As for most of us growing up with Disney; Aladdin was a running favorite featuring animal sidekicks, huge catchy songs, lovable characters and, well, the voice of Robin Williams. Sadly, most of this magic is lost in the stage production, and replaced with cheap-effect pyros and modern day, gimmick-like references; there really is no place for Beyoncé’s ‘Single Ladies’ in Agrabah. Sadly it’s not difficult to see why Disney is pulling this from the West End.
Now, it’s not all disappointing. Aladdin, played by Matthew Croke is certainly a perfect fit to the role. Croke gives animated, exaggerated movement which is in keeping to the adorable cartoon Aladdin that we are all familiar with. If anything I would say that he isn’t challenged enough in this production. Vocally he is strong and gives a true depth to ‘Proud of Your Boy’ and its reprise…both of them. I look forward to following his career. The other notable characters are the Genie played by Oliver Lidert who’s vocals talents are one of the strongest I’ve heard in a while on a West End stage, Jafar (Fred Johanson) and Eiago (Jermaine Woods), whose chemistry is slick, well timed and generally very strong; enjoyable to watch.
The story is not of a surprise to us as we know what’s going to unfold, but the direction is sadly boring. Scenes are stationary and not energetic and a lot of the times the mumbling ensemble just seem to want to get home. The main ensemble numbers are however a spectacle to be seen, but the choreography is repetitive, and I may eat my own hat here, but not in keeping to the culture?!
It must be said that the carpet ride is captivating. The carpet flies with ease and with magical effect whilst Aladdin and Jasmine (Courtney Reed) sing in beautiful harmony – I only wish there was more moments like this.
In general if you’re partial to a high budget, well cast pantomime, Aladdin will certainly tick boxes. However, if like me, you were expecting more heart felt story telling with moment of humor tied together with magic; you may be disappointed – especially at those ticket prices.
Reviewed by Benjamin Martin
Photo: Johan Persson
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