Monday, September 2, 2019

Aladdin at the Kennedy Center: You Ain't Never Seen a Show Like This


It all started with Beauty and the Beast. I had already fallen in love with theatre by the time I saw the touring production of this Disney classic. A night at the theatre was my favorite past time (as it is now). But Beauty and the Beast tested me in ways I hadn't guessed it would. What I saw on the stage were costumes that looked very similar to the ones walking around Disney World. These weren't graceful and gorgeous dresses and tuxedos. These were giant outfits, made to cover most of the actors. 

How could this be considered fabulous by pretty much everyone I had ever spoken to? I just didn't get it. And quite honestly, I still don't. It was the movie (which I LOVED), come to life - and not in a good way. There and then, I swore off Disney theatricals. I made an exception for Mary Poppins, and Disney still let me down. That's why I still haven't seen The Lion King!

Contrary to its title, the ice thawed a bit when I saw Frozen. Now that's bringing a classic movie to life in the best way possible. That's how I found myself seeing the touring production of Aladdin at the Kennedy Center. I've been super curious about the show since I chatted with a woman who worked at Disney Theatricals (even with my dislike of Disney theatre, I have to admit that's an amazing job!), who mentioned that the magic carpet ride is a closely guarded secret that mesmerizes each night. Even with the intrigue, I wasn't willing to spend the ridiculous prices that Disney is charging for a Broadway seat (the price of tickets is another issue I have with Disney...) Thankfully though, the cost of a seat at the gorgeous Kennedy Center, is much more affordable. 

While Disney Theatre may still make me a little grumpy, this thrilling production may have melted my Disney-hating heart. It's so beautiful from start to finish! The colors are bright, and the costumes are ornate. Even the backgrounds are perfectly suited to this faraway land of Agrabah. 

I am completely entranced by the Genie - as I've heard most people say. Look - no one is going to replace the great Robin Williams. He will ALWAYS be the perfect Genie. However, in this stage production this genie is a close second. In the tour, Major Attaway plays Al's BFF. Luckily for the actor, he's not blue in the show, but his costumes are gorgeously outrageous in every way. He's given most of the jokes, and nails each one, even the send up of oh so many famous Disney songs, occurring right before intermission.

Aladdin is delightful from start to finish, and I enjoyed myself immensely. From the set - at one point, I gasped at the sheer gilded goodness of the enchanted room Aladdin is tricked into entering. It's opulent and over the top in all the best ways. And what of that long-awaited reveal of a flying carpet? I agree with the woman I met. It's mesmerizing, and though I was determined to figure out just how they did it, I haven't a clue. It's magic pure and simple - the kind of magic of which Disney has in spades! 

If every show Disney creates from now on is more Frozen and Aladdin and less Mary Poppins and Beauty and the Beast, they will always have a friend in me (see what I did there? : )

Aladdin is running at the Kennedy Center through September 7. However, if you're in Maryland, its run at the Hippodrome starts November 13 and appears through December 1.

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