SINGAPORE (July 30): We all know the story by now: a common street rat, Aladdin, wins the heart of the princess with the help of an all-powerful genie, and learns about friendship and loyalty along the way. The 1992 Disney animated film, featuring the unforgettable and irreplaceable Robin Williams, was an unmistakable hit, grossing over US$500 million (huge, by the standards of the time) and charming audiences all over the world.
After all, which 90’s kid didn’t learn every word of ‘A Whole New World’ by heart, or randomly burst out singing ‘Friend Like Me’ from time to time? This 90’s kid did, and disappointed as I was for the live-action (and unnecessary) remake earlier this year, Aladdin the Musical is mind-blowing, in every sense of the word.
Indeed, I had my reservations-- could any stage ever capture the dazzling ‘Friend Like Me’ sequence? Surely a space so small could not mimic the Cave of Wonders? Spoiler warning: It can, and it did. This musical is an absolute delight, featuring all the familiar musical numbers we know, and more besides, and will leave you gasping in awe.
Aladdin is played brilliantly and with great insouciance by Graeme Isaako, who first found fame in 2008 with the Australian version of ‘So You Think You Can Dance’, where he finished in the top 10, while Princess Jasmine is played by Shubshri Kandiah, who is every inch a Disney princess. Their chemistry on-stage is unmistakable, and both clearly stole hearts with ‘A Whole New World’, if the ‘awwwws’ from the audience was anything to go by.
But, the absolute scene-stealer was clearly actor and singer Gareth Jacobs, who plays the Genie. In fact, the show could be renamed ‘Genie’ and I would have no objections. His unbelievably and adorably campy take on Genie worked so well that when ‘Friend Like Me’ ended, the audience gave a standing ovation and cheered for a solid three minutes. He charmed, he sang, he joked and turned that stage into an actual Cave of Wonders, even if for just a few minutes.
Credit must be given for the new musical numbers like ‘Proud of Your Boy’, were Aladdin makes a promise to his late mother to make her proud, or “Babkak, Omar, Aladdin, Kassim”, which is sung by Aladdin’s rag tag bunch of less-than-savoury, light-fingered friends.
Directed and choreographed by Tony-Award winner Casey Nicholaw, who is known for directing The Book Of Mormon, Aladdin.
Aladdin is showing at the Marina Bay Sands Theatre from now until Sept 1, and is an absolute must-see.