Sunday, 24 November 2013

Two More Reviews and a LOT of News

Adam Jacobs as Aladdin, Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann
Two more reviews surfaced yesterday, the first was a mixed to positive review by The Vancouver Sun ("Aladdin's Magic May Charm Kids, but Maybe Not Their Parents").  The review is well worth checking out as it also contains a short video from The Canadian Press featuring interviews with the cast.  Though the reviewer felt that the show may appeal more to kids than adults they also say "it's hard to argue with simple, straightforward fun" and that's exactly what this show is - a lot of fun!

The second review by The National Post's Robert Cushman has quite possibly my favourite title of any review; "Forget the Lion, this Aladdin is King of the Stage".  Like the Vancouver Sun review, this review also highlights how much fun the show is, stating "though it may not be as outlandishly imaginative as The Lion King, it has its own kind of inventiveness and is frankly more fun".  Continuing the comparison to The Lion King the Cushman goes on to state "and it has, obviously, a much better score. Alan Menken's music, and the lyrics of the late and much lamented Howard Ashman, have the kind of verve and wit that used to be taken for granted on Broadway and is now mostly a memory".  Cushman praises Chad Beguelin's book and "new lyrics worthy of the Ashman tradition", Adam Jacobs' engaging performance as Aladdin, Courtney Reed for giving Jasmine more dimension than she had in the film and calls James Monroe Iglehart's Genie a legend brought to life.  Honestly, with the exception of A Whole New World (the song not the staging) I don't think there's anything he didn't like!  He closes the review fittingly, saying "what a joy to encounter a big, splashy, funny musical that works".  A few more reviews like that would be nice!!

Ok, now for some news updates!  In the week leading up to opening night there was a lot of stuff I didn't get time to post so here's a quick round up!

Firstly a BIG congratulations to Don Darryl Rivera (Iago) and Brandon O'Neill (Kassim) who have both been nominated in the 2013 Broadway World Seattle Awards!  Don is up for Best Featured Actor in a Musical (Local) for his performance in Illyria and Brandon is up for Best Leading Actor in a Musical (Local) for his performance in The Pirates of Penzance.  Please click on the above link and show them your support!

Disney Legend Alan Menken did an interview with The Star's Richard Ouzounian discussing his life and bringing Aladdin to the stage ("Alan Menken Puts Howard Ashman's Vision into Aladdin The New Musical").  It's a very touching piece with Alan saying that even now Howard is still with him.  Talking about Aladdin he says "I see what's on the stage now, and I say, 'Yes, this is what Howard would have wanted all along.'"

CHCH have posted a short article and video containing interviews with Adam Jacobs, Courtney Reed, James Monroe Iglehart and Jonathan Freeman.

Canada's CTV News have posted a short video interview with James Monroe Iglehart about playing the Genie, Jonathan Freeman is there too but this is definitely the JMI Show ;)

But don't worry, if you want to hear from Jafar then Broadway Direct have posted an interview with Jonathan Freeman that you can read here.  They've also posted an interview with director and choreographer Casey Nicholaw here.

Both of the Broadway Direct articles contain special priority codes that will allow you access to the advanced ticket sale for Aladdin on Broadway, so if you haven't already signed up for the official site's updates and want a code this is the place to go!  Or if you're a D23 member you can go here.  I can't find the link (probably because I'm not a member) but apparently Disney Vacation Club members also have a code available to them.  All advanced tickets are discounted from their standard rate, so book now before general sales start 2nd December!

And speaking of tickets Broadway World is reporting that more tickets are due to be released for the final dates of Aladdin's pre-Broadway Toronto run.  Additional seats for shows December 17th through January 5th go on sale tomorrow morning at 9AM and can be bought here.

Disney on Broadway have posted a new video to their YouTube channel;

It's the same video that Mirvish posted a few weeks back, now featuring the Broadway title design and dates, but still great to watch. have included Aladdin in an article of new attractions in Toronto, saying that "the magic carpet scene ... is worth the price of the ticket all by itself".

And finally, now that the official photos have been released and the show is officially open Courtney Reed has posted the first SIP (Saturday Intermission Pic) of the show.  The photo, taken by Michael James Scott, shows her and Adam Jacobs along with their dolls :)

Friday, 22 November 2013

Critics Divided but Audiences Love Disney's Aladdin

Last night was the official opening of Aladdin's pre-Broadway run in Toronto, this morning the first reviews started to appear online and, like with the 5th Avenue's Pilot Production, they were rather mixed.

