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Aladdin ~ The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

Jordan Wright
July 22, 2019 

For those of you who love fantasy and adventure with royalty and villains, Disney’s Aladdin sits at the pinnacle of Broadway extravaganzas.  I doubt there’s ever been any production with more glitter, more sequins, more light-reflecting crystal beads, fields of chiffon, sky-high feathered turbans and all-around glitz and glamour on one stage since Florence Ziegfeld’s Follies.  The pyrotechnics and projections alone make this a must-see.

Friend Like Me ~ Aladdin North American Tour. Photo by Deen van Meer

Everything you might expect from an Arabian spectacle is all here in eye-popping splendor, thanks to multiple Tony Award-winning Set Designer Bob Crowley.  If only desert life was this colorful.  Moorish minarets loom over sword swallowers, belly dancers and whirling dervishes as the handsome, oh so impoverished, Aladdin tries to woo the beautiful Princess Jasmine to save her and her kingdom from the clutches of the Sultan’s Grand Vizier, Jafar, and his vertically-challenged sidekick, Iago.  Poor Aladdin, our hero is trapped in poverty, while Jasmine is trapped in a gilded cage.  Nothing is simple in the kingdom of Agraba, but there’s a lot that’s hilarious.  As Genie (played absolutely gloriously by Major Attaway) explains in his usual wry tone, “Everyone here has 0% body fat.”… except for Genie, who is a full-figured, jive-talking bundle of high-stepping, street-smart exuberance who can nail a medley of Disney show tunes as easily as he can grant three wishes.

Friend Like Me ~ Major Attaway (Genie) & Ensemble Aladdin North American Tour ~ Photo by Deen van Meer

There’s drama and frolic, and frolicsome drama as Aladdin finds himself in the aurelian ‘Cave of Wonders’ having been sent by the wicked Jafar to fetch the Genie’s golden lamp.  Predictably, it’s a set up as Jafar plans to do away with our hero and grab the lamp for his own nefarious machinations.

Arabian Nights Men ~ Photo by Deen van Meer

But wait.  Did I mention the magic carpet? Where would we be without a magic carpet ride to underscore Aladdin and Jasmine’s amorous vows to wed despite all odds?  Traveling through the starry sky the pair soar above the stage in a flight of fantasy and wonder professing their love with the musical’s most memorable number, “A Whole New World”.

Major Attaway (Genie). Aladdin North American Tour. Photo by Matthew Murphy

The score by Alan Menken (Little Shop of Horrors, Beauty and the Beast, Newsies) with lyrics by Tim Rice (Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita with Andrew Lloyd Webber), Howard Ashman (The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast) and Chad Beguelin (The Prom, The Wedding Singer, Elf), is orchestrally wonderful, fulfilling a wide range of musical styles – some you might expect with an Arabian influence and others that trend rock/pop/rap – boosted by a sizzling horn section.  The huge sound is from the Aladdin Touring Orchestra joined by the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra.

Kaena Kekoa (Jasmine) & Clinton Greenspan (Aladdin). Aladdin North American Tour. Photo by Deen van Meer

Highly recommended.  This one should be high on your wish list.  Go before you run out of wishes.

With Major Attaway as Genie; Clinton Greenspan as Aladdin; Kaenāonalani Kekoa as Princess Jasmine; Jonathan Weir as Jafar; Jerald Vincent as Sultan; Reggie De Leon as Iago; Zach Bencal as Babkak; Ben Chavez as Omar; Colt Prattes as Kassim; and over 20 performers in the ensemble cast.

Kaena Kekoa (Jasmine). Aladdin North American Tour. Photo by Deen van Meer

Directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw; Costume Design Gregg Barnes; Orchestrations by Danny Troob; Music Director/Conductor Faith Seeto; and Lighting Design Natasha Katz.

Through September 7th at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, 2700 F St., NW, Washington, DC.  For tickets and information call 202 467.4600 or visit www.Kennedy-Center.org.

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