It’s rare that I will write about a first visit to a musical show on the West End. Generally speaking, I absolutely adore the theatre and I have seen most of the big shows already. Aladdin was an exception to the rule. Yes, I can be a bit critical but I always try to not be a “critic” and write about the good and the bad in any show I see.
Unfortunately, for Aladdin, the bad points massively outweighed the good. I will try to not speak too negatively of this show as there are still a couple of good reasons to pay this show a visit.
My main motivation for seeing this show was Trevor Dion Nicholas, who transferred from Broadway to continue his role as the Genie in London. I had heard fantastic things about his performance and I was really looking forward to seeing him. I made the rookie mistake of not checking the cast holidays when I booked my tickets so, to my disappointment, we didn’t see Nicholas but instead his understudy Oliver Lidert. Although Lidert put on a great performance, my disappointment didn’t end there. Dean John Wilson’s Aladdin and Jade Ewen’s Jasmine left much to be desired.
I knew they had reintroduced “Proud of Your Boy” to the show after it had been cut from the animated film, so Aladdin’s big solo is a defining moment on the stage. Before this song, we had to suffer through a very busy and rushed “One Jump Ahead” where the ensemble’s singing was so loud, Wilson’s breathy voice was lost. When “Proud of Your Boy” started I thought this was Wilson’s chance to showcase his singing but sadly it was not to be. His voice was weak and struggling to hit the big notes.
Ewen’s performance of “These Palace Walls” fared better than Wilson’s solo, but I still felt it was a little bit forced and over the top. This could also be due to the fact that British Ewen and Wilson have both had to adopt phoney American accents for the show. To beautifully complement the phoney accents, there was also far too much extremely cheesy comedy. The only joke I remember from the show that comes screaming back to me is one of Aladdin’s friends wishing to be “stinkin’ rich” to which one of the others quips “you’re already half way there” whilst dramatically fanning his face and pulling a repulsed face. Maybe I’m a snob or a boring old fart, but these kind of jokes are unnecessary in a big West End production.
There are two big numbers which impressed me in this whole production. The first being “Friend Like Me” which, of course, is the Genie’s big song. Lidert brings energy and life to an otherwise dull show. However I strongly advise to keep your eyes on him and his fantastic make-up at all times. The chorus are painfully out of sync with their dancing, which is a common theme throughout the whole show. I tried to ignore this, but it’s very apparent that their routines need a lot of fine-tuning.
The second big number which really impressed me was “A Whole New World” but probably not for the reasons you think. Ewen and Wilson’s singing was upstaged by the carpet. Yes, you read that correctly; the two leads in a big West End musical had their thunder stolen by a prop. Not only was their thunder stolen by the carpet and the understudy Genie, it was also stolen by a member of the chorus, Daniel De Bourg. This show has a plethora of talent show contestants; Jade Ewen (Eurovision: Your Country Needs You!), Dean John Wilson (Britain’s Got Talent) and Daniel De Bourg (X Factor). The only casting that seems to be a sensible decision was Daniel, who is the understudy for Kassim. Daniel’s strong voice offered a much needed relief from the strained vocals of the two leads. Surely it’s not a good sign when the understudy of a minor character has more stage presence and talent than that of the leading man?
The whole production of Aladdin has an extremely pantomime feel to it; the costumes, the comedy and the cast. I don’t even mind the extravagant sets, costumes and make up; it’s a constant reminder of Disney which is never a bad thing. This is a show that is definitely worth a visit if you have kids and fancy a light hearted night out with some catchy tunes. It’s also a great show to see if you’re a pantomime fan but fancy something slightly more upmarket. If you’re a more serious theatre-goer and are looking for a wonderful West End performance, I would advise giving this show a miss with the current cast.