Sunday, 15 May 2011

A Diamond in the Rough

Welcome back! This post is going to look at all of the (released) unused musical material that could be premiering on the Seattle stage in less than two months! Most of these songs come from the fantastic collection The Music Behind the Magic, but there’s also an entry from the theme park stage show Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular (which Chad also wrote!) and the amazing Howard Sings Ashman (again, highly recommended to any Aladdin, Disney or musical fan). Now, I know that Chad and the rest of the team behind the upcoming show had access to far more material than this (as well as Alan Menken and all of his experience, knowledge, and material that hasn’t been released to the public), but the released songs, in the form of work tapes, demos and unreleased masters, certainly give us a good starting point for what to expect in July.

Arabian Nights (Original Lyrics)
A really nice extended version of the introductory song. The song was originally cut down because parts were deemed to be too offensive, so I doubt we’ll see all of the original lyrics in Seattle. However, there are plenty of lyrics that weren’t in the film version of the song (some of which eventually became the opening song for The Return of Jafar and Aladdin: The Series) so I’m pretty much 100% certain that we’ll get an extended version of "Arabian Nights" when the show opens.

Babkak, Omar, Aladdin, Kassim
Replaced by One Jump Ahead in the animated classic when the story was re-worked and Aladdin’s friends removed. This song acts as an introduction to their quartet and will almost certainly be reinstated into the story for the new show.

Count on Me
Written by Alan Menken after Howard Ashman's passing, before he partnered with Tim Rice to finish the songs for the film.  It's a really nice "I want" song for Aladdin, but I don't expect to see it brought to life in Seattle.  Since this show is looking to re-introduce the lost Ashman/Menken songs, I'm expecting "Proud of Your Boy" to be the main solo for Aladdin.

Arabian Nights Reprise 1
In the original version of Aladdin, the Narrator played a much larger role, with small interludes to move the story along. This first reprise is a really nice introduction for Jafar. I’m not sure how the story will progress in the show, but I’d say there were reasonable odds of the "Arabian Nights Reprises" being reinstated in some form, probably with new or re-worked lyrics.

Call Me a Princess
This is actually a great song in the right hands (just listen Kerry Butler sing it on her Disneyland CD), but there’s no way that it’ll appear in the Seattle show. This is from the original version of the story where the princess was a spoilt brat and Aladdin’s true love was Abby, and Chad confirmed in his interview with Jim Hill that Abby was not going to be re-introduced and they were keeping Aladdin and Jasmine’s love story faithful to the animated classic.

To Be Free (A Musical Spectacular)
Written by Alan Menken for Princess Jasmine to sing in Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular, Chad was a bit cagey when Jim Hill asked him about this song, so it’s possible that it won’t be in the show. The music the song is set to (also called To Be Free) was more associated with Genie in the animated classic, so there’s a good chance that if this particular song doesn’t make the cut, then Genie may get a song of the same name and Jasmine will get a new song.
If this song is used in the show, then I’d expect it either just before "A Whole New World" (like in A Musical Spectacular) or after the Sultan and Jasmine argue and she says she doesn’t want to be a princess anymore before releasing the birds (or an equivalent new scene).

Why Me
A wonderful Jafar song by Alan Menken and Tim Rice. This song was written for Jafar’s triumphant moment when the gets the lamp and exposes Prince Ali, but it was ultimately replaced by "Prince Ali Reprise" as it was felt that it was too late in the film to be introducing completely new songs and musical themes. However, Aladdin Jr. uses an abridged version of the song earlier in the story (around the time he uses the sands of time to track down Aladdin I’d imagine, but I’m not sure as I’ve never seen Aladdin Jr.), so it is possible that the same could happen in the Seattle show. I’d actually say there’s pretty good odds of this happening. Jafar does need another song, especially with Jonathan Freeman back in the role, and he sounds great in the unreleased master track on The Music Behind the Magic. If it does happen then I imagine it would be revised and extended for Seattle.

