Wednesday, April 26, 2017

REVIEW: Aladdin in Chicago!

We saw Aladdin last week as part of my son's perfect day.   Since then, I realized I haven't reviewed it!

To make a long story short:  It's awesome and you should definitely see it!

And here's the rest of the story.

Aladdin the musical has a pretty hard job-- it has to take a beloved animated musical, full of all kinds of crazy special effects, cartoon animals, pitch perfect and very distinctive songs (Hello, Robin Williams as the Genie!), and a pretty strong love story, and turn it into a live in front of you Broadway Musical.

 It does it, and more. I think it does a great job of transforming the movie into a Broadway show, and a Broadway show that is appealing to lots of different people.

Here's a clip to give you an idea of the all out Broadway glitziness of the show. (This clip is from the musical's website, and contains some of the New York actors)

In Chicago, the lead actor Aladdin is played by Adam Jacobs, the same person who opened the show on Broadway.  He is fabulous, as are all of the actors in the Chicago production.

I'd be remiss not to mention four of the actors by name:

Jonathan Weir as Jafar. The perfect villain!
• Isabella McCalla, who does an amazing job as Princess Jasmine, managing to be sexy, childlike, brash, and spunky all at the same time.  We can see why Aladdin falls in love with her.
•Jonathan Weir as Jafar, who has a thundering voice, and can turn on a dime to be overly obsequious and imperious.
•Reggie DeLeon as Iago, who absolutely kills it as Iago, the bloodthirsty henchman.  He is hilarious, and didn't quite steal every scene he was in, but made me want to see a whole play just about Iago.
•Anthony Murphy as the Genie, who also kills every scene he was in.  He had particularly big shoes to fill, both substituting for Robin Williams (the movie Genie) and James Monroe Iglehart, who won the Tony for his original portrayal of the Genie and is now moving to Hamilton to become Lafayette/Jefferson.  Murphy does stuff his own way, and it works!  He's funny, real, and makes the part his own.

Here's a video clip of the end of the knockout song Friend Like Me.  After this number there was a standing ovation for about a minute before people sat down.  In fact, that might be my one quibble, after this song, they should have just had the intermission, but instead there's a a finale song that does nothing but simmer down the audience.

I mentioned earlier that they made some adaptations to make it better and more suitable for Broadway

In the movie, Aladdin has a pet monkey Abu, and Jafar has his pet parrot Iago.   Rather than mess around with animatronics, or try to match the movie note for note, the musical wisely casts Iago the parrot as a person and the monkey as three people, Aladdin's best friends.

As I mentioned above, Iago is fantastic, and the three friends and Aladdin get a buddy song "Babkak, Omar, Aladdin, Kassim" (to introduce themselves to us (and it's where Jasmine and Aladdin meet for the first time)  During the song they sing about their unbreakable friendship, as well as repeating their names a bunch of times for people who might be saying "But they are not in the movie!" . (As Princess Jasmine later notes in the show, "I know your name, you sang it like 50 times!")

Aladdin and Jasmine together for the first time.
From the musical/ story perspective, this works out better than the monkey, both because there's a lot of opportunity for comedy and jokes (I especially liked Babkak, who made a number of funny puns about food during the show) and because it sets up Aladdin not as a weird creepy thief/loner, but as someone with a community who is loved.  I think one of the essential problems for Aladdin is always, "He's a criminal, but he's the hero."
By giving him a community to fit into, that makes it easier for us to accept his criminality.  It also gives  a bigger storyline when Aladdin becomes a Prince, and seems to forget his friends. More is at risk.

There are some special effects including a flying carpet that is nice, but no great shakes.  It does give the actors the opportunity to sing their love song "A Whole New World" up in the air, and that was pretty spectacular.

All in all, you should definitely see this show. The show has been extended at least until September 10.  This is the first leg of the national tour, so you should see it before it must move.

Tickets for Aladdin at the Cadillac Palace Theatre range from $44 – $153. In Chicago, tickets are available at all Broadway In Chicago Box Offices (24 W. Randolph St., 151 W. Randolph St., 18 W. Monroe St. and 175 E. Chestnut), the Broadway In Chicago Ticket Line at (800) 775-2000, all Ticketmaster retail locations and online at

 A select number of Premium Ticket Packages, which include a prime seat location, a commemorative souvenir program and an exclusive merchandise item, are also available for many performances.

For a complete performance schedule for Aladdin, please visit

Ticket buyers are reminded that Broadway In Chicago theatres and are the only official retail ticket outlets for all performances at the Cadillac Palace Theatre.

Ticket buyers who purchase tickets from a ticket broker or any third party should be aware that Broadway In Chicago is unable to reprint or replace lost or stolen tickets and is unable to contact patrons with information regarding time changes or other pertinent updates regarding the performance.

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