Before I start this part of my write up I do have to say if you don't want to read any spoilers about the show then please read no further as I'll be discussing the entire story (at least as well as I can remember it now!) and the changes that have been made from the film. So if you don't want to know what happens then please skip to the end of this post where I'll be covering the Tuacahn's version of the stage door experience (no spoilers there, I promise!).
Ok, on with the show...
One of the first things that stikes you about the Tuacahn's stage is both how large it is and how open it is. I know that's a silly thing to say about an amphitheatre stage, but this was the first time I've ever been to an outdoor theatre (let's face it, it rains way too much for us to do this in Britain!). There's no lights that can go down at the start of the show, no curtain to hide the stage from view before the music starts. The red rock backdrop is perfect for a show like Aladdin, and the sides of the stage, designed to blend into their natural background, could have been designed especially for the show (and were used to great effect in it, but more on that later).
It's interesting to note that there is no Overture for Aladdin (at least I can't remember there being one and there isn't one listed in the Playbill) but in fairness it doesn't need one. The backdrop has already set our desert scene, and as the sun is going down the familiar notes of Arabian Nights begin to play.
Riding atop live camels Babkak, Omar and Kassim come onto the stage singing the opening verse of Arabian Nights (the "flat and immense" lyrics for those interested). They pause after the first verse with Kassim saying that nights like this always remind him of their old friend, Aladdin.
|Left to Right - Paul C. Vogt as Babkak, Randy Aaron as Omar and Todd Dubail as Kassim, Photo by Tuacahn|
This introduction works brilliantly for these three new characters, presenting them to the audience in a way that identifies them as both the narrators of the story and as Aladdin's friends and characters within the story. It also works wonderfully for the show itself, opening it in a way that is at once familiar but at the same time new and exciting.
|Randy Aaron as Omar and Ensemble, Photo by Tuacahn|
At this point it feels right to comment on the costumes seen so far. The costumes, designed by Wilma Mickler, are fantastic and, more importantly, feel right for Aladdin. If you imagined them animated they'd fit right in with the designs from the film. Babkak, Omar and Kassim's costumes, whilst not quite as colourful as the originals worn in 5th Avenue's production last summer, still give each character a unique look that fits their personality and allows them to stand out from the ensemble.
Back to the story. Kassim compliments Omar on his dance moves in the last chorus and the guys begin to look for a good spot for their band to play in the bustling Agrabah marketplace, but someone is missing. They can't quite put their finger on who it is so Kassim steps over to the audience and asks to borrow a programme. He turns to the Cast of Characters page and begins to read out the names "Tracy Turnblad..." This draws a laugh from the audience (Tuacahn is presenting Aladdin and Hairspray on alternate nights and they share a playbill) and confused looks from Omar and Babkak who tell Kassim they think he's pronouncing the names wrong, though Babkak does recognise the name Edna Turnblad (whom Paul C. Vogt is playing). Finally Kassim finds the right page and begins reading out their names. As he comes to Aladdin's name Al comes running onto the scene (to massive applause). After a bit of banter they decide to sing the number they did for Mesopotamia's Got Talent - Babkak, Omar, Aladdin, Kassim.
I honestly feel that the interactions between Babkak, Omar and Kassim are one of the strongest parts of the show. You can just feel the actors having fun with their roles and this type of banter, audience interaction and a fair amount of ad libbing continues throughout the show. One of the best parts about the script for Aladdin is the freedom it gives to certain characters (namely Babkak, Omar, Kassim and especially Genie) to just go with the flow. In Seattle there were jokes about cheap sets and props as the show was done on a budget for a 3 week run, here there are a few jokes about Hairspray and past Tuacahn productions which play well to the local audience (well I say "local", whilst we were there Tuacahn proudly announced one night that they had guests in the audience from over twenty countries and over thirty states) More importantly it helps to keep the show fresh, allowing material like the Genie's pop culture references to stay up to date - which I'll cover more later).
