By Ansharah Shakil, July 30 2023—
Opening night of Disney’s Aladdin, presented by Broadway Across Canada, saw the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium filled with a packed crowd of attendees. The limited run of the musical was shown in Calgary from July 18-23.
The tale of Aladdin is a widely-known one, in which street urchin Aladdin discovers a magic lamp from which a genie emerges to grant him three wishes, allowing Aladdin to disguise himself as a prince to win the hand of Princess Jasmine while battling the villainous Jafar. The musical adapts the movie, which adapted the original folk tale from A Tale of a Thousand and One Arabian Nights. There are a few changes from the movie, but overall, the musical stayed true to the original film with the added embellishments of sparkling costumes, gorgeous set design and showstopping musical numbers.
One of the most memorable things about Aladdin is its romance and musical leads Adi Roy and Senzel Ahmady, respectively playing Aladdin and Jasmine, who both knock it out of the park with their swoon-worthy chemistry. Roy matched the occasionally overconfident but sweet-eyed heroism of Aladdin’s character, while Ahmady’s righteous determination as Jasmine was mesmerizing to watch. On stage, her stunning, glittering turquoise replication of Jasmine’s classic outfit was impossible to look away from. Both Roy and Ahmady being people of colour, as compared to the majority of the first Broadway cast being white, made their performances all the more special.
The crowd favourite was undoubtedly Marcus M. Martin’s portrayal of the Genie, who brought a larger than life energy to the role. Martin adapted his dialogue for the Calgary performance by mentioning poutine and Beaver Tails, and even donning a cowboy hat. The crowd received his performance with bright laughter and a deafening round of applause after his big number “Friend Like Me”.
Occasionally, the dialogue of the musical missed the mark — I found the humour of Aladdin’s friends and Jafar’s henchman Iago to fall flat. But the singing, by every performer, was simply exquisite. Ahmady’s voice in “These Palace Walls” was lovely and clear as a bell, while the cast’s rendition of “Prince Ali” was jubilant and memorable. And of course, there was “A Whole New World”, the most unforgettable song from Aladdin and as magical as it is in the original film, with Aladdin and Jasmine on their magic carpet suspended in mid-air.
The musical’s breathtaking score, composed by Alan Menken, added something special to moments like in the number after “These Palace Walls.” There was a beautiful moment halfway through the song as the music changed from upbeat to slow romantic strings, found in the main melody in “These Palace Walls”, when Aladdin and Jasmine were thrown together to dance and meet for the first time before being pulled away.
A musical is all about the singing and the score — but what’s sometimes even more important is the dancing. This is where the ensemble of the musical really shone. They were practiced and confident as they spun around the stage, defying gravity and fluidly dancing with props like scarves, feathers and umbrellas.
The costuming for the whole musical was captivating, and the ensemble was as dazzlingly costumed as the main cast, sparkling in bright colours that coordinated with the lighting of the scenes they were in. The lighting encompassed a wide set of colours, gold and blue and pink, as well as going dim when the scene required it.
When it came to set design, the musical used their small space to their advantage with creativity. Curtains and screens were utilized alongside elaborate set pieces like that of the Cave of Wonders, a true standout of a scene which had dangerous-looking spikes coming down from the ceiling and which draped the whole stage in golden sparkles. There were excellent special effects, including one moment where Jafar went through three costume changes without moving a muscle. The end of the show saw streamers rain down around the crowd as the cast took their bows and the crowd reached out to grasp the strands of confetti. It was a perfect end to a musical full of heart and glorious chaos that perfectly captured the spirit of Aladdin.
More information about this tour of the Aladdin musical can be found here. For access to and announcements about upcoming Broadway Across Canada shows, check here or visit Broadway Across Canada on Facebook and @BACTouring on Twitter and Instagram.