When you’re not a Florida or SoCal local, you’ve got to find ways to keep the Disney alive from home. One of my favorite ways is to see Disney musicals live. With how they make the magic come alive, I can’t believe pixie dust isn’t involved. Last Saturday, my fiancé and I went to see Aladdin the musical live in Boston with some friends, and we were not disappointed.
These tickets were my Christmas present to Ben (present for him including a ticket for me — it was a win-win), so we’ve been waiting a while to finally see this show.
While in Boston, the touring production of Aladdin would call the Boston Opera House its home. This gorgeous establishment is a sight to inspire awe, completely separate from the productions that grace its stage. With its cornerstone placed in 1927, and having hosted its first production in 1928, this building is coming up on its 100th birthday within the next decade. I’m no architectural expert, so I’ll just say its grandeur is spectacular to see. The Opera House provides seating for over 2500 attendees. Since reopening in 2004 after renovations that provided modern comforts but retained the classic charm, the Opera House has hosted touring Broadway shows mixed in with annual classics, such as The Nutcracker ballet. I definitely plan on spending a lot more time there.
On to the show!! This is the second Disney musical I’ve seen live; the first was The Lion King (once as a child in Manhattan, and a second time a bit over a year ago). I really couldn’t help but compare the two shows — even though it’s entirely impossible to compare these two productions. The Lion King is one of my favorite Disney stories, and I can’t watch it in any form without crying, so it holds a special place in my heart; however, Aladdin was so upbeat, fun, exciting, and funny! Plus, it had more glitter and sparkle than the entire Las Vegas strip.
This spectacularly talented cast kept us entertained for about two and a half hours (including one intermission) without fail. As a die-hard Disney fan, I was looking for those classic elements from the Aladdin animated film, first released in 1992. I wanted it to pay homage to my childhood — and I was not disappointed. It featured a boisterous, fast-talking, quick-witted Genie; a charming, somewhat dopey Aladdin; and a proud, strong, and fearless Jasmine. Of course, the live musical brought me some of my favorite Aladdin songs, but it also switched things up.
I couldn’t, and didn’t, expect an exact reproduction of the Aladdin film I know so well, so I wasn’t at all disappointed by the changes the live musical made. The biggest change was the loss of our favorite animal pals: Rajah and Abu. Whether for production ease or to bring a different flavor to a twenty-six-year-old story, Rajah and Abu were each replaced by three human companions for both Jasmine and Aladdin. While these characters could talk in a way Rajah and Abu could not, they still were a perfect embodiment of each animal’s character, spunk, and attitude. Rajah took the form of three woman who seemed to be handmaidens for Jasmine — there for comfort, advice, and sometimes much-needed straight talk. Abu was replaced by three fellow street-rat thieves, who seemed to act as brothers to Aladdin; the group always supported one another, even when somebody might have been acting kind of like a jerk.
Iago was also replaced with a human for the production, but this human was very reminiscent of Iago himself. Jafar even asked why he’s always got to repeat things like a parrot! (Ha! Get it?) He was a rambunctious, brightly-colored fellow with a tendency to go overboard on evil laughter. (You can just imagine how Jafar reacted to that.)
Like I mentioned earlier, Saturday’s performance of Aladdin brought some new tunes to me! One in particular brought some sweet sentimentality: “Proud of Your Boy,” a heart-wrenching ballad (I think that’s the right word — don’t judge if it isn’t) that Aladdin sings to his presumably deceased mother, about how he hopes to someday make her proud of him. (Pardon me while I cry over there.) One of our friends informed us that apparently “Proud of Your Boy” was initially written for the animated film, but was cut when the character of Aladdin’s mother was also cut from the film. While we didn’t get any further insight into Aladdin’s mother, the song finally made an appearance and was beautifully performed. This slower, sentimental piece was a very special addition. We all know how Disney films are about mothers… (more crying).
I really want to minimize spoilers here, but this post wouldn’t be complete without mentioning both “Friend Like Me” and the magic carpet ride scene. “Friend Like Me” was everything I could have hoped for and more. Sure, maybe they didn’t have animation to make Genie magic poof all over the place, but they could have fooled me. This number had the entire cast, in multiple costumes, glittering across the stage with acrobatics, pyrotechnics, tap dancing, and some of the most impressive “acting-your-butt-off” performance quality I’ve ever seen. There was literally nothing this scene didn’t have. Photography wasn’t allowed, so I can’t show you what I saw, but — WOW. Just WOW!!! Just when you thought they’d done it all, something else happened to surprise you all over again!! A friend had told me before I went to see the show that if the entire production had consisted of just one song, the ticket price would have been worth it. Now knowing that she was talking about “Friend Like Me,” I have to agree.
And for the magic carpet ride… how did they do that!!! I couldn’t see any wires and I looked, hard. I may not have blinked for the entirety of “A Whole New World.” I’m convinced. They’ve got magic. Still in awe.
This show really packaged everything with a big bow on top. There were gorgeous costumes, goosebump-inducing singing, fantastic sets and choreography, and even a smattering of pop culture and local references (shout-out to Genie’s “accidental” production of a Red Sox hat — very cute — and his proclamation that “Ain’t NOBODY got time” for Aladdin’s attitude). If Aladdin stops in your town, I highly recommend taking the time to see it. Ben, our friends, and I had a fantastic time and are guaranteed to be singing show tunes for a long time to come.