Where is the Broadway that I know? It used to be the place where new Musicals would be performed. The place when new melodies and rhythms and great dancing was put out there onstage for all to see on a professional level. When a new musical came out, you would rush to get tickets because you knew nothing about the musical and couldn’t wait to see what it was all about. That was the greatness of Broadway. It was the only place when new writers, choreographers, singers, musicians and set designers could show off their new ideas, get paid well, maybe even get famous and get a Tony award at the end of the day. Broadway used to be fresh and exciting for both the talented artists and audiences alike.
The Broadway of today is quite different. It is full of revivals and tribute shows to famous bands, artists and now even movies. You are forced to sing along with songs you have heard over and over again for the past thirty years. The dancing is all alike. The dancers look like exercise videos put on fast forward. Nothing new in set design because you know the scenes and actors roles already. I am talking about Jersey Boys, Carole King, The Lion King, Spider Man, Mary Poppins, Cinderella and now Aladdin; all stuff we already know about. Even Rocky which is based on the Sylvester Stalone movies from the past. Dancing boxers. Really?
We should just call Broadway Disney movies gone live and forget about anything new. The Aladdin show is a classic Arabian fantasy complete with a wish granting genie played hilariously by Robin Williams in the original movie. The best part of the cartoon was the wisecracking Genie. No one can replace Robin’s spontaneous humor preserved in the classic cartoon. I guess the best part about the Broadway production will be watching how they have a flying carpet during a live show. Not only has Disney taken over Channel 7 ABC on TV but has completely taken over Broadway with their live shows of their cartoons. I like Disney but I would like to see something new too
The cost to put on a production on Broadway can cost millions of dollars and Disney has those kinds of dollars. The most disappointing thing about this Aladdin production is the lack of giving us an Arabian feel. No Arabian dancing or music was infused into the classic unwavering story. Casey Nicholaw is the Director/ Choreographer of “Aladdin.”who had every opportunity to mix it up with at least some traditional dancing and sadly he failed to offer us any of it. The beloved 1992 movie earned 500 Million dollars and won two Oscars for best song and score. Aladdin was a mega hit and is still a classic. We were raised and now we are raising our children by watching this classic story. Casey is best known for receiving a Tony Award for his work on the musical The Book of Mormon. Casey is an old school song and dance man and does the same moves in Aladdin.
The Broadway production needed more music since there were only five songs in the Disney cartoon. Casey brought back three human characters that were originally cut from the cartoon and gave them more songs. Just more hopping around and hand waving songs totally not Arabian in any cultural sense at all. What is amazing is James Iglehart who is a 300 pound black man who is jumping and dancing all over the stage in his role as the Jeanie. Not exactly Robin Williams but he is exciting to watch his energy on stage. A major comfort is to hear Jonathan Freeman’s evil laugh in the same role he played in the 1992 cartoon as Jafar. Ok So I will stop complaining and I will watch tap dancers do their thing on stage in Arabian costumes to American music. I am sure every child in the audience will be delighted and I will think back to when my kids were young and would have loved this show.