|Left to Right - Paul C. Vogt as Babkak, Randy Aaron as Omar, Dan Domenech as Aladdin and Todd Dubail as Kassim, Photo by Tuacahn|
|Left to Right - Paul C. Vogt as Babkak, Randy Aaron as Omar, Dan Domenech as Aladdin and Todd Dubail as Kassim, Photo by Tuacahn|
Babkak, Omar, Aladdin, Kassim is a really fun song and features some great harmonies from the guys as they, literally, sing for their supper. Unfortunately for them someone switches the turban they were passing round, stealing their money and leaving them all hungry. At that moment the bakers cart comes passed offering fresh bread for sale. Kassim asks if Aladdin's thinking the same as him. "I am but I wish I wasn't." Aladdin promised his dying mother that he'd stop stealing... or at least try to cut down! Not detered Kassim asked if Aladdin's promise included him, Al tells him it didn't so Kassim steals a loaf of bread, only to be caught be Razoul (played by Eddy Schumacher). Kassim throws the bread to Aladdin as he and the others run. Aladdin tries to run as well but is blocked in by the guards. He manages to escape, dodging into the crowd as he sings One Jump Ahead.
|Dan Domenech as Aladdin, Eddy Schumacher as Razoul and ensemble, Photo by Tuacahn|
|Dan Domenech as Aladdin, Photo by Tuacahn|
As the marketplace begins to clear Aladdin stands in a lonely spotlight, singing One Jump Ahead Reprise as the crowd departs, people bumping into him and pushing past him as if he were worthless and they didn't even notice he was there. Alone on stage Aladdin vows that he's going to change and show everyone ("even you ma") then sings the beautiful Proud of Your Boy.
|Dan Domenech as Aladdin, Photo by Tuacahn|
And now we have our first real scene change as the action shifts to the palace in the show's first split scene (a narrative device which Babkak, Omar and Kassim explain to the audience is designed to keep up the pace going and is use to quite comical effect in Aladdin) with events happening in both the throne room and in Jasmine's chambers, where Babkak, Omar and Kassim are sat with Jasmine's attendants as they sing the first Arabian Nights Reprise to set the scene (before leaving, much to Omar's dismay).
|Michael G. Hawkins as Jafar sits on the Sultan's throne, Photo by Tuacahn|
|Haley Carlucci as Princess Jasmine with her attendants, Photo by Tuacahn|
In the throne room the three suitors arrive. Prince Abdullah, Prince Salim and Prince Hasim. Jasmine appears in a garish pink outfit and in full spoilt brat mode, yelling "Daddy!!" as she arrives with her attendants. As the princes bow to her she tells them to bow lower, and lower, and lower, until she yells "LOWER!" and they sink flat onto the floor as she begins to sing Call Me a Princess.
I'll be honest, I never really liked the demo of the song or the idea of the princess being a spoilt brat, but by turning the idea on its head and having Jasmine act like a spoilt brat, writer Chad Beguelin has cleverly given the song a new lease of life, turning it from obnoxious to mischievous and playful, and Haley Carlucci has great fun playing up the rebelious side of Jasmine in this number with some hilarious choreography that ends with the princes fighting over not who gets to stay but who gets to run away.
|Haley Carlucci as Jasmine, Bob Walton as Sultan and Chris Warn Gilbert as Prince Abdullah|
Jasmine's costume is, like Aladdin's, a nice "real world" version of her animated outfit. The big changes are for the Sultan, Jafar and Iago. With the exception of Iago, the Sultan has gone through the biggest appearance change from the film for this production. Gone are the white robes and in is the brightly coloured purple and red kaftan seen above. Whilst I like the costume I do personally prefer the look from the film. That said, the multicoloured robes he wears in the Tuacahn production are certainly fitting of a royal in the historical setting of the show and they also provided a greater distinction in appearance between the Sultan and Aladdin later in the show once Aladdin becomes Prince Ali. Jafar and (the now human) Iago in this production both wear mostly black robes with some yellow. Whilst they don't look like they've stepped off the screen in the way Aladdin and Jasmine do, they do look very good together and the colour scheme instantly sets them apart from our brightly coloured heroes as the villains of the piece.
Whilst the main stage is in darkness the right rock area lit up to highlight Jafar's lair at the top (both sides of the stage had man made rock areas that covered the wing you can see them in the last photo in the first part of my write up, rock area certainly isn't a technical term but it'll do for this write up!). Jafar finally has the right spell to find out the location of the Cave of Wonders. Michael G. Hawkins and Jeff Asch play off each other perfectly as the evil duo. Iago may be a human now (with a few references to his parrot origins like Jafar asking "Must you parrot everything?") but his character remains true to the film. When the "Spooky Voice" is telling them they must seek out the diamond in the rough, it's Iago who replies that he's not telling the voice how to do it's job, but would it mind being a bit more specific.
