PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, March 15-21: Aladdin Flies Onto Broadway and Vampires Will Dance Again

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21 Mar 2014

Adam Jacobs
Adam Jacobs
Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann

Disney turned its luck on Broadway around with Newsies, its most recent Times Square opening, collecting the reviews needed to give long-running The Lion King a fellow hit to keep it company.

This week, the entertainment Goliath hoped for a hat trick, unveiling its stage version of the 1992 Disney animated tales of genies and flying carpets, Aladdin, at the New Amsterdam Theatre. The Alan Menken-Howard Ashman show had already opened in Canada earlier this year to mixed notices.

The critic from the all-powerful New York Times admitted to entering the theatre predisposed to dislike the show, but found himself won over: "The prospect of Aladdin, promising another weary night in the presence of a spunky youngster and wisecracking animals, didn't exactly set my heart racing. But this latest musical adapted from one of Disney's popular movies, which opened on Thursday night at the New Amsterdam Theater, defied my dour expectations. As directed and choreographed (and choreographed, and choreographed) by Casey Nicholaw, and adapted by the book writer Chad Beguelin, Aladdin has an infectious and only mildly syrupy spirit. Not to mention enough baubles, bangles and beading to keep a whole season of 'RuPaul's Drag Race' contestants in runway attire."

(I'd like to see "Only Mildly Syrupy" in big letters above the New Amsterdam marquee.)

The Hollywood Reporter, too, offered a bad news/good news review, saying, "it's perhaps the most old-school of the company's screen-to-stage adaptations since Beauty and the Beast. But that shouldn't deter audiences from making this splashy Arabian Nights wish-fulfillment fantasy into a family-friendly hit. Directed and choreographed by musical comedy specialist Casey Nicholaw with loads of retro showmanship, an unapologetic embrace of casbah kitsch and a heavy accent on shtick, this is sweet, silly fun."

Nicholaw, in fact, won praise from almost every corner. Newsday saluted "Casey Nicholaw's big, cheerful production — an enjoyable throwback to old-time musical comedy." And New York Magazine perhaps summed up the general attitude of the critical corps when it said, basically, "Let Disney be Disney": "For Aladdin, Disney's team builds on the take-no-chances, take-no-prisoners lessons of its six Broadway predecessors to all but guarantee a quality hit: if not a Lion King, at least not a Tarzan. They wrote the book on this sort of thing, and now, Walt be praised, they're going to heave it at you. This is not as unpleasant an experience as it sounds; if you're up for a meaningless fling, it might as well be with a pro."

Enough good ink to fuel a hit? I should think so.


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