Rebecca Pollard, Culture Editor
At 7:00 a.m. this past Saturday, two buses of sleepy students headed into the city to see Aladdin on Broadway.
The play began with James Monroe Iglehart, who would later appear in the musical as the Genie, telling us a bit about Agrabah, the fictional Arabian city where Aladdin is set. The setting whirled around continuously in the opening scene, bringing the audience from a desert land into a busy marketplace where Aladdin is being chased for stealing. Adam Jacobs played Aladdin, and I’d be surprised to learn of anyone who was disappointed by his performance. He was, in my opinion, a perfect actor for the job. Jacobs sung with absolute precision, and even sounded loads like the Aladdin from the Disney movie. Both Jacobs and Iglehart were able to dance, run, and jump all over the stage while never running out of breath or missing a single note.
While Jacobs’ performance was incredibly impressive, it was truly Iglehart who stole the show. In the Genie’s number “You Ain’t Never Had a Friend like Me,” nearly all mouths were left agape. From the moment the Genie seemingly melted out of the floor of the stage, all eyes were on him. His energy was infectious in the crowd, and the excitement of this number was tangible. It started with the Genie and Aladdin on stage, but at least 20 other dancers entered and exited the stage during this piece. Waiters serving Aladdin, girls dancing around him, huge amounts of wealth and valuables appearing and disappearing near him, and still nothing was more entertaining to watch than the Genie himself with his ridiculously fun performance.
In addition to the two astonishing leads, the technicalities of the stage set were mesmerizing. As mentioned before, the Genie literally looked like he was melting in and out of the ground (with a fancy swirling motion as well) every time the lamp was rubbed. The backdrops looked like actual Arabian cities, and the palace looked like I could climb on stage and into a castle. Of course nothing outdid the magic carpet ride, where Aladdin and princess Jasmine seemingly flew around on a giant purple carpet through a shimmering night sky. The illusion was flawless and left me with not even an inkling of how it was done.
Unfortunately, I believe that Jasmine’s performance was subpar. While casted Courtney Reed is indeed very talented, she did not, in my opinion, fit the bill for the princess. Aladdin’s voice was melodic and seamless, and Jasmine’s in comparison was nasally and jerky. Regardless, she gave a good performance and made a beautiful Jasmine.
Also unfortunately, my two favorite characters were left out of the play entirely. That is, Abu and Rajah didn’t make the cut. This is most likely because having a monkey and a tiger on set would be far too difficult (and, in my opinion, it would be boarder-line animal abuse). However, they did include Jafar’s animal sidekick, Iago. Iago was played by Don Darryl Rivera, and he did an impeccable job at making the audience despise the evil characters. So although his performance was good and he succeeded in making the bad-guys disliked, it was difficult to enjoy his performance because he was so irritating. Considering that that’s exactly what he was supposed to do, he is a talented actor as well.
The play had more than a few subtle jokes sprinkled into the dialogue, splitting tension in the play between characters with bursts of laughter from the audience. For example, when Aladdin decides he wants to do better for himself and stop stealing, he suggests to his three friends that they begin street-performing to earn money. One of his friends replied immediately with “who would pay to watch people sing and dance?” Meanwhile, nearly the entirety of this 2:00 p.m. showing is filled up with people who all paid a decent amount of money to do exactly that!
In its entirety, Aladdin on Broadway was an incredible show to see. It was more than worth the early start to the day, and the mere $60 that students paid to not only see the show, but be driven into the city and back as well. SAC gives this opportunity to students every year, bringing different shows to the roster. Be on the lookout for this fantastic deal next semester and be sure to buy your ticket early—Broadway never disappoints.