In Spring of 1994, ‘Beauty and the Beast’ made the smooth transition from on screen to The Great White Way.
Here we are 20 Years later.
On Tuesday March 11, the Dillos took in Disney’s ‘Aladdin’. Before we go there, let’s review the last two decades of The Diz on The Stage.
– Beauty & The Beast (1994) – when this film came out, it was a no brainer. It was asking to be an onstage musical. I remember the initial reception to the stage version at the Disney-MGM (I won’t call it Hollywood) Studios. People wanted to hear this music – all the time! It made sense and it paid off with a wonderful run on Broadway. Is there not a day that a high school drama club is not rehearsing this somewhere?
– The Lion King (1997) – I was working at the Studios when they announced that Simba, Rafiki, Timon and the gang would head to the stage. I remember a great many of us cast member being horrified. Then, ‘The Circle of Life’ happened and beauty consumed the audience. It took me seven years to see it. I managed to snag a 9th row aisle seat on a Saturday night in January. I’ve heard great many tales of weeping during the opening. Surely, enough time has passed that this would not…. wait, wait, what are theses tears streaming down my face.
– Tarzan (2006) – I’m not going to lie to all of you – I haven’t even been able to see the last Disney movie I ever bought on VHS. I certainly didn’t see the show.
– Mary Poppins (2006) – A lovely production. Great casting. Excellent moments such as Bert walking the stage’s proscenium, upside down and all. The ‘Supercala…’ number left me a bit horrified, but you can’t have it all.
– The Little Mermaid (2008) – I would read the reviews of this production to my theatre classes. I couldn’t bring myself to see it. I didn’t want the movie to be tainted.
– Newsies (2012) – Still on my wish list. Love the music. Admittedly made out through the second half of this movie when I saw it in theaters.
Which brings us to…
I don’t want to get all NY Times Review here so let me begin by saying that the show is still in previews, so there is some hope for change.
There probably won’t be change as audiences loved it.
I did not love it. I’m not even sure I liked it. I might settle for ‘it was fine’.
Having lived a lot of my professional life in theatre, and the last twelve years of my life as a dramaturge, adaptation of material is something I am hyper sensitive to. It’s tricky. Change can be good, but it’s a delicate balance and from ‘Arabian Nights’ forward I felt like I was on a teeter totter with a walrus.
Jonathan Freeman, the voice of Jafar on screen, returns here to steal the show in my eyes with Don Darryl Rivera as Iago. They are excellent together and Rivera’s parroting is worth a good number of laughs.
Iago is not a parrot in this production. He’s a human.
And that’s okay. It works. It works well.
There’s no Abu – there’s a trio of friends who may be familiar to some of you (Babkak, Omar, Kassim). They have a fun, blatant rip off of every Scooby Doo and Looney Tunes chase scene in the second half, but are so poorly developed in the first act it makes it hard to get into their shenanigans.
Nothing you can do because the audience loved them.
Jasmine doesn’t have Rajah – she has a harem trio. They seemed like fun, but there wasn’t enough of them.
Hey, this is just a thought, why not have these trios parallel each other. And develop relationships with one another during the second half. Or, better yet, have only one best friend on both sides – ala the Commedia dell’Arte’s Arlecchino and Columbina – that way it will simplify things.
Aladdin & Jasmine hold the fort down like good Innamorati (‘Lovers’) do.
And then there’s The Genie.
‘A Friend Like Me’ brings the house down in Act One. A standing ovation.
I didn’t stand.
It certainly was high energy. It certainly brought us out of the first half lull that followed ‘One Jump Ahead’.
It had it’s moments. It just didn’t feel complete. Genie, and the show overall, could have benefitted overall from greater or, rather, consistent production value (yes, even though it has a flying carpet).
I suppose I was expecting an expanded version of this:
I had check out by the time the ‘Prince Ali’ Act Two opener was over. If you appreciate the Howard Ashman demo from The Music Behind the Magic box set (as I do), the song’s into will bring a smile to your face – but the number serves as a metaphor for the rest of the musical.
There was a severe lack of pomp and circumstance in my eyes – a princely a boo boo – but not to the rest of the overly enthusiastic audience.