Review: Disney’s ALADDIN at Broadway In Chicago’s Cadillac Palace Theatre
Far from “riff raff,” the national tour of ALADDIN has ascended on Broadway In Chicago’s Cadillac Palace Theatre in a lavish, gorgeous production with heaps of jaw-dropping Disney magic. Audiences will want to spend far more than just one “Arabian Night” taking in the glitz and glamour of this Agrabah (as the Genie, played here by Anthony Murphy, remarks, “Even the poor people are fabulous.”) Bob Crowley’s massive, extravagant set design and Greg Barnes’s glittering costumes with thousands of Swarovski crystals make ALADDIN an unceasing visual delight. Story-wise, the production lets audiences revisit some stellar classics from the Disney song catalogue delivered by a consistently talented cast. This show is both opulent and well-sung.
The Genie guides audiences through the streets of Agrabah. This role is written to be a show-stopper, and Murphy makes fine work of it. “Friend Like Me” is undoubtedly one of the most fun sequences in ALADDIN, and here Murphy is aided by a seemingly never-ending team of ensemble members. It helps too that director and choreographer Casey Nicolaw (also known for his work on THE BOOK OF MORMON and SOMETHING ROTTEN!) has choreographed the number—and indeed the whole show—within an inch of its life.
In the title role of Aladdin, Jacob Dickey matches Murphy’s energy beat for beat. Dickey takes over from Broadway and tour original Adam Jacobs, who is out of the show due to an injury. He’s an entirely winsome Aladdin that finds the line between sly and dreamy, and his delivery of his signature song “Proud Of Your Boy” (originally cut from the film) is heartfelt. Though Chad Beguelin’s book writes Princess Jasmine as a two-pronged personality that’s equal parts determined and sweet (with no real other qualities), Isabelle McCalla sells the role earnestly and without irony. McCalla and Dickey harmonize gloriously on “A Whole New World” (admittedly one of my all-time favorite Disney tunes), and the famous magic carpet on which they ride is a stunning work of theater technology.
ALADDIN, of course, also can’t succeed without some trusty sidekicks and the evil villain Jafar, both of whom are in fine form here. Aladdin’s monkey Abu is replaced with three best friends: Kassim, Omar, and Babkak (all delightfully portrayed by Mike Longo, Philippe Arroyo, and JC Montogomery). Local actor Jonathan Weir is captivating as Jafar, and his evil laugh is pitch-perfect (as are his exaggerated eyebrows with make-up design by Milagros Medina-Cerdeira). Jafar’s sidekick Iago (Reggie De Leon), though no longer a bird, amusingly parrots his boss and has a number of clever one-liners.
From a musical standpoint, ALADDIN is orchestrated beautifully and audiences experience the film’s signature five songs plus a handful of trunk songs. It’s such a treat to hear Alan Menken and Howard Ashman’s original tunes fill the cavernous Cadillac Palace Theatre (I should add that Tim Rice did the lyrics for “A Whole New World.”) The musical also incorporates some new songs co-written by book writer Beguelin and Menken. These songs fit the style of the show, but the lyrics lack some of the finesse of the originals. A new number for Aladdin, Genie, and friends entitled “Somebody’s Got Your Back” uses the world “bromance,” which was clearly not 1990s parlance. Overall the show is jam-packed with enthralling musical numbers, which keeps it moving at a non-stop and engaging pace.
For those who are looking for a stellar family theater outing this summer or for audiences who want to revel in some Disney nostalgia, ALADDIN is just the ticket. You can’t help but leave this decadent, gorgeous production in a good mood and in awe of the talent and artistry on stage.
The national tour of Disney’s ALADDIN plays Broadway In Chicago’s Cadillac Palace Theatre, through September 10. Tickets are $44-$102. For more information, visit BroadwayInChicago.com.
Looking for a deal on ALADDIN tickets? Save 25% off with purchase of 4 or more tickets with code 3JASMINE. Valid on Tuesday, Wednesday (matinee + evening), Thursday, Friday and Sunday evening performances July 5 through August 6.*
*ALL SALES FINAL. Offer valid on all seating locations, excluding Premium and Upper Balcony. No exchanges or refunds. Blackout dates and other restrictions may apply. Dates, times, prices, and cast subject to change without notice. Standard Ticketmaster service fees apply to online or phone orders. Offer may be revoked without notice. Limit 14 tickets per person per 7 day period. All prices include a $3.00 facility fee. Tickets must be purchased by August 6, 2017.
Photo of Jacob Dickey by Matthew Murphy
Production photos by Deen van Meer