Disney’s touring production of “Aladdin” is at the Kennedy Center through Sept. 7, and this eye-popping spectacle will entertain audiences both young and old.
Featuring dazzling costumes, epic scenery and impressive visual effects, the show pulls out all the bells and whistles. For those smitten with the 1992 animated film, the animal companions are gone, and Aladdin’s monkey has been split into three characters. Still, a talented cast ably tells the story of a “street-rat” orphan who releases a powerful genie from a lamp and uses the genie’s power to win the hand of a beautiful, headstrong princess.
Director and choreographer Casey Nicholaw (“The Book of Mormon,” “Mean Girls” and “The Prom”) spared no costs to create the kingdom of Agrabah, a fantasyland where Aladdin (a likable Clinton Greenspan) must undergo a series of dangerous adventures before he can claim the princess’s hand.
Kaenaonālani Kekoa plays a feisty Jasmine, the independent princess who balks at being married off to fulfill the kingdom’s laws. She and Greenspan have the job of creating a bond with the audience that is sometimes overwhelmed by the splashy pyrotechnics and larger-than-life scenic design.
As with the film, the production features some terrific musical numbers, and a superb orchestra performs Alan Menken’s score, with lyrics by both Tim Rice and late Baltimore native Howard Ashman. The songs include the popular “A Whole New World,” during which Greenspan and Kekoa fly through the air with ease on a magic carpet. On a “Friend Like Me,” Major Attaway as the genie, a role he fine-tuned on Broadway, leads a chorus line and shows off his impressive comic timing and sassy style.
More than once, that Broadway training pays off as Attaway ultimately steals every scene he is in. He adds an emotional depth to the show as the friendship between the genie and Aladdin blossoms beyond the master-servant stage. Additionally, when the show sometimes drags, it is Attaway whose hip-talking, fast-paced delivery gets the action back on track.
If bringing youngsters to the show, note that “Aladdin” features some mild violence with its fight scenes, and Aladdin and his friends steal food and goods from street vendors before they mend their ways. Villainy abounds as the evil Jafar (a wily Johnathan Weir) plots to take over the kingdom from Jasmine’s father, the Sultan, (a regal Jerald Vincent). Like all Disney-themed productions, however, good prevails over evil.
A super talented production team brings this glitzy production to life, with Bob Crowley’s opulent set and Gregg Barnes’ elegant costumes beautifully bathed in Natasha Katz’s lights. Ken Travis’ sound design allowed for the songs to be perfectly heard in the Kennedy Center’s Opera House, which sometimes is not always the case.
Jim Steinmeyer’s illusions and Jeremy Chernick’s special effects are stunning, and when Jasmine and Aladdin lift off on a carpet flying through a star-filled sky, magic definitely is at play.
Be sure to look out also for Jafar’s costume change just before the play ends.
For tickets, visit kennedycenter.org.