There’s something about Disney classics. Whether it’s the cartoons or the musicals (this writer can’t speak for the live-action versions as she hasn’t watched any of them for fear of childhood ruination), it just has the kind of magic that keeps you coming back for more.
'Aladdin The Musical' was no different.
The music, the songs, the drama and the stage! Ooohh… you’re going to be reading a lot about how magnificent the stage was in the rest of the article, especially since we got little glimpses of what goes on behind-the-scenes.
You’d think knowing the mechanics of how things work will take away the enjoyment of the show, but nope.
Knowing a little bit of what goes on behind the curtain – the props, costumes, the timing of everything, the sweat and toil of hundreds of people making the show happen every day – just increased our appreciation of the play when we got to watch it.
What goes on behind the scenes?
In the cartoon and the live action movie, Aladdin has his trusted little magic carpet that allows him to show Princess Jasmine 'a whole new world' (nope, we're not going to apologise for that).
There is a magic carpet scene in 'Aladdin The Musical', too, but the mechanics of how it works were kept a secret from us.
We’re still disappointed that we were not let in on the secret of how the magic carpet flew – though we have a few theories – but we’re happy to have learnt a few things, like how the whole floor of the stage and the props were operated by the production company.
All those ‘buildings’ and backdrops you see moving about the stage isn’t moved with actual magic, sadly. Some of them are controlled with a remote control, like giant remote-control cars, while others are attached to cables that are used to pull them up and down.
The hanging sceneries alone weighs about 20 tonnes – that’s a lot of weight hanging above the actors on stage!
We were told that the floor of the stage itself is transported wherever the production company goes as it is specifically made to allow the props on stage to be moved to the right positions at the right time.
One of the most impressive scenes in the whole play is when Aladdin walks into the magical cave and finds THE lamp.
The whole stage is transformed into a giant gold dome, filled with glittering treasures. In fact, we learnt that the gold paint used to create the grand look is the same type of paint used on 'Star Wars'’ C-3PO.
The costumes are mostly handmade – especially the crystals and details that were added to them.
And the details! Even headpieces and clothes that are worn by background dancers for mere seconds are super detailed.
There are so many crystals and beads on stage at any given time, you can see them sparkling throughout the show. Whenever the Sultan comes on stage, you’re almost blinded by all the glitter!
There are 337 costumes used in the show and 161 custom made shoes, the production company told us.
What’s even more impressive is that some of the costume changes happens in just seconds, the shortest being in two seconds.
With so much thought and work put into even the tiniest detail, it’s no wonder that the product was thoroughly enjoyable.
Finally, it was time for the show!
Genie, played brilliantly by Gareth Jacob, enters the scene with the song "Arabian Nights", which was surprisingly less racist compared to the original version you’d probably heard a thousand of times in the cartoon version of the show.
As advertised, the song was a ‘tourist pamphlet’ to the mythical city of Agrabah, sprinkled generously with witty jokes by the Genie.
From taking a crack at the spectacularly toned bodies of all the actors on stage ('They have zero perfect body fat') to localised Singaporean humour, the Genie had the audience enthralled within the first minute, as did the rest of the cast that put on an amazing show.
Then enters Aladdin (Grame Isaako) and his three friends. No Ali the monkey in this version as it’ll be quite impossible to make a real monkey speak.
Instead, the creators decided to adapt the original version of 'Aladdin' by introducing Babak, Kassim and Omar (played by Troy Sussman, Rob Mallet and Adam Di Martino) into the show.
Most of the songs you’ll see in the show is from the animated 'Aladdin', with some additional ones that you’d probably would have never heard before.
After the songs "One Jump Ahead" and "Proud of Your Boy" – performed with great energy then emotions by Isaako - you get introduced to Princess Jasmine (Shubshri Kandiah).
You know the full story, but the character of Jasmine was updated to suit today’s time, what with the princess questioning the need for a King when a Queen can rule just as well.
If we remember correctly, the original version focused more on the princess’ desire to find love than to rule herself if she failed to do so.
The show also had Jafar, of course, played by Patrick R Brown. Funny and sarcastic, he balanced evil and humour pretty well in the few scenes that he appeared in.
We have to say though that his lackey Iago (Doron Chester) stole the limelight with his portrayal of the human version of Jafar’s parrot in the original story.
His flamboyant costume and hairstyle only enhanced his portrayal of the blood-thirsty yet funny character, without actually defining it.
There were several highlights to the first act; the first being the part where Jafar consults a magic book to find the lamp.
We were definitely mesmerised, and had us questioning how the production company managed to create some of the illusions they did for a live audience.
(If you want to know what kind of illusions, you’ll have to watch for yourself!)
The second, but by no means inferior, highlight was the song "A Friend Like Me", which is performed ‘inside’ the golden cave.
We were really impressed by the Genie’s stamina in performing a 14-minute or so song with so much energy and joy, featuring no less than five dance styles, ranging from tap to salsa to even breakdance.
We were tapping our foot, dancing in our seats, laughing and cheering throughout the performances.
The back-up dancers and Aladdin were no less impressive, as they managed to keep up with the different genre of songs and dance forms that make up the song.
Getting a break after all the excitement was more of a let-down than a reprieve as the audience were all pumped up to watch the rest of the performance.
The second act opens with Aladdin’s three friends, led by Genie, entering the palace and announcing Prince Ali, with a song of course.
Again, we’re not going into the details of what you probably already know, but we will talk about "A Whole New World".
Our first thought was…"Wow!" Our second thought was, "How did they manage it?"
It’s not like you could see anything supporting the ‘carpet’ (trust us, we looked real close for it) when it 'flies' around the stage.
The huge moon and glittering stars were magical enough, but when the magic carpet started to actually fly, the audience just went “ooooo”.
What else could you say, right? Movie and animations…it’s much easier to create illusions for with technology.
But to see it live? The experience is a whole new one.
The magic of it all didn’t take away from the romance of the scene – something which we’re grateful for.
Everyone loves "A Whole New World". You get that wrong, the whole show would fall flat.
The rest of the show was just as energetically performed - the songs were catchy, the costumes magnificent and the choreography keeping us enthralled till the very last minute.
Watch the show!
We won’t deny that tickets to the show is expensive, especially when you’re earning Malaysian Ringgit.
But was it worth it? Definitely! Especially when you consider the fact that this is the only version of Disney’s 'Aladdin' performed in Asia and in English.
It’s also the last stop by the production company, which means that you may not get to watch the show in Asia for a long time.
Singapore is also just across the causeway, so you can even make it a day trip!
If you love Disney and Aladdin, we’d say treat yo’self and go watch it!
The production will be in Marina Bay Sands till 1 September. You can purchase the tickets here.