Tuesday, May 28

Disney’s Aladdin – Edinburgh Playhouse

As a childhood favourite movie for a lot of people, Disney had a lot of work cut out for them to translate the magical animated masterpiece onto the live stage. Whilst they have some fantastic cast members and wonderful costumes, I’m sad to say the magic fell a little short.

One cannot deny that the casting choices of the production team are impeccable: Gavin Adams plays the perfect cheeky thief Aladdin. His vocals never waver along with his energy. Our Princess Jasmine (Desmonda Cathabel) is head strong, witty and regal; she makes the perfect Princess Jasmine, bringing the animated beauty to life.

Also true to the movie our villain Jafar (Adam Strong) has nailed the voice made famous by Jonathan Freeman and of course the laugh. Beside him Angelo Paragoso makes a hilarious Iago (human form) completing the classic villain and dimwitted sidekick trope we see so often in Disney. Jo Servi is an adorably loveable Sultan and Nelson Bettencourt (Babkak), Adam Taylor (Omar) and Nay-Nay (Kassim) make up Aladdin’s energetic and fun thieving entourage. Finally, one cannot forget the Genie himself: Yeahayi Ushe who commands the stage with his comedic timing, addictive presence and jaw dropping vocal range.

Photo – Deen Van Meer 

Whilst the cast were incredible, we were missing a few family favourite characters, a design choice I’m assuming which didn’t pay off. The much loved animal sidekicks Abu and Rajah are completely written out of the script with Abu being replaced by the band of thieves and Rajah just not at all existing. As mentioned before Iago is also now human and the carpet only makes a brief appearance for A Whole New World as simply a mode of transport not as a character.  For a company such as Disney who have created puppetry masterpieces such as The Lion King Musical, it was rather surprising to see the lack of animals and puppetry used in this show. Even during Prince Ali there were no animals to be seen despite the numbers listed in the song of monkeys and elephants.

The costumes for the production are beautiful, glittery and vibrant unfortunately it seems the direction for musical numbers relies on the costumes and dancers to visually satisfy its audience. The lack of visual effects during numbers is disappointing for such a magic based story. We are given beautiful sets that amaze at first but then do nothing afterwards. Production numbers like Friend Like Me should be visually busy but instead there wasn’t all that much going on overall, there was no magic other than the great showman ship and vocals of Ushe and a few props awkwardly brought on stage here and there, whilst Ushe was phenomenal 7 minutes is a long time to entertain people when there’s not that much else going on. The same issue occurred for Prince Ali, a number which should have had a lot going on, was simply a handful of people dancing on a beautiful but quiet set and our Genie doing his best to make up for the lack of everything around him.

The show is a lot of fun and the perfect casting is what earns it 4 stars, however the whole show felt very much like a very high budget pantomime or a low budget musical. The magic that is needed so much for Aladdin was in short supply and the lack of animals took a lot away from the story when they could have easily been added in with the use of a few puppets or for Rajah in particular just a tail/ head and some sound effects. I would still recommend seeing the show, but don’t expect the magical quality of Disney’s usual stage work such as The Lion King and Frozen.

Aladdin Plays at Edinburgh Playhouse until 18th November 2023. Buy tickets at https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/disneys-aladdin/edinburgh-playhouse/   

Reviewer: Beth Eltringham

Reviewed: 2nd November 2023

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.
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