|Michael G. Hawkins and Jeff Asch as Jafar and Iago|
The next morning we're back in Agrabah marketplace with Aladdin and his band. Babkak, like always, is hungry, but Aladdin is distracted by a beautiful girl he's never seen before. In a great little moment Kassim plays the Abu role, waving his hand in front of Aladdin to try and get his attention. The guys know that if there's one thing that can break up a band then it's a girl!! But when Jasmine gets it trouble for stealing an apple to help a starving child, Aladdin jumps into action to save her.
|Dan Domenech and Haley Carlucci as Aladdin and Jasmine and ensemble, Photo by Tuacahn|
As they run away the scene changes to a quieter part of Agrabah (the set is fantastic here, the side sets slide off stage and the centrepiece rotates revealing a second story that serves as Aladdin's home). Together they climb up to Aladdin's home. It's not much, and Aladdin quickly tries to tidy away some of the clutter to impress Jasmine, but it's got a great view. And I have to hand to to the Tuacahn here, projected onto the wall at the back of the seating is the Sultan's palace, so in this scene Aladdin and Jasmine actually do have a view of the palace as they look out over the audience. The scene is beautifully stage as Aladdin and Jasmine both express their desire for what the other has and how they feel trapped in the lives they currently lead. They think that maybe life would be better if they just left everything behind, started out somewhere new. This leads into the beautiful new duet A Million Miles Away which is easily my favourite of the new songs written especially for the show by Alan Menken and Chad Beguelin. The simple staging and lighting perfectly captures the mood of the piece, ending with a gorgeous silhouette of Aladdin and Jasmine in each others arms as the lights go down for a moment.
|Dan Domenech and Haley Carlucci are A Million Miles Away as Aladdin and Jasmine, Photo by Tuacahn|
Jafar is also hunting for Aladdin and, seeing him caught by the guards, steals a beggars clothes (which is hilariously staged).
Revealing her true identity to the guards, Jasmine demands that Aladdin is released. When Razoul refuses, telling her she;ll have to speak with the Sultan, she promises Aladdin she'll speak with her father and no harm will come to him. Razoul has other plans and goes to kill Aladdin as soon as Jasmine has left. Jafar (now disguised as an old man with Iago) cries out for them to stop. He introduces himself as Aladdin's uncle ("Yeah, how you doin' unc?" says a rather unconvinced Aladdin) and offers to pay the guards for the boy's release. At this a third arm (Iago's) appears out of the "uncle's" robes offering Razoul a bag of money. Razoul takes it and warns Aladdin not to get in trouble again.
Jafar and Iago then introduce themselves to Aladdin and ask for his help. Like in the film they film they need a young pair of legs and a strong back to help them retrieve the lamp, and in return they promise him treasure enough to win him the princess despite his humble lineage. Feeling he owes them for saving his life, Aladdin agrees to go with them and help them find the lamp.
And here is where I'm afraid my memory fails me. The Playbill lists the next scene as "Inside the Royal Palace" before we move on to the second Arabian Nights Reprise, but I can't for the life of me remember the scene. I can only think that it was a very short scene where Jasmine confronts her father about Aladdin's arrest and learns that Jafar will already have had him executed for his crimes, with the Sultan comforting her but still insisting she be married (if anyone can correct me on this then please feel free to let me know in the comments section below!!).
As the scene changes back to the desert, Babkak, Omar and Kassim appear from a trap door at the front of the stage playing cards. "Go fish" says Babkak, "Nah, that was last year's show" replies Kassim, referencing Tuacahn's production of The Little Mermaid. They tell the audience it's not time for their 3D glasses yet, but to get them ready. On the desert path behind the stage, Jafar and Iago lead Aladdin to the Cave of Wonders as our narrators sing the second Arabian Nights Reprise (I know I keep going on about the guys harmonies but they were really, really good). They re-enter the main stage through the cave in the right rock area, Iago jumping and counting their steps until they arrive at... nothing (which Iago points out to Jafar). Aladdin is starting to have some doubts about this treasure hunt and the company he's keeping, especially when Iago pulls a dagger on him as he tries to leave and then gives him a torch, pointing him towards the centre of the stage. As Aladdin approaches centre stage, the Cave of Wonders appears, uttering the famous line "Who disturbs my slumber?"
