Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
If the Disney name is on a musical, the production will be big and opulent, engineered to provide the audience with the requisite number of laughs, thrills and surprises. The touring production of Disney's Aladdin now in the Kennedy Center Opera House in Washington is a prime example, chugging beyond sheer dazzle to joyful excess.
That isn't to say the musical isn't a lot of fun, but the quieter moments where Aladdin (Clinton Greenspan), the orphaned "street rat," and Princess Jasmine (Kaenaonālani Kekoa) get to know each other fade when Major Attaway, who also appeared in the Broadway cast, lets loose as the Genie. He's a dominating presence with boisterous charm, booming voice, and eye-catching presence in Gregg Barnes' jewel-toned costumes. The production number "Friend Like Me" is a mini-musical in itself as the Genie entertains Aladdin in the magical Cave of Wonders (a gold-encrusted Bob Crowley design), conjuring up a magical dancing chorus in ever-changing costumes.
As directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw, Aladdin has the occasional character number for one or two actors, but Alan Menken's music, the lyrics by Howard Ashman, Tim Rice and Chad Beguelin, and Beguelin's book tend to tell the story in primary colors and overwhelming spectacle. (It also isn't subtle. Aladdin just happens to have three friends and Jasmine just happens to have three attendants. What a coincidence!)
For those unfamiliar with the 1992 animated film, the stage adaptation that opened on Broadway in 2014, or the 2019 live-action film, this version of Aladdin is set in the mythical Middle Eastern city of Agrabah, where Aladdin is a petty thief with big dreams and Jasmine is outspoken and independent. Her father the Sultan (Jerald Vincent) wants her to marry a prince who can succeed him, but she has other ideas. Skulking around the edges are Jafar (Jonathan Weir), the Sultan's scheming chief advisor, and his silly henchman Iago (Reggie De Leon).
Greenspan and Kekoa are attractive, sing beautifully, and have good chemistry, especially as they sing "A Whole New World" while floating on a gravity-defying magic carpet in front of a colorful, fireworks-lit night sky (lighting design by Natasha Katz). The entire cast keeps up the energy for two and a half hours, especially the hard-working chorus, and a sizable orchestra provides powerful support.