Wednesday, September 06, 2023

Broadway in Tucson Review: 'Aladdin'

 For my money, there is no single production -- theatrical or cinematic -- that matches the song quality of "Aladdin." The 1992 animated film bowls you over with a series of catchy, clever and timeless Alan Menken rainmakers that pulse with romance, whimsy and laughter.

The theatrical musical, which debuted on Broadway in 2014, captures the essence of the rollicking animated film, while expanding and grounding the flighty story and characters in meaningful ways. To watch the show is to be whisked away into a fantasy world of hopeless longing, redemption, wishes granted and denied and meteoric rises and falls. In short, it's Disney magic in the least ironic sense of the term.

Bulky, loud, bright and gorgeous, the touring production manages to distill the essence of the original film and bring it to stage in an arresting burst of creative heft. While the Bollywood-flavored production is padded out with a few songs that don't nearly rise to the level of the source material, the continuity the numbers add helps make the emotional pressure points pay off with more convincing payoffs.

The show lives and dies on the strength of its three leads, and this one is powered by three superstars in the making. Marcus M. Martin is a rambunctious force of kinetic energy as Genie. Adi Roy captures the devil-may-care charm of Aladdin, and the songbird-voiced Senzel Ahmady shines into the back rows as the proto-feminist princess Jasmine.

Crafted to bear the weight of a 150-minute musical, the writing is filled with pragmatic choices that strengthen the story. The jettisoning of the film's talking animals in favor of sidekicks helps ground the absurdist angles of the material, and workmanlike supporting performances from ensemble members polish the characters to lifelike sheen. Jasmine's attendants, in particular, pump up the crowd with their spirited dance breaks. Kudos to Alysssa Anani -- who doubles as the fortune teller -- Lizzy Marie Legregin and Sonia Monroy.

The projections and backgrounds are works of art, but some of the lighting choices are bizarre, such as a Cave of Wonders sequence that blinded part of the midsection of the crowd by shining lasers into eyeballs. But even that off-kilter choice helped drive home the majesty and wonder of the cave.

I had colossal expectations for "Aladdin," and the show obliterated them all. It lifts you on its magic carpet to a whole new world.

 "Aladdin" plays through Sept. 10 at Centennual Hall. Buy tickets here.

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