First came The Star's review, "Aladdin's Carpet Ride Lacking Some Magic" which gave the show 2 1/2 Stars (presumably out of 5).  The review praised James Monroe Iglehart's Genie and the show stopping Friend Like Me but criticises the book, saying it doesn't make you care about the fate of the characters.  This was quickly followed by The Globe and Mail's review, "There's a Carpet, but Not Much Magic in Aladdin", which gave the show 2 1/2 out of 4 Stars, praising the "unbelievable sights" of the set design and the magic carpet but says that the show lacks charm and heart.

James Monroe Iglehart as Genie, Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann

This afternoon took a more positive turn.  Canada's UrbanMoms website posted their review calling the show "opulent and entertaining".

Broadway World's review, "Broadway Bound Aladdin Opens in Toronto", was again mixed, but unlike the earlier reviews it felt more positive.  Whilst it again criticised the book, echoing The Star's opinion that it doesn't make you care enough about the characters, it goes on to say that "Problems aside, there's still a lot of magic in Aladdin".  It says Adam Jacobs is "likeable and endearing" as Aladdin and that he and Courtney Reed "sound incredible" singing A Whole New World, before going on to praise James Monroe Iglehart's Genie (he seems to be the one thing all reviewers agree is magic!).  Not to be left out the villains are also highlighted, with Jonathan Freeman's Jafar likened to an old friend you didn't realise you'd missed and noting that Don Darryl Rivera's Iago "gets some of the biggest laughs of the night and shows off a good sense of comic timing that helps him land some of the show's better jokes".

So the reviews are mixed, just like they were in 2011.  And honestly, it doesn't matter.  Yes, it would be amazing if the title of this post could have been "Critics and Audiences Raving About Disney's Aladdin!", but at the end of the day it's not important.  Aladdin was never meant to come to Broadway.  It was meant to be a 3 week Pilot Production so the show could be licensed out.  The mixed critics reactions didn't change that.  It was the overwhelmingly positive audience response, first in Seattle and then regionally and internationally, that convinced Disney Theatrical that Aladdin has what it takes to be a hit on Broadway and that same audience support has continued in Toronto.  Here's a sample of what they're saying on Twitter and on the show's Facebook page;

Ajitha Cyriac - amazing show!! great production. beautiful ensemble!!!! powerful voices!!

@AprilKalloo - LOVED @aladdin! My cheeks hurt & my hands are stinging...I laughed so much and  clapped so hard! I'd see it ten more times!

Tina Clarkson - Amazing! Too funny, fabulous costumes and choreography and the Genie was the star of the show.

@TheChrisHowson - I saw #AladdinTO last night and it was phenomenal. I smell some Tony's in the near future! It is here until January 5th #MustSee @Mirvish

Amber Hershberger - Travelled from Ohio to see the show ... Absolutely, jaw droppingly, fantastic!!!

And speaking of audience support, there's currently another show playing in Toronto that also has a Broadway opening next Spring, the original production opened to reviews so bad that producer Cameron MacKintosh thought they might kill the show, yet over quarter of a century later Les Miserables is still going strong.  Now obviously Aladdin is a very different show to Les Mis and you can't really compare the two (I love them both for different reasons), but in one very important way they are the same - if it weren't for audience support, in spite of the reviews, they wouldn't be here.  Closer to home Beauty and the Beast is said to have opened to just one positive review and that ran for 13 magical years on Broadway.

It's also important to remember that this is part of the reason shows have out of town try outs, so they can see what works and what needs to be improved before opening on Broadway.  The Little Mermaid got a completely new ending during it's pre-Broadway Denver run.  If the creative think changes are necessary then they'll make them.  Look at A Whole New World, the staging of that song was one of the most divisive issues raised in the Seattle reviews, now it's almost universally praised as a highlight of the show (and there have been no reports of any technical issues since those very early previews so I think it's safe to say it's all smooth flying now).

I want to end with another quote from the Broadway World review;

"When the carpet first appears with Jacobs' Aladdin standing proudly atop it, there were audible gasps from the audience.  When our lovebirds soar across the night sky (accented by a stunning moon and twinkling stars) you felt like you were soaring with them.

I think the little boy beside me described it better than anyone when he gasped 'wow! There really IS a magic carpet'. It was a moment of theatrical magic combined with a stunningly beautiful song, and it served as a beautiful reminder of why people love Aladdin and why they will go to the theatre in droves to see it come to life before their very eyes."

Couldn't have put it better myself!

Aladdin is now open at the Ed Mirvish Theatre in Toronto where it will run until 5th January 2014.  Tickets are on sale here.  Broadway Previews begin February 26th, advance tickets are now on sale here.

Adam Jacobs and Courtney Reed as Aladdin and Jasmine, Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Disney's Aladdin Officially Opens in Toronto!

Tonight is the night!  After 3 weeks of previews the Toronto run of Disney's Aladdin officially opens tonight!!

