Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

'Aladdin' Loses Its Magic

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

'Aladdin' Loses Its Magic

Article excerpt

Never has the Disney formula seemed as tired as it does in "Aladdin," a tepid stage version of the hit animated film that opened Thursday night at the New Amsterdam Theatre.

The musical runs on fumes and hackneyed Disney devices: the hero's comical sidekicks; a spunky, independent-minded heroine; a dual level of jokes, one aimed at kids and the other at the parents who brought them.

Except for an exuberant performance by James Monroe Iglehart, who plays the genie, and a production number that brings the evening some old-time Broadway pizzazz, the show is a flavorless rehash of what's been done much better before.

In this environment, the efficient pop songs, written by composer Alan Menken with lyricists Howard Ashman, Tim Rice and Chad Beguelin, serve only as modestly enjoyable interludes.

For a child who's never seen a show before, the bright colors and broad silliness might be fun, but their adults will likely find it a teeth-grinding experience (although many dads will be diverted by Princess Jasmine's plunging necklines).

In this version of the familiar "Arabian Nights" story about a poor lad who rubs a magic lamp and calls forth a genie, Aladdin (the agreeable Adam Jacobs) is a happy-go-lucky street urchin. He steals, but he has a warm heart.

He falls in love with Jasmine (a charmless Courtney Reed), who's spending a day in disguise roaming among the common people rather than just hang out at the palace.

Thinking that he must be of noble birth to win her hand, Aladdin has Genie, whom he subsequently meets, turn him into a prince. Jasmine ultimately makes him understand, though, that what's important in life is what's inside a person and not wealth or position. (It's a fairy tale, folks.)

Also skulking about is a standard-issue villain, Jafar (Jonathan Freeman), who wants to seize the throne, which is occupied by Jasmine's father, the sultan (Clifton Davis).

The show's problem is not the tale; it's the telling.

Beguelin, who wrote the musical's book, goes relentlessly for the gag, slinging lines so tired they'd make an intelligent 8-year-old groan. (An exchange, and not the worst of them: "One of these days I'm gonna be stinking rich!" "Look at it this way: You're halfway there. …

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