|Aladdin (Dan Domenech) approaches the Cave of Wonders, Photo by Tuacahn|
As in the movie the Cave of Wonders recognises Aladdin as the "Diamond in the Rough" who is worthy to enter and claim the lamp. Al's not convinced but with Jafar and Iago behind him, Iago still armed with his knife, he enters the cave. As he enters the image of the Cave of Wonders expands rapidally so that its mouth appears to engulf Aladdin as he lowers down a trap door, entering the cave as all the lights go out.
|Aladdin (Dan Domenech) enters the Cave of Wonders, Photo by Tuacahn|
The 3D section is a Tuacahn addition to the show written by director Scott Anderson and with effects produced by former Disney Imagineer Geoff Puckett. The initial cave section sees Aladdin exploring several paths through the Cave of Wonders, ducking away from bats and surviving an attack by a giant spider. The effects look good, but the real magic comes when Aladdin finally comes to the treasure chamber (real sets open at this point to reveal piles of gold and jewels on stage in addition to the treasure room on the 3D screen). Seeing the lamp, Aladdin reaches for it only for the lamp to float out of reach. After a few attempts by Aladdin the lamp zooms out over the audience and then settles atop a large pile of gold on the screen, leaving Aladdin no choice but to enter the screen and climb the pile of gold to claim the lamp. Emerging back on stage with the lamp Al decides that he's earned a little "finder's fee" and attempts to take some of the treasure. Like in the film, the Cave of Wonders screams out that he will never again see the light of day. The treasure sets close up back to rocks and on the 3D screen a landslide fills the cave, leaving Aladdin trapped within. This was by far the most effective use of the 3D screen so far, and the real magic was still to come.
Trapped alone with the lamp Aladdin wonders aloud what he should do, he's stuck there with just the lamp. Someone in the audience yelled out he should rub the lamp (never failed, happened at every show!). "Well, I guess I should rub it." As the lamp begins to emit smoke, Al runs to put it down "Oh, bad idea, really bad idea!" As he puts the lamp down by the corner of the 3D screen and bolt of blue energy shoots across the screen, flashing madly around, zooming out over the audience and back again before heading towards the left wing of the stage where a flash of fireworks marks the enterance of Edward Juvier's Genie!
|Edward Juvier as Genie, Photo by Tuacahn|
The Genie's costume is a pretty big departure from the costume worn by James Monroe Iglehart in last year's pilot production, with Tuacahn choosing to go back to the characters animated roots and give us a completely blue Genie! Like Aladdin and Jasmine, his costume has had extra details added which make it work better in real life, adding just a hint of gold and a second shade of blue which makes his appearance more aesthetically pleasing. It's a brave choice (the Tuacahn's production is the only US production to have done this, though I believe the Frederica's European Premiere has chosen to follow in their footsteps) and it works, Genie looks great, especially when you see the show in person.
One of his first line's to Aladdin asks what many fans of the animated classic were thinking; "Where's the monkey?" On Aladdin's confused look he continues "The parrot? The tiger?" before turning to the audience and joking "I guess they spent all the budget on the camels".
I said before that one of the best things about the book for Aladdin is the freedom given to the narrators and Genie to experiment and ad-lib. This is essential for the Genie as a core part of his character is breaking the 4th wall and using pop culture references, which have changed a lot since 1992 and will again as the show (hopefully) goes on to a long and successful run on Broadway or in future regional productions. Obviously the book can't constantly be updated so this freedom allows the director and actor to keep things fresh and up to date. It also means that you never quite get the same show twice, which is great for keeping things fresh on repeat viewings.
|Genie (Edward Juvier) explains the rules to Aladdin (Dan Domenech), Photo by Tuacahn|
Aladdin tries to say something which comes out wrong and claps his hand over his mouth prompting Genie to say "poor boy's still discombobulated". Aladdin takes his hand off his mouth and relies "I'm bobulated, I think". Genie tells him to sit and he'll explain, leading into an absolutely show stopping Friend Like Me.
This is where the 3D screen really comes into its own as it allows Tuacahn to change the background/setting quickly and smoothly without any physical change of set. It's a clever way of bringing the Genie's magic to life on a live stage. But that's not to say the effects on stage aren't equally impressive as flames magically appear from some of column A and all of column B, dancing girls appear out of thin air and Genie pulls a certain famous mouse out of his hat.
|Edward Juvier as Genie and ensemble, Photo by Tuacahn|
|Edward Juvier as Genie pulls Mickey Mouse from his hat, Photo by Tuacahn|
There's a new section next as Aladdin and Genie play "Genie or No Genie" which includes passing one of Genie's magical boxes between the screen and the stage, which allows for some great dialogue between Aladdin and Genie as Genie tries to convince Aladdin which box to pick.