Arabian Nights Reprise 2/Arabian Nights Reprise 3
In the original version the first of these takes place when Jafar (disguised as Aladdin’s uncle like in the original Arabian Nights take) leads Aladdin to the Cave of Wonders, and the second takes place later in the story, when Aladdin is in jail. I’m trying to go through these songs in what would roughly be film order which is why I’ve placed them both together here. Obviously in Seattle they would be spread more evenly through out the show and have re-worked lyrics to fit the combined story elements that make up the new show.

Proud of Your Boy
I don’t think there’s any doubt that this will be in the show. In fact, I’d imagine that it’s one of the main reasons they’ve gone back to the original Howard Ashman concept of Aladdin. You only have to watch the Aladdin Special Edition DVD to see how important this song was to Howard, Alan and pretty much everyone involved in making Aladdin. It’s a beautiful song, possibly the best Ashman/Menken song, and it’s the main reason I’m so upset that I can’t be in Seattle to see it come alive on stage. If Disney need ANY reason to do a Cast Recording for this show (as if money and Jonathan Freeman returning aren’t enough) then this song is it.

Prince Ali (Demo Version - Extended Intro)
Like "Friend Like Me" there are some slight lyric differences to the demo version of "Prince Ali" and it’s sung in a different style (which Chad confirmed is the direction they’re taking with Aladdin: The New Stage Musical), but the main difference is the demo version of "Prince Ali" features an extended introduction. And yes, I’m pretty certain it’ll be in there. In fact I can already see it in my mind’s eye, opening Act 2 as the procession moves across stage and through the audience to announce the arrival of Prince Ali.

How Quick They Forget
A nice song for Aladdin’s friends as they reflect on how he’s ignored them since finding the lamp and (in this version at least) becoming a prince. Since they’ve gone to the trouble of including Babkak, Omar and Kassim this song is pretty much a certainty.

Humiliate the Boy
Howard Ashman and Alan Menken’s attempt at a song for Jafar. Like the Menken and Rice effort "Why Me" this was ultimately replaced by "Prince Ali Reprise". Now in his interview with Jim Hill, Chad only confirmed the original five songs would be included ("Arabian Nights", "One Jump Ahead", "Friend Like Me", "Prince Ali" and "A Whole New World") so I guess on a technicality you could say there’s a chance that this will replace "Prince Ali Reprise" so they can get in as many Howard Ashman songs as possible, but I honestly don’t see it happening. I don’t have a problem with it happening (I actually think it would be quite nice) but I think any song from the film, reprise or not, is guaranteed to be in there, which means there’s no place for "Humiliate the Boy".

High Adventure
After "Proud of Your Boy" this is probably my favourite song in The Music Behind the Magic collection. It’s a rousing piece of Aladdin and his friends going off to battle to defeat Jafar and rescue Jasmine. It’ll need to be re-worked for Seattle as the demo features the Genie of the Ring, who Chad confirmed has been cut from the story again, but I’d be very disappointed if the whole song got cut. This song could have some great staging and I imagine it will be a real treat to see it come alive in Seattle.

Arabian Nights Reprise 4/Finale
The original ending for Aladdin is what we eventually got in Aladdin and the King of Thieves, except in Aladdin it was going to be revealed that the Narrator was the Genie. I don’t know if the Narrator will be the Genie (cool as that would be), but I’m pretty certain that the show will end with the film’s brief reprise of "A Whole New World". However, this reprise could easily follow that or maybe after the bows? I know some shows repeat parts of the last reprise after everyone has bowed (The Little Mermaid being one example) and it would be great for "Well salaam worthy friend, come back soon that’s the end, till another Arabian Night" to end the show.

Well that just about covers all of the deleted/additional material that has been publicly released. Hopefully we’ll hear some casting news very shortly as rehearsals are meant to be starting this month. Till next time!

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