By Chris Heide
Disney’s Aladdin came flying into the Paramount this week. Overall, despite a few minor hiccups, it is a rousingly entertaining musical designed for audiences of all ages.
Let’s start with a few of the many, many positive aspects of the show. For the most part, the show was extremely well cast. Anthony Murphy (Genie) and Don Rivera (Iago) were brilliant in their respective roles. Full-force comedic timing was on display, which helped to propel the show in between the big production numbers. Murphy, in particular, was exceptionally impressive during ‘Friend Like Me’- the showstopping, high-octane number that occurs late in the first act.
The true star of this show, as it should be, is Adam Jacobs (Aladdin), who originated the role on Broadway. Jacobs processes impeccable humor, charm and charisma- all necessary attributes for the successful execution of his character. His impressive vocal ranged helped him to nail many technically difficult songs, with both precision and power.
On top of the masterful casting, the set design was absolutely stunning. I don’t think I have ever seen such a lavish, well executed set design from any other Broadway show.
All this being said, no show is perfect. Due to her limited vocal range, Isabelle McCalla seemed to be somewhat miscast as Jasmine. In any large scale musical, the female lead needs to have a vocal prowess that exceeds the requirements of her given songs. McCalla seemed to struggle in hitting and sustaining the notes that she needed to hit.
Also somewhat of a miss were the new songs added (the songs not originally featured in the movie). The new songs and numbers were incongruent; they failed to match, both tonally and stylistically, with the rest of the numbers. This created an almost schizophrenic quality in between the various production numbers.
In the end, Aladdin successfully accomplishes its mission statement. It is a big, lavish, well-executed musical tailored for the enjoyment of everyone.