This is a fairytale writ large, with lots of costume changes, magic special effects, and an amusing trio of pals for Aladdin replacing the monkey of the original film. There are hissable bad guys too, in the shape of the vizier Jafar and his sidekick Iago (who was a bird in the film, I think). They resemble Paul Daniels and Teller which added to the amusement for me, and they are both absolutely fine within the context of this admittedly thin plot.