Like in the film, Aladdin calls Genie's bluff, saying he bets he can't even get them out of the cave. Genie turns to face the rockslide that once again fills the 3D screen, spreads his arms, and in another fantastic Disney moment begins to sing the opening chant from The Lion King's Cirlce of Life. As he does this the rock slide reverses and on stage the cave sets slide away back into the wings. As Genie and Aladdin depart via the centre stage trap door, Aladdin tells Genie he still has 3 wishes left, despite feeling sheepish, Genie pops his head back up to tell the audience "I'm startin' to like this guy."
|"Sahara reason not to?" - Todd Dubail, Randy Aaron and Paul C. Vogt as Kassim, Omar and Babkak|
The time the action is split between the palace and the desert, where Aladdin and Genie are finally free from the Cave of Wonders.
If I'm remembering right the palace scene very similar to the film (if I'm not I'm very sorry, I've deliberately not watched the film since seeing the show but when I'm unsure on the details my mind keeps jumping back to it anyway as it tries to fill in the blanks!). Jafar is apologising to Jasmine for Aladdin's execution, he was simply carrying out his duty, and she threatens to get rid of him when she is Queen. After she and the Sultan leave (him still trying to convince her she needs to marry a prince by her next birthday), Jafar and Iago begin to plot how to take over the kingdom now they have failed to get the lamp.
In the desert, Aladdin is asking Genie what he would wish for if he had 3 wishes. At first he's reluctant to say, but after a bit of persuading he confesses he would wish for freedom. This was an excellent scene between Dan Domenech and Edward Juvier, for the majority of the show Edward's Genie is full of energy and jumping around the stage, the quiet stillness he had in this moment gave it a very powerful contrast to the rest of his performance. When Aladdin promises he'll use his third wish to grant Genie his freedom, all that energy comes back as Genie asks Aladdin what he wants most.
"Well, there's this girl..." Aladdin begins to reply before Genie cuts him off, reminding him he can't make anyone fall in love, besides he doesn't need Genie for that, "Beiber Fever, remember?" But, she's the princess and that's something Genie can help him with. Aladdin is ready to make his first wish, to be a prince.
As Genie gives Aladdin a magical make over, he begins the Act 1 Finale with a short reprise of Friend Like Me. The change from Aladdin to Prince Ali is handled well, with members of the female ensemble bringing a screen out for Aladdin to do a quick change whilst Genie sings. As Genie finishes out steps our prince. But Genie isn't done yet, he has a whole parade to organise, so he exits, leaving Aladdin alone in the spotlight.
Looking at his new clothes, at himself as a prince, Aladdin realises this is the moment to change that he's been waiting for as he brings Act 1 to a close with a reprise of Proud of Your Boy. And I have to say, Chad Beguelin and Alan Menken did Howard Ashman proud with the lyrics to this, and Dan sang it perfectly. It was one of the few moments in the show where I got tears in my eyes every time I saw it.
After a short interval Act 2 begins with the traditional Entr'acte, then Kassim strides to centre stage, now dressed in his finest, takes out a scroll and begins to sing the original (cut) opening of Prince Ali before Babkak and Omar come running out, similarly dressed in royal looking white outfits and with scrolls of their own. "Sorry we got caught in wardrobe" they tell Kassim (and the audience), to which he replies "Do you mind? I'm on a scroll." Together they continue the opening of the song, until Kassim reaches the line "and this time he's chosen your land", at which point he goes off with some crazily impressive riffs to mass applause from the audience (which he thanks them for) and a significantly less impressed "oohh" from Babkak.
As the guys finish their intro, and the familiar music from the film begins to play, they step to the side of the stage. On the desert path behind the stage, coming from both sides, is a full on parade, including people on horse back! They meet in the middle and, led by Genie, begin to make their way to the main stage. As they get closer the palace gate set slides into place and they pass through the gates onto the stage as the main song begins.
|Genie (Edward Juvier) leads Prince Ali's parade onto the stage, Photo by Tuacan|
|Edward Juvier as Genie and ensemble, Photo by Tuacahn|
Finally Aladdin enters through the palace gates, sat on a throne and carried by four servants, as Genie brings the number home and fireworks go off from the top of the gates. A truely spectacular way to open the second act.
|"He's here! He's Prince Ali!" - Dan Domenech as Aladdin/Prince Ali and ensemble, Photo by Tuacahn|
The Sultan is over joyed to have such an impressive new suitor for his daughter, especially after the last 3 ran away, but Jafar is not happy to see him and questions what makes Ali think he is worthy of the princess. Putting on his best prince voice (and extremely exaggerated bow which the Sultan delights in copying and Jafar later mocks) Aladdin assures them that his is "Prince Ali of Ababwa" and he will win the princess. This doesn't work out too well for Aladdin when he realises Jasmine has been listening to them and is furious that they're treating her as a prize to be won.
