Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay
Also see Richard's review of The Eva Trilogy
Based on Disney's 1992 animated film, the musical has a simple plot. Aladdin (Adam Jacobs) is a poor boy who falls in love with Princess Jasmine (Isabelle McCall) and, with the aid of a Genie (Anthony Murphy), outwits a wicked vizier named Jafar (Jonathan Weir). The score has been enlarged, with Alan Menken writing music for new songs with lyrics by Chad Beguelin, added to Menken's score for the movie which had lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice. The songs themselves are a mixed bag, with some sounding like ordinary pop songs. The the biggest number is "Friend Like Me," featuring waiters with plates of food soaring about, chorines in colorful harem pants spinning like tops, and a side-splittingly bizarre tap dance right out of A Chorus Line. The only hummable song is the well-known "A Whole New World."
Scenic designer Bob Crowley created a Middle East of rotating minarets and palaces on the stage. Aladdin's cave drips with jewels. Special credit goes to Jim Steinmeyer for what is called "illusion design," featuring a magic carpet that floats through the air with no strings attached, not visibly anyway. Casey Nicholaw's attractive direction and energy-driven choreography is appealing.
Anthony Murphy is outstanding as the Genie. He is a brilliant comedian with the well-written over-the-top zingers. Adam Jacobs, a Half Moon Bay native, as Aladdin and Isabella McCalla as gutsy feminist Princess Jasmine rock. They have pitch-perfect vocal cords when singing. I enjoyed the villains even more: Jonathan Weir as Jafar the conniving vizier and his assistant Reggie DeLeon give exceptional performances. Zach Bencal as Babkak, Phillippe Arroyo as Omar, Mike Longo as Kassim, the three sidekicks of Aladdin, liven things with their antics and are particularly harmoniously energizing in "Prince Ali."
Aladdin is a big budget production packed with glitzy numbers, amazing sets, great choral singing, and energetic dance numbers. It's fun for the whole family.
Aladdin, through January 7, 2018, at the SHN Orpheum Theatre, 1192 Market Street, San Francisco CA. For tickets call 888-746-1799 or visit www.shnsf.com. For more information on the tour, visit www.aladdinthemusical.com. The next production coming to the Orpheum is The Book of Mormon running February 4 thru March 4, 2018.