Disney’s Aladdin – Milton Keynes Theatre

Reviewer: Kerrie Walters

Book: Chad Beguelin

Music: Alan Menken

Lyrics: Howard Ashman and Tim Rice

Director: Casey Nicholaw

Disney’s Aladdin is a story universally loved thanks to its 1992 cartoon and the iconic performance of the genie by the late, great Robin Williams. This musical reworking encapsulates that Disney magic, but in its own image. It follows the story of Aladdin, a poor young boy with limited prospects who is sent on a fool’s errand and finds himself the owner of a magic lamp. From then on his life changes in the most unpredictable of ways. This musical has worked hard to create its own identity and step out of the shadow cast by Williams in his original performance; it stands in its own right with many original and omitted songs.

The book by Chad Beguelin is pantomime in style with its constant breaking of the fourth wall and its traditional jokes. This predictable humour gives the show its air of pure escapism. A suspension of disbelief is required on the part of the audience and the show will whisk you away on an adventure.

Yeukayi Ushe takes on the genie as a Vaudeville-style jazz singer. He is warm and charismatic, sucker-punching the audience with his presence from his first note. His track is nonstop and this performer has some incredible stamina. His gift for comic timing has the audience hanging on his every word and the children in the auditorium spellbound. His re-entry into the narrative in Friend Like Me is seven minutes of sheer spectacle. The force of his voice and his dazzling charisma blow the audience back in their seats as they watch the explosion of gold and glitter, the acrobatics, the tap, and the quick changes unfold one after the other in lightning succession. Also during Friend Like Me, Natasha Katz has somehow managed to have her lighting imitate the glitter that has flooded the stage. Instantaneously, the portals turn to gold, the tiny twinkling fairy lights and a particularly attractive gobo combined create a sparkle that moves of its own accord and elevates the spectacle of an already highly technical scene. This sequence alone is worth the ticket price as it contains every theatrical production technique within it.

Ushe’s onstage chemistry with Aladdin (Gavin Adams) is familial, almost like a disgruntled but loving auntie and nephew dynamic, and Ushe also creates individual moments with various members of the ensemble.

The ensemble members in Aladdin are a troupe of bonafide triple threats. They play a vital role in bringing the world of Agrabah to life, filling the stage with energy, excitement, and vibrant performances. From tap numbers that would not be out of place in 42nd Street, to high-energy rhythmic sword fights in High Adventure, Casey Nicholaw’s choreography has set a high bar and every cast member has risen to it.

As is to be expected with a Disney show, the production values are of an extremely high standard. Bob Crowley’s scenic design is busy but exquisitely placed, consisting of receding orange portals and a variety of cloths and hard sets. The craftsmanship in building the poverty of the marketplace in Agrabah is stunning: it consists of a couple of buildings, tents and carts with a gorgeous slatted receding roof from which various laundry items have been hung. The slats allow Natasha Katz’s lighting design to really pop within the scenes. Katz has opted for deep, vibrant jewel colours in her design, blending most beautifully with Gregg Barnes’s stunning sparkling costumes. This show is a fantastic example of what can be achieved with the right creative team and a Disney-sized budget. Every element is flawless, even a minor wardrobe malfunction during Jafar’s quick change during the press night show didn’t detract from the overall spectacle. Aladdin is a fantastic first introduction to theatre and will be a memory that children and adults alike will cherish for years to come. Catch it before it flies out of town.

Runs until 19 May 2024 and on tour

The Reviews Hub Score

A Magical family musical!

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The Reviews Hub - Central

The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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