Melbourne is fortunate in having so many show stopping musicals pass through this year. The latest is the Disney live musical Aladdin, currently lighting up Her Majesty’s Theatre. If there’s one thing Walt Disney was the master of, it was entertainment that everyone would enjoy, and that’s what Aladdin delivers in spades.
From the moment the curtain lifts and American import Michael James Scott claims the stage as the Genie, you know you are in for a fabulous night.
While many people quite rightly query the need to import talent when we have so much of it here, Scott is an import we should be glad we took! The Genie is a role that needs the kind of pizzazz and energy that Scott has, and it’s his presence that electrifies the rest of the cast, and the audience is the winner. And while Scott is an import from Broadway, almost all the rest of the cast are home grown, many WAAPA (Western Australia Academy of Performing Arts) graduates and there were several faces I recognized from previous local Production Company shows. In other words, Scott’s presence makes everyone triumph.
His Genie is the ultimate in camp energy, polish and humour, and the audience just laps it up. While the many children in the audience were goggle-eyed at the colour and movement, it was the sly wisecracks that tickled the funny bone of the adults in the audience.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that Aladdin is a kids’ show – while you can safely bring kids from about five to 105, it’s a show for anyone with a pulse. What I loved about it was the positive human values it espouses, and the incredibly catchy songs and impressive dance routines. Composer Alan Menken’s music is wonderful, as are the lyrics from Howard Ashman.
There isn’t a weak link in the cast, but the standouts for me were Ainsley Melham as Aladdin, Adam-Jon Florentino as a charismatic Kasim, with a truly villainous Adam Murphy as Jafar (is there nothing this versatile performer can’t do?) and a superb comic performance as his sidekick Iago from Aljin Abella. Hiba Elchikhe makes an endearing Jasmine.
Kiwi veteran performer George Henare is a delight as the kindly Sultan, and Troy Sussman and Robert Tripolino provide solid comic support as Aladdin’s mates.
A tight live ensemble conducted by Geoffrey Castles provides excellent orchestral support to the singers, and you could hear the “oohs” and “aahs” when Aladdin and Jasmine flew over the audience on their magic carpet.
My overwhelming thought was that this is the perfect way to introduce children to the magic of terrific theatre, and I was pleased to see that the audience was full of children, who hopefully will now be converts to live performance.
Quite simply, this production of Aladdin is pure magic.
The picture of Ainsley Melham as Aladdin is by Deen van Meer.