I just want to wish everyone at the Ed Mirvish Theatre the very best of luck, from the ushers to the stars on stage to the friends and family supporting them in the audience.  This is your night, enjoy it and make some magic!

Monday, 18 November 2013

Don Darryl Rivera Dedicates Iago to those Affected by Typhoon Haiyan

Last week Don Darryl Rivera (Iago) made the following announcement on his official Facebook page;

"As a proud Filipino American, I'm dedicating my performance in Aladdin - The Musical to the people affected by Typhoon Haiyan.  Every little bit helps, so please consider donating

Super Typhoon Haiyan Strikes the Philippines - UNICEF USA"

If you can, please join Don in supporting those affected by this tragedy.

Thank you.

Friday, 15 November 2013

First Photos of Toronto's Aladdin!

They're finally here!  Today Disney have released the first photos of their new, Broadway bound, production of Aladdin.  Currently previewing in Toronto Aladdin is taking audiences on a musical journey of magic, laughter and romance.  These first pictures offer those who can't make it to Toronto their first glimpse of our heroes, Adam Jacobs as Aladdin, Courtney Reed as Princess Jasmine and James Monroe Iglehart as Genie.

Proud of Your Boy - Adam Jacobs as Aladdin, Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann

Princesses Run Away - Courtney Reed as Princess Jasmine and Brandt Martinez, Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann

Never had a Friend Like Me - James Monroe Iglehart as Genie, Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann

Care to go for a ride? - Adam Jacobs and Courtney Reed as Aladdin and Princess Jasmine, Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann
Tickets for the pre-Broadway run of Aladdin are now on sale at

Edit - Just want to say a big thank you to Disney Theatrical for providing me with much higher quality versions of the photos.  Click to see them in BIG!

Monday, 11 November 2013

On Sale Today - Aladdin on Broadway!

Today's the day!  Earlier today Aladdin's official website received a bit of a make over.  Cast and creative details have been added, an FAQ and a new "About The Show" section including updates from Twitter and Facebook.  Best of all, the show's official opening night is confirmed as Thursday March 20th 2014 and priority tickets are now on sale!!

Tickets go on sale to the general public December 2nd but if you sign up to receive email alerts then you will receive a priority access code that allows you to purchase tickets between now and December 1st at special discounted rates.  That's right, not only do you get priority access to tickets, you get them cheaper as well!!  If, like me, you signed up for emails months ago but didn't receive a pre-sale email try signing up again with a new email address. I didn't get the email, signed up again today and got nothing, then Jane signed up a few hours later with her email address (which hadn't signed up before) and it came straight through.  I'm now counting the days until we see the show!  I can't wait :)

In addition to regular tickets, Aladdin also offers Premium tickets that include superior seating, a complimentary non-alcoholic beverage, a souvenir ticket lanyard and "unique merchandise opportunities".  I'm not sure what that last part means (a copy of the souvenir programme when they become available?) but that didn't stop me booking them!

When you book your tickets you will also have the chance to pre-purchase some of the show's merchandise (this option was for standard and premium tickets so these aren't the "unique merchandise opportunities").  Here's the show towel and the Genie's Lamp ornament;

And yes, I bought these as well!  I figured it'd save me money when I'm there!

So what are you waiting for? If you're planning on going to New York to see the show next year head on over to, sign up for priority ticket access and book those tickets.  Aladdin: Broadway's New Musical Comedy is now booking from February 26th through June 22nd 2014!

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Aladdin Toronto Previews Update and Song List

Disney's Aladdin has been taking audiences in Toronto on a magic carpet ride for just over a week now, but if you were there last night then you weren't seeing exactly the same show as previous audiences.  Like with all good preview runs, Aladdin's creative team is watching, seeing what works and what can be improved.

Yesterday afternoon Adam Jacobs (Aladdin) posted on his official Facebook page "New lines, new changes! C'mon brain! #AladdinTO #PreviewRealness"

This is an incredibly exciting and creative time for any show and I'd love to be there to watch Aladdin as it evolves from that first preview last week to the show that will be coming to Broadway next year.

And speaking of exciting and creative, here's a short interview that Alan Menken did with The Canadian Press during Toronto rehearsals.

A very favourable early review can be found here and discussion on the Broadway World message boards is generally positive.  However it's important to remember that the show is still in previews and still changing (as evidenced above) so these comments, whilst certainly valid and interesting to read, are based on a "work in progress" production.

