Thursday, 20 February 2014

Big Changes for Broadway's Aladdin

This week's Press Day saw a LOT of information released about Disney's Aladdin.  In addition to the official First Look video and character portraits there's been a ton of interviews and images coming out from the event.  I'll be posting a big round up post this weekend but I couldn't wait to share this video from Broadway World.

The 15 minute video features interviews with stars Adam Jacobs, Courtney Reed, James Monroe Iglehart and Jonathan Freeman along with Director and Choreographer Casey Nicholaw and Writer and Lyricist Chad Beguelin.  It's a great video and well worth watching, but part way through Casey Nicholaw drops a small bombshell - Babkak, Omar and Kassim are no longer the narrators of the show!!

For those who don't know, Babkak, Omar and Kassim are Aladdin's 3 friends from the streets of Agrabah.  The original version of Aladdin was envision by Howard Ashman as much more of a Hope-Crosby road movie with his 3 friends serving as both characters and narrators.  During the development of the movie these characters, along with Aladdin's mother and a wealth of Ashman/Menken music, were cut from the film.  When developing the show for Broadway the creative team went back to the original vision for Aladdin and restored Babkak, Omar and Kassim as Aladdin's friends and narrators.

Brian Gonzales, Andrew Keenan-Bolger and Brandon O'Neill as Babkak, Omar and Kassim in the 5th Avenue Pilot Production of Aladdin with James Monroe Iglehart and Adam Jacobs as Genie and Aladdin, Photo by Chris Bennion

It stayed that way from the 5th Avenue's Pilot Production back in 2011 right the way through to the recent pre-Broadway run in Toronto.  Not any more.  According to Nicholaw, whilst Babkak, Omar and Kassim are still Aladdin's friends, in the Broadway production they will no longer be narrators.

This is a pretty major change.  As narrators, Babkak, Omar and Kassim consistently broke the 4th wall to joke with the audience and also helped moved the show along as they sang several reprises of Arabian Nights throughout the show.  Whilst removing them as narrators won't affect the story it has the potential to make a massive difference to both the tone and the pace of the show.

It also raises several questions;

If the trio are no longer narrators does that mean there is no longer a narrator in the show or has that role been given to the ensemble?
If the whole narrator idea has been cut (or reduced to just the start of the show/lead in to the original Arabian Nights) does that mean that the Arabian Nights reprises are cut?
If the reprises are cut will there be any new songs to replace them?  How Quick They Forget maybe, or new material for the lead characters?
Has the cast album been recorded and, if so, was it recorded before or after these changes?

We won't have to wait too long for answers as Broadway previews begin in less than a week!  That said, I won't be looking for or posting any plot details here until after the show opens in March.  I'm lucky enough to be seeing the show next month and, since it sounds like it's changed a lot since I saw it at the Tuacahn, I want to be surprised.  I'll still be covering all the news in the run up though!

Personally, I'm a little sad to hear that Babkak, Omar and Kassim are no longer narrators, I really enjoyed them in that role when I saw the show.  That said, all the comments out of Toronto were that the changes made during its pre-Broadway run made the show stronger.  I trust the creative team and know that they've done this to make the show better.  I can't wait to see what they have in store next month!

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