I originally went to see Aladdin back in April and I think it’s fair to say I wasn’t too impressed with the show. My main bug bear was with the leading man, Dean John Wilson, who I just didn’t think was strong enough to carry this show. Unsurprisingly, Dean John Wilson wasn’t even with the show a year before the new leading man, Matthew Croke, was announced. I have seen Matthew before as an understudy for Fiyero and, the day I saw him, I said he should be a leading man. He was absolutely fantastic and this lead role is well deserved. I was thrilled at the announcement and I couldn’t wait to get to London to see him.
Matthew is a very charming and sweet Aladdin and you can’t help warm to him the minute he walks onto the stage. The writing for this show is extremely cheesy, but Aladdin is now played with an air of social awkwardness. This refreshingly results in watching a naïve young boy try to impress a pretty girl instead of watching awkward forced chat up lines; saving a lot of people from horrendous flashbacks to having the same lines used on them in nightclubs.
Aladdin’s first song, “One Jump Ahead”, sounded very promising but it’s not a song where he can show off his true range. The chorus are quite loud in this song and I’m glad Matt can hold his own with them so well. That being said, it is a pretty weak song and it still feels rushed. The choreography looks quite clunky, each little stunt Aladdin does results in a pause before the next one. If the song was slowed down just slightly and the choreography tidied up, it would be a much stronger and slicker number than it is at the moment. When I last saw this show I was very underwhelmed by the synchronicity of the chorus and it’s clear a lot of loose ends have been tied up into nice, neat little bows. It was the small things I noticed; if everyone had to raise an arm they would all be raising them to slightly different levels. It may sound like nitpicking but until you see it you don’t realise how distracting it really is.
I was wriggling in my seat at the beginning of the show just waiting for “Proud of Your Boy” because I knew this is the song that would make or break the show for me. Matthew fantastically keeps the attention of the audience and owns the stage without brashly commanding either. His voice is truly beautiful and it warms the soul. I sat there with a ridiculous adoration in my eyes and I’m not ashamed to admit I did well up. The stark difference between Dean and Matthew really came to light here and this song moved me in a way it should’ve done back in April. It’s a heartbreaking song of someone who just wants love, approval and to feel he’s doing the right thing. Something I think we all need now and again. It is an absolutely beautiful song and I finally got the opportunity to properly fall in love with it.