If you’re looking for a carbon copy of the popular Disney film “Aladdin,” seeing Tuacahn’s stage adaptation may not be the best place to look. However, in my opinion, the additional characters, songs and amazing technical elements at Tuacahn served to enhance this familiar story in most cases, making a trip to see this version an experience that will not disappoint.
As with all of Tuacahn’s recent Disney adaptations, the technical elements immediately stand out as the production’s strength. Yet beneath a heavy curtain of pyrotechnics, a three-dimensional segment, magic tricks and actors in flight, there is a talented cast of actors, singers and dancers who do an excellent job of weaving the storyline into the spectacular sights.
Of the several standout performances, Edward Juvier’s portrayal of Genie immediately moves to the front of the line – and not just because he’s the only blue man on the stage. He has some tough shoes to fill, thanks to Robin Williams’ unforgettable performance in the film, but I dare say Juvier’s energy and talent was right on the mark. I was exhausted just watching him and am in awe that he can summon such strength night after night.Genie’s entrance is no less awe-inspiring – taking place in a segment that involves the human actors interacting with 3D images on stage. Even though I have not jumped on the 3D movie bandwagon myself, I thought it was ingenious to include this component considering the current popularity of 3D films, and it certainly added to the wow-factor of the show, as well as making it possible to portray the Cave of Wonders in a way that would have been difficult without that technology.
While some audience members may resist the idea of additional unfamiliar musical numbers in the show, I felt that, in this particular play, the new songs provided some of the best opportunities to showcase the vocal prowess of the leads.
Of course, having the lovebirds flying on a magic carpet over the audience members’ heads during the popular duet didn’t hurt either.Omitting Aladdin’s monkey pal, Abu, from the script and replacing him with three street musicians – Babkak (Paul C. Vogt), Omar (Randy Aaron) and Kassim (Todd Dubail), was likely one of the biggest differences between the cartoon version and the one unfolding on stage. Their narration, laced with campy humor and audience interaction, moved the story along and added a number of laughs along the way.
And what Disney show would be complete without a villain? In this case, Jafar’s (Michael G. Hawkins) parrot sidekick was replaced by a human version of Iago (Jeff Asch), who not only did an excellent job filling the role of the submissive underling, his performance often surpassed that of Jafar’s, making them a dynamic duo to watch.
Ultimately, however, it seemed to be the technical elements that drew the biggest reactions from the crowd. From the live camels in the opening scene to the magic tricks Genie has up his sleeve, “Aladdin” lives up to its promise to take the crowd on a magical ride to “a whole new world.”