THEATER REVIEW: Disney’s Aladdin

written by David Steffen

Aladdin is a  play based on a 1992 Disney cartoon movie of the same name.  The play premiered in Seattle in 2011, and went to Broadway in 2014.

The story takes place in the fictional Arabic city of Agrabah.  The title character Aladdin is a young man, an orphan who has to steal to survive.  One day in the marketplace he meets a young woman and he falls for her, but then they are caught by the city guards and the woman reveals herself to be the princess of Agrabah as Aladdin is hauled away to the dungeons.  Aladdin is pulled from the dungeons by Jafar, the sultan’s advisor, because a prophecy stated that Aladdin was the “diamond in the rough” the only one that could retrieve the wish-granting genie’s lamp from the Cave of Wonders.  Aladdin goes and succeeds in finding the lamp, and is trapped in the cave but becomes the master of the Genie.

The play is based quite closely on the original movie, so if you like the original you’ll probably like this one as well–many familiar songs, plus a few songs that were written for the original but cut before final production of the movie (you might have heard them if you have an Aladdin DVD or Blu Ray with special features on it), and a few new ones as well.

There are some changes from the movie, most often for difficulty of production.  There is no Abu, there is no Rajah, presumably because it would be hard to produce them in a compelling way in live theater.  There is a Carpet, but it’s just a vehicle, not a character.  There is an Iago, but he’s a human, not a parrot.  Aladdin has a trio of friends he lives with on the streets–those friends presented some of the best new material, especially the song “High Adventure” which was a lot of fun (though that song and the play as a whole could use some swordfight choreography work.

If you like the movie, you’ll probably like the familiarity and new things about the show.  If you haven’t seen the movie, but you like fun and fast-paced musicals, give it a try!

THEATER REVIEW: Shrek the Musical

written by David Steffen
Shrek The Musical is a theater version of the 2001 CG Dreamworks comedy adventure Shrek.  As with the movie, the play is about the ogre Shrek who lives a contented secluded life in a swamp, but his solitude is interrupted with an influx of fairytale creatures who have been evicted by Lord Farquad to transform his kingdom into his perfect image of a kingdom.  When Shrek goes to confront Farquad (meeting Donkey, a talking donkey on the way) he is coerced into mounting a rescue mission of Princess Fiona from a dragon-guarded tower to bring her back to be Farquad’s bride.

The musical is an enjoyable adaptation of the movie, converting the existing plot by adding songs that fit into the themes of the original movie (the movie had a lot of music but it was pretty much all cover music of popular songs rather than being songs about the plot of the story).  I particularly liked the song showing Princess Fiona growing up in the castle in isolation imagining what Prince Charming will come to rescue here–it’s done with three lookalike actresses of three different ages and the song finishes with them all singing on a balcony together, and I thought that was fun.  The song “Let Your Freak Flag Fly” is also particularly fun.

If you liked the original, I think you’ll probably like this, though quite a few lines are lifted directly from the original.  And if you’ve never seen the original, if you’ve got a sense of humor and an interest in fantasy humor story, give it a shot!  Fun for the kids, too, we saw it at a children’s theater nearby and our four-year-old enjoyed it.