Music: Alan Menken
Lyrics: Howard Ashman, Tim Rice & Chad Beguelin
Director: Casey Nicholaw
As the winds of the East collide with the setting sun of the west, Edinburgh becomes the home for a familiar but still refreshing spin on a beloved tale. Older than the sands, Disney’s Aladdinbrings the kingdom of Agrabah, a city of mystery and enchantment, to the Edinburgh Playhouse.
Aladdin continues the magic as it brings the beloved comedic animated musical onto the stage following its successful West End stint. It’s the tale of a down-on-his-luck ‘street rat’ Aladdin, who pushes against poverty and stigma to rise from being a thief (to survive) into someone respectable. But it all changes when he encounters the Princess Jasmine. Tired of endless suitors and the constrictions of Palace life, Jasmine looks for more control. The answer for them both might reside in a magical lamp possessing phenomenal cosmic powers. A lamp which may only be claimed by a “diamond in the rough”.
Taking off their shirt and throwing on the fez, Gavin Adams turns in as roguish a charm as one would hope for the titular main character. Charismatic and likeable, there’s an immediate spark with the audience, many of whom have grown up with Brad Kane’s iconic performance. Yet Adams makes this role his: spritely and gifted with a strong vocal presence. Adams takes to Nicholaw’s choreography with relish – standing firm even as the stunt work makes its way above stage level. Nicholaw’s direction imparts a constant sense of motion – whether through the characters and stunts, or Bob Crowley’s constantly rotating set pieces.
In a near-panto performance, Adam Strong’s Jafar reigns Agrabah from the shadows, the second-in-command of the kingdom behind the blundering and bouncingly adorable Sultan (played by Jo Servi). Devouring every cape flourish, thanks to Gregg Barne’s costume design, Strong’s Jafar is as impactful and exuberant as possible. And while the production doesn’t include Jafar’s originally cut songs, it does introduce a new number, Diamond in the Rough, which allows Strong to stretch their more rock-orientated vocals.
But for all the musical numbers in the show, one is anticipated amongst the rest. Perhaps no other Disney tune carries the legacy of the one-in-a-lifetime talent that was Alan Menken quite likeA Whole New World. And the production recognises this. Filled to the brim with glittering treasures and jewels, crammed with mystery and enchantment, the magic carpet is the show-stopping moment of the show. With swirls and twists, spins and superb score composition, very few can manage the stage magic that Disney theatrical can. It’s likely to be a scene many in the audience will carry for years to come.