Hilary Holbrook has worked as an actor and violinist in Chicago since graduating from Loyola in 2008. When not in the theater, Hilary enjoys knitting, antiquing, and adventures of all kinds!
Adam Jacobs (Aladdin) & Anthony Murphy (Genie) and the cast of the ALADDIN tour. Photo by Deen van Meer.
Review: ALADDIN at the Cadillac Palace Theatre
By Hilary Holbrook
The stage version of ALADDIN exploded onto the Chicago scene on Wednesday with the kick-off of their North American Tour at the Cadillac Palace Theatre. While an extremely talented cast shines (from more than just the thousands of crystals on the costumes), the adaptation focuses too heavily on unnecessary backstory that ends up detracting from the overall plot.
Based on the 1992 animated movie, the musical retains the majority of the movie’s pivotal characters, all the original songs, and adds a few new of each. One of the biggest changes to the stage adaptation is the addition of three friends for Aladdin; Babkak (Zach Bencal), Omar (Philippe Arroyo), and Kassim (Mike Longo). The trio replaces the monkey “Abu” from the film, and gives more of a sense of Aladdin’s home life, but all of the given circumstances pertinent to Aladdin’s journey are covered in the song “One Jump Ahead,” rendering this addition unnecessary. The new song “Proud of Your Boy” helps us to understand Aladdin’s ambitions, and then all that’s needed is for Aladdin to meet Jasmine, so the love story and adventure can begin.
Notably absent from much of the adaptation is the villain Jafar (the devilishly delightful Jonathan Weir). He is still present, but almost as an afterthought. We don’t see enough of his ambitions to be Sultan, his attempts to woo the Princess, or any sense that Jafar has any political sway to really consider him a credible threat. Therefore, the climactic moment where Jafar actually tries to takeover, is far too short and comes across as more comical than threatening (even by Disney’s standard of “threatening”).
What the story lacks, the cast, design, and music, more than make up for. Anthony Murphy is dazzling as the Genie. His humor, voice, and stage presence were simply a delight to watch. Regardless of how the characters are utilized, Becal, Arroyo, and Longo are charismatic and wonderful to watch as Babkak, Omar, and Kassim, and Iago (Reggie de Leon) hilariously compliments the dry, sinister nature of Weir’s Jafar.
Despite the pitfalls of the adaptation, fans of the movie will be pleased, and everyone should be thoroughly entertained with the immense dance numbers, ornate sets, stunning costumes, and dazzling pyrotechnics. At the end of the day, the magic of Disney still shines through for this Whole New World.