Monday, 30 May 2016

A Star is Born!

Wow!  What an amazing way to start a West End run!

I'm not going to review the show yet (as incredible as Friday's performance was, it was still a first preview and it's not fair to the cast or creative team to review the show whilst they're still working to make it the very best it can be) but as first impressions go Aladdin burst on to the West End in spectacular style!

'Arabian Nights' is still my favourite opening to any Disney show.  When they gather the full cast on stage and Genie joyfully proclaims "Everybody sings!" that wall of music just hits you and it feels amazing.  The energy in this show is insane and the ensemble give everything they've got, especially here and in the show stopping 'Friend Like Me'.  It's no exaggeration to say they make the show what it is.

The cast, from leads Dean John-Wilson and Jade Ewen as Aladdin and Jasmine through to Nathan Amzi, Rachid Sabitri and Stephen Rahman-Hughes as Aladdin's new trio of friends all gave great performances and I'm looking forward to seeing them all again on opening night.  In fact I want to give a special shout out for the trio as 'High Adventure' had me in stitches, easily one of the best songs in the show.

Trevor Dion Nicholas as Genie
A year ago I was fortunate enough to see Trevor Dion Nicholas play Genie on Broadway.  It was only after the show that I learnt it was his first night.  I never would have guessed.  I wrote back then that Trev "gave a phenomenal performance ... he didn't have easy shoes to fill but he rose to the challenge and gave the audience everything they could wish for in a Genie."

On Friday night he proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was born to play this role.  I saw a star being born on that stage and I wasn't alone.  I've never seen a mid show standing ovation in the UK before (heck, I've been to shows where they don't even get an ovation at the curtain call) but Trevor, along with Dean and the incredible ensemble, brought the audience to their feet for a well deserved ovation after the tour de force that is 'Friend Like Me'.  If there is any justice in the world this will do for Trevor what it did for James Monroe Iglehart in America.  Put his name on the Olivier Award now!

There's been some minor changes to localise the show for the UK.  Some of them worked great (I loved Genie's "No, I'm from New York!" and the Bruce Forsyth reference had the crowd howling), others felt a little like change just for the sake of change (I preferred the old Pyramid joke to the Ibiza reference) but that mostly just comes down to personal preference.

With this being a first preview there were one or two minor issues.  The microphone levels seemed to be slightly off during 'These Palace Walls' and in the finale I could see something that I shouldn't have been able to (and never have before even from the front row at the New Amsterdam).  I'd also love just a little more energy from 'Babkak, Omar, Aladdin, Kassim' as, whilst a great performance, it didn't quite capture that "I want to get up and join in" feeling that it has on Broadway.  I know that's not a fair comparison and it seems like an insane ask from a cast that is already giving so much but I know they have it in them, they proved it many times over on that stage on Friday.  And I'll be honest, I know that these (and any other issues) will be long sorted by opening night.  In fact, they probably have been already!

If Friday night is any indication Aladdin is going to be the biggest thing to hit the West End this year.  The audience loved every second and the show received two well deserved standing ovations.  My hands were still raw the next day from clapping so much.  As we were driving home on Saturday all I kept thinking was "I wish we'd bought tickets for tonight, I don't want to wait another two weeks to see it again."  This show isn't a diamond in the rough, it's shining, shimmering, splendid and I can't wait for everyone to see it!

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