As Jasmine storms off Aladdin turns to his friends for advice. Ever the romantic, Omar suggests chocolates and flowers ("There's a gift shop up the hill" he says, refering to Tuacahn's Gift Gallery store), but Kassim thinks they've tried enough and it's time to use the remaining wishes on more important things - the band. Aladdin refuses, saying that Jasmine comes first, causing Kassim to storm off, taking the others with him. He tells Al they'll be in the marketplace when he comes to his senses. As they leave Omar asks Kassim why he has to be such a bully, ever thinking about food Babkak asks "Tabouli? Did someone say tabouli?" promting shouts of "Not now Babkak!" from the others (a running joke throughout the show).
As the Sultan tries to re-assure Aladdin that he just needs to give Jasmine some time to calm down and offers him a room for the night, Jafar plots with Iago how they can be rid of the young prince (and Iago comically tries to get Jafar to admit that it was a catchy song!). After Sultan leaves, Jafar and Iago offer Aladdin some "friendly" advice, telling him that he's made a bad first impression and once Jasmine sleeps on it she won't change her mind, but he can't go to her room that would be forbidden, but he can't just let her sleep on it without trying to change her mind, her room is down the hall (the opposite direction to the room the Sultan has offered Ali), "Can't miss it, big pink door" Iago tells him. Michael G. Hawkins and Jeff Asch are a great double act, playing off each other brilliantly in every scene they're in. As Aladdin goes off Iago asks if Jafar thinks it will work, watching as Aladdin heads in the direction of Jasmine's room Jafar smiles and tells him of course it will.
Finally alone, Aladdin summons Genie (whose entrances and exits are always marked by flashes of pyrotechnics) and asks him for his advice. After admiring the palace Genie tells Aladdin that whilst he can dress him up in the fancy clothes, this part is all up to him. He has to be himself and "put the Al back in Ali". As Al thanks Genie and runs off to find the princess, Genie calls out after him asking him not to leave him alone ("You know I have abandonment issues"). Alone on stage Genie guesses it's his job to handle the scene change and (after finding the spotlight which left him when he said he had adandonment issues) proceeds to sing a chorus of All By Myself before finding some Tuacahn Nuggets and exiting by the front trap door.
The scene changes to Jasmine's room and balcony, where she thinks she is alone until Aladdin jumps over the balcony and calls out her name. She's surprised and angry to see him, telling him to "Go jump off a balcony". Realising that he's approaching this all wrong, Aladdin finally takes Genie's advice and acts like Aladdin rather than Ali, apologising and agreeing that she's not a prize to be won before jumping over the balcony. When Jasmine calls out in alarm, Aladdin pops back up, wobbling slightly as he balances on Carpet. As she asks how he's doing that, he hops back over the balcony and shows her the magic carpet.
He offers to take her for a ride, to let her get out of the palace and see the world. "Is it safe?" she asks. "Sure, do you trust me?" he replies. Recognising the boy from the market, Jasmine replies "Yes" and steps onto the carpet. The way Dan and Haley play this scene is just perfect, straight from the film. A section of the set raises slightly to give the impression that Jasmine is hovering in the air on the magic carpet. Crouched next to her Aladdin sings a short verse of A Million Miles Away, it's a beautiful new lead in to Alan Menken and Tim Rice's Oscar winning classic A Whole New World.
