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


  1. I should just inform you you should never believe anything that Toronto Star critic writes. He hates practically all the shows he's reviews. My parents and I think he might have been a failed actor. Yet my Mom and I are always :"he must have seen something different then we did" since we loved the shows (and saw Aladdin last night)

    1. Glad you enjoyed Aladdin. As long as the audience enjoys the show that's what matters.

  2. Critics are a bunch of anti-disney jerks. I want to see Aladdin win a Tony Award for Best Musical. Those Broadway critics better like it or else.