Monday, June 24

Disney’s Aladdin – Palace Theatre

Released at the peak of the Disney renaissance, Aladdin stormed the box office in 1992 and has remained one of the most well-loved animated movies of all time. Its success and enduring appeal is due in no small part to its award-winning music.

The late, very great lyricist Howard Ashman was the man behind the original pitch. He worked with composer Alan Menken on the project until Ashman’s untimely death with AIDS. Tim Rice then picked up the lyrical baton and the final soundtrack is a work of genius.

Given that, it was perhaps a surprise it took so long for the film to transfer to the stage. The Broadway production has now been running for a decade. This, though, is the first time the show has played in the North West. It is well worth the wait.

This is a riot of joyous sound and colour with a couple of theatrical set pieces inspired by the source material that are well worth the ticket price alone.  

The story needs very little introduction. Agrabah street rat Aladdin (Gavin Adams) is struggling to keep one jump ahead of the law, stealing bread with his mates in order to eat. Meanwhile, Princess Jasmine (Desmonda Cathabel) escapes her stifling Sultan father and the misogynistic matches he has set up for her to explore the market in disguise.

Our heroes meet and realise they share a desire to escape their current situations. However, the course of true love is rudely interrupted when the pair are discovered. The Sultan’s Grand Vizier, Jafar (Adam Strong), comes to the rescue but is hiding a sinister, ulterior motive.

There’s a cave, a lamp, a genie. Everyone knows the rest.

The prior knowledge of the audience is a problem. After a fun opening, the first half drags a little and the less well-known numbers receive only a warm reception. The exception is Proud of Your Boy, a beautiful song which takes the show right back to Ashman’s original pitch.

The magic really happens, quite literally, when Genie emerges from his lamp. Yeukayi Ushe is likeable, lively and disgustingly talented. Friend Like Me doesn’t try to recreate the source material but the spirit is there, and it is impossible not to be wowed. 

Prince Ali and A Whole New World are just as brilliant, which is satisfying.

The set design and props are perfectly adequate but feel of a touring production level, particularly at close quarters in the stalls. They’re lifted by sumptuous lighting from Natasha Katz and sparkly costumes, designed by Gregg Barnes. 

Heavy use of flat scenes played in front of a backcloth give the production a definite panto vibe. That’s something that is also true of some of the acting, dialogue and movement. It’s probably not a bad thing given the show’ family appeal. Director Casey Nicholaw gets the balance about right.

Adams and Cathabel are a believable Aladdin and Jasmine, and everyone really roots for the couple. It’s nice to see some well-developed and well-performed sidekicks in Aladdin’s posse but it is a shame the female friends don’t get quite the same treatment.

Special mention too to musical director Dave Rose and his orchestra. What a difference a full band makes, and the overture is truly magical. 

Ultimately, it comes back to the music with Aladdin. The genius is not up for debate and is well supported in the key numbers. 

If the other songs aren’t as memorable or the finished product doesn’t feel as polished it is easily forgiven because this is still a great night out.

Playing until 7th July April 2024. Tickets and more information can be found here: https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/disneys-aladdin/palace-theatre-manchester/

Reviewer: Peter Ruddick

Reviewed: 23rd May 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.
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