The carpet lowers Jasmine to the floor again and Aladdin picks it up as they move to another "carpet" centre stage, this one attached to wires that will allow it to fly. Laying the actual carpet on top, Aladdin and Jasmine sit on the flying carpet, the music starts, the carpet raises into the air and Aladdin begins to sing.
|A Whole New World - Dan Domenech as Aladdin and Haley Carlucci as Jasmine|
|Aladdin (Dan Domenech) and Jasmine (Haley Carlucci) soar over the crowd on their magic carpet ride, Photo by Tuacahn|
As the song ends Carpet returns Aladdin and Jasmine to the stage and Jasmine's room. Jasmine tells Aladdin that it's been a magical evening, even better than when they dreamed of being a million miles away and running away togther. Without thinking, Aladdin agrees, unintentionally revealing that he was the boy she met in the market. She's hurt that he didn't tell her, letting her think he'd been killed, but she understands why he lied. As they say good night, they share their first kiss.
|Dan Domenech as Aladdin and Haley Carlucci as Jasmine, Photo by Tuacahn|
All is not lost though as Omar, complete with flowers and chocolates he was bringing to help his friend win the heart of the princess, witnesses Al's arrest. Panicking, he runs to get help.
Back in the marketplace Babkak and Kassim are once again singing for their supper as Kassim tries working on new lyrics for their song ("Babkak, Omar, somebody, Kassim"). It's not going well and a bottle top is the only reward they get for their efforts from a passerby. If not for the fact that Omar isn't in this short sequence (which takes place on the left rock area of the stage), this would have been the perfect place to add in another of Ashman and Menken's lost songs, How Quick They Forget, as the guys can't believe Aladdin has broken up their quartet. But I can see how that song here might have affected the pace/flow of the show (from Aladdin/Ali's arrest the show races, in a good way, to its conclusion, there's not a single moment that feels like it drags, in fact that's true of the entire show). As it stands, Omar comes racing on to tell the guys that Aladdin's in trouble and has been taken to the palace dungeons. At first Kassim is still too angry with Aladdin, but Babkak points out that if they were in trouble Aladdin would help them. Kassim relents, they'll storm the palace and save their friend, but first they'll need weapons.
|Todd Dubail as Kassim, Randy Aaron as Omar and Paul C. Vogt as Babkak|
What can I say here that I haven't before? The vocals and harmonies from the guys are nothing short of fantastic, the choreography of the action is brilliantly done with plenty of comical moments throughout, and the fluidity of the set changes is incredible as the action moves from Agrabah marketplace to the palace gates and into the kitchens (where Babkak fights guards with a giant drumstick).
Once they have their swords (Omar saying he wants the least sharp) and after singing the first few verses, the guys burst through the palace gates and begin battling the guards, aided by some of the palace's female attendants. As well as Babkak fighting with the drumstick there are some fantastic moments in the song, like the girls singing "hi, hi, hi" before the guys come in on "adventure", Kassim battling a guard in Matrix style slow motion, Omar cutting his finger (yes, the "My finger's bleeding!" line made it into the show), Babkak deciding to sit part of the fight out on a chaise lounge and ending up just hitting guards from behind as they go past him fighting Kassim and Omar, and my personal favourite moment when Kassim comes up against a guard who shows impressive sword skills, clicks his fingers and is offered a gun which he uses to dispatch the guard Indiana Jones style.
|Babkak (Paul C. Vogt) enjoys the company of the some palace attendants as he takes a break from the battle, Photo by Tuacahn|
|Kassim (Todd Dubail) battles a guard Matrix style, Photo by Tuacahn|
Jafar tells them they'll be tortured/killed later, but he now has other plans to attend to. As Jafar leaves Iago gives Omar a fright, then runs after his master laughing that "The little one's even afraid of me!"
Once they've gone Aladdin turns to Kassim and tells him he needs to get the lamp from his back pocket. After a gag involving the dungeon's chains, Kassim is able to pass Aladdin the lamp. As he rubs it a shower curtain raises out of the ground before them and Genie can be heard singing the main theme from The Little Mermaid before letting out a scream as he realises he's not alone anymore. This is the first time Genie has met Aladdin's friends and his first comment is "Who are these guys? They weren't in the movie!" Aladdin tells Genie that his second wish is for Genie to save them from the palace dungeons, which excites Genie because that means it's time for him to be free! As Genie sings Somebody's Got Your Back he frees first Aladdin and then (after getting distracted singing and dancing with his buddy, causing the guys to ask "what about us?") Babkak, Omar and Kassim. The guys all sing and dance together, with the trio having a great line about how they "sing backup too", before Aladdin says they have to save Jasmine. He promises Genie that once Jasmine is safe he'll free him, then he and the others run off leaving Genie alone on stage again. But that's ok, Genie knows he'll soon be free as Al has his back. Singing Sombody's Got Your Back Reprise, Genie rides a one man lift up the side of the left rock area, with sparks flying as he ascends. "Yes, that is as dangerous as it looks!" he jokes as he exits.