For me the most exciting thing to come out of these early reviews and discussions has to be the new song list for the Toronto production (if you want to compare, the Seattle song list is here);

Arabian Nights - Babkak, Omar, Kassim and Company
One Jump Ahead - Aladdin and Crowd
Proud of Your Boy - Aladdin
Arabian Nights Reprise 1 - Babkak, Omar and Kassim
Call Me a Princess - Jasmine and Attendants
Call Me a Princess Reprise - Jasmine
Babkak, Omar, Aladdin, Kassim - Babkak, Omar, Aladdin and Kassim
A Million Miles Away - Aladdin and Jasmine
Diamond in the Rough - Jafar, Iago and Aladdin
Friend Like Me - Genie and Company
Arabian Nights Reprise 2 - Babkak, Omar and Kassim
Act 1 Finale (Friend Like Me Reprise/Proud of Your Boy Reprise 1) - Genie and Aladdin

Prince Ali - Genie, Babkak, Omar, Kassim and Company
Arabian Nights Reprise 3 - Babkak, Omar and Kassim
A Whole New World - Aladdin and Jasmine
High Adventure - Babkak, Omar and Kassim
Somebody's Got Your Back - Genie, Aladdin, Babkak, Omar and Kassim
Proud of Your Boy Reprise 2 - Aladdin
Prince Ali Reprise - Jafar, Sultan and Company
Genie's Exit (Somebody's Got Your Back Reprise) - Genie
Finale Ultimo (Arabian Nights Reprise 4/A Whole New World Reprise) - Company

There's definitely been some interesting changes since the original 5th Avenue Pilot Production and last year's regional productions.

Babkak, Omar, Aladdin, Kassim has been moved to later in the show.  This used to follow Arabian Nights so Aladdin's introduction is now more in line with the film with One Jump Ahead (and I have to wonder if this means they've added in the original "It begins on a dark night..." Cave of Wonders scene as well).

One Jump Ahead Reprise is missing from the song list.  It could simply be that they're counting it with Proud of Your Boy as the original production used it as a lead in, or it could be cut as it's no longer needed with Proud of Your Boy in the show.  Personally I liked it as a lead in but I can also understand why they would cut it as Proud of Your Boy covers the same emotional beats.

Why Me (the only "new" Menken/Rice song in the Pilot Production) has been cut.  This was sung by Jafar and Iago as they cast a spell searching for the Diamond in the Rough.

Babkak, Omar, Aladdin, Kassim now takes place in the marketplace before Aladdin meets Jasmine.  Thinking about it this actually does work better.

The original Arabian Nights Reprise 2 has been cut (Toronto's Reprise 2 was Seattle's Reprise 3)  This Ashman/Menken verse was sung by Babkak, Omar and Kassim as Aladdin's "uncle" Jafar led him to the Cave of Wonders.  It has been replaced by the new Menken/Beguelin song Diamond in the Rough.

In Act 2 new reprises of Arabian Nights and Proud of Your Boy have been added.  I'm not sure about Arabian Nights Reprise 3 but I'd guess that Proud of Your Boy Reprise 2 takes place after Aladdin breaks his promise to Genie and realises he needs to tell Jasmine the truth about who he really is.

It appears that the pre-wedding reprise of High Adventure has been cut and that Sultan and the crowd have been added to Prince Ali Reprise (unless the Wedding Day Suite which included High Adventure Reprise and Prince Ali Reprise has just been renamed to the more well known Prince Ali Reprise)

That's all for this Arabian Night ;)

Edit - Thanks to Everdream0's comment below we can now confirm that (at least at the moment) One Jump Ahead Reprise is still in the show and serves as a lead in to Proud of Your Boy like it did in the Seattle Pilot and the subsequent regional and international productions.  We can also confirm that High Adventure Reprise is indeed cut from the show.

Thanks again Everdream0.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Aladdin Opens to Standing Ovations

Adam Jacobs as Aladdin in the 2011Seattle Pilot Production, Photo by Chris Bennion

 Last night's World Premiere of Aladdin received a standing ovation from a thrilled audience.  After the show Don Darryl Rivera (Iago) tweeted "What a beautiful sight to see a standing ovation on our first preview! #AladdinTO #CanYouFeelTheLoveTonight #WhoopsOtherShow" and James Monroe Iglehart (Genie) tweeted simply "I love this show! @Aladdin having a ball!"

There were reports of a few technical difficulties, but this is live theatre and that's why they have preview runs before the show officially opens.  I still remember seeing the first preview of The Little Mermaid in Denver and being told if we were really lucky we might even see a stage hand ("they're wearing black and don't have fins").  Despite the minor technical hiccups the audience loved the show and online reactions have been overwhelmingly positive, Aladdin is off to an incredible start.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Today's the Day - A Whole New World in A Whole New Way

It's finally here!  Tonight is the World Premiere of Disney Theatrical's new, Broadway bound, production of Aladdin!!  There's nothing left to say now but good luck to everyone involved.  It's been a long journey from the early work shops and original Pilot Production and it's all been leading to this.  This is your moment, you've earned it, enjoy it.  Best wishes to you all.  Let's make some magic!