To steal a line from Aladdin, “Do you trust me?” Then trust me when I say, “Open a new tab and either buy tickets to this candy-colored feast-for-the-senses or sign up for the $25-per-ticket digital lottery and hope you get a chance to see this absolutely gorgeous show during its four-week run at the Durham Performing Arts Center.”
You don’t need children to see Aladdin; but if you have some and can take them to only one show this year, this would be a very good choice. You don’t need to be a kid to enjoy this Technicolor spectacular with its magic spells, pyrotechnic thrills, illusions, and show-stopping musical dance numbers though!
There is much to love in Aladdin for adults too. In fact, if the entire cast of Aladdin were to perform in utter silence, you would probably still be very happy just to marvel at the stunning artistry of the sets designed by Tony Award®-winning scenic designer Bob Crowley and the breathtaking costumes designed by Tony nominee Gregg Barnes.
In fact, this production has so many award winners attached to it that it is hard to choose something that stands out when everything is so excellent. The choreography of director and choreographer Casey Nicholaw is great, the music includes the old familiar favorite tunes from the 1992 animated Disney movie and some fun new songs.
The story contains some important messages about gender and class equality, but sadly still has Princess Jasmine accepting a whole bunch of “I’m sorry I lied to you,” apologies without much thought. I suspect, however, a show called, “Girl, Aladdin is lying to you!” would not be so delightful; and this show is delightful! Every single scene and costume change is just … WOW! I was literally mouth-open-in-awe by the showstopping, “Never Had a Friend Like Me,” and “Whole New World,” numbers; and I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but the magic-carpet ride through space stands out as one of the most beautiful things that I’ve ever seen staged!
The voices of Kaenaonālani Kekoa, who plays Jasmine, and Jonah Ho’okano, who plays Aladdin, blend perfectly together; and they are both a pleasure to watch. Colt Prattes is a standout as Kassim; and Iago, played by Reggie De Leon, steals every scene that he’s in and probably has the best lines of the whole cast.
I laughed out loud, too, several times at De Leon’s dialogue and funny comebacks, and was still chuckling over some of them even after the show. Korie Lee Blossey makes the iconic Genie role his own, and adds some much-needed sass to this story that — for all of its pageantry — lacks a real sense of jeopardy.
In my opinion, if the first act had ended right after the spectacular “Never Had a Friend” number, it would have left the audience on a high and anxious to come back after intermission. Instead, it ends with the plaintive reprise of “Proud of Your Boy,”, and this choice felt a little off to me. However, despite some pacing and stilted dialogue problems, Aladdin is a very enjoyable theater experience, featuring many talented new performers that I am certain we will be seeing for years to come. Aladdin runs through Sunday, Oct. 26th. Click here for showtimes and ticket information.
WARNING: There are some loud bangs, smoke, and small explosions. So, be aware this might be intense for sensitive viewers.
REVIEWER: Nicole Noel is a former U.S. Army journalist-turned-Technical Knowledge Manager, with a love for the arts. At age seven, she wrote her first story on the wall of her basement after being told the family might have to move: “There once was a girl named Nicole who had a dog named Rat and they lived in this house.” She liked the way that you could capture a moment in a sentence, and still does. These days Nicole lives with her daughter, and a dog named Buffy, in a house in Fuquay-Varina. Click here to read her reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.