In the palace Princess Jasmine is happily telling her father than she wants to marry Prince Ali when Jafar interupts to tell her that Prince Ali has left, but it doesn't matter as he (thanks to Iago's forgery skills) has found an ancient solution to their problem; if the princess cannot find a suitor by the appointed birthday then power shall pass to the Royal Vizier. Aladdin and his friends arrive just in time to hear this revelation. "It doesn't say that" Kassim says as he takes a look at the scroll, "It does now" Iago laughs in reply. With his forgery and imprisonment of Ali revealed, the Sultan orders Jafar's arrest. Managing to evade the guards, and Babkak, Omar and Kassim, Jafar yells "Iago, you're vile", "Oh I know, I'm disgusting" Iago replies, "No, your vial" Jafar corrects him. Realising what he means, Iago removes a small vial from his robes and in a flash of fireworks they disappear.
Whilst Jafar needs to be captured that can wait, the Sultan would rather focus on the happy news that his daughter has finally chosen her prince. He delightedly tells Aladdin that they shall be wed at once, and then Prince Ali shall become Sultan! A man of his fine moral character, who has already saved the kingdom by revealing Jafar's betrayal, is just the kind of ruler Agrabah needs.
Alone in the throne room as he prepares for the wedding, Aladdin is panicking at the thought of becoming Sultan. In a flash of light Genie appears on the throne, in full celebratory mode now that Al has saved the day and won the heart of his princess. "What are you gonna do next?" he asks him excitedly. When Aladdin doesn't answer, he prompts him that he's going to free the Genie. But Aladdin is cracking under the pressure of his lies, they want to make Prince Ali Sultan, but "without you, I'm just Aladdin." Just like their earlier scene, where Aladdin first promises to free the Genie, Dan Domenech and Edward Juvier play this really well. You can feel Aladdin's regret at breaking his promise and destroying Genie's trust in him and Genie's heartbreak as his freedom is ripped from his grasp. Aladdin tries to apologise but, in another flash of light, Genie disappears, leaving Aladdin alone with his regrets.
Unknown to Aladdin, Jafar has witnessed this exchange and realises that Prince Ali is actually the street rat Aladdin in possession of his lamp, and he (well, Iago) must get it back.
Aladdin decides that Genie's right, he has to tell Jasmine the truth before the wedding. A male attendant arrives with the Sultan's royal wedding robe which Aladdin changes into. As the attendant leaves with Aladdin's clothes, and the lamp, he's attacked (hilariously) by Iago.
Babkak, Omar and Kassim, once again in their royal white outfits as Prince Ali's attendants, come back on to the front of the stage and sing the extremely comical High Adventure Reprise. As they sing about this "very freaky wedding", Iago can be seen in the background spinning around, clinging to the attendants back as he steals the lamp, the lamp at last in his possession Jafar runs around laughing maniacally (but silently), Aladdin paces around as he contemplates how to tell Jasmine the truth and Jasmine and her attendants are preparing for the wedding, unaware of the crazyness that surrounds them. There are some great lyrics in this short song, including "There goes the groom breaking down under stress, There goes the bride (Omar) What a gown (Babkak and Kassim) Don't digress". I love the staging with the three guys narrating from the front of the stage as all the action happens behind them.
As the reprise ends the Sultan welcomes the people of Agrabah to the wedding of his daughter and Prince Ali, but before he can get much further Jafar gate crashes the wedding. Aladdin instinctively goes for the lamp only to find he doesn't have it as Genie enters dragging Jasmine behind him. Genie apologises to Aladdin, telling him he "works for Lady Gaga now" and that his first wish was to make Jasmine his prisoner.
Aladdin tries to tell Jasmine the truth but Jafar interupts, launching into Prince Ali Reprise with gleeful malice as he reveals Aladdin's secrets. Michael G. Hawkins seems to revel in playing the evil villain as he performs this song, joyfully taunting Aladdin as he brings his world crashing down around him. There are a few minor lyric changes from the film as Jafar doesn't send Aladdin to the ends of the earth, instead keeping him in Agrabah, humiliated in front of his princess.
Hi vengeance on Aladdin now complete, Jafar wishes to be Sultan and demands the crowd bow to him. When Jasmine refuses to bow or cower before Jafar, Aladdin tells him a lesson he learnt the hard way, just because the Genie has given him some fancy robes, it doesn't make him Sultan, "just like they don't make me a prince", but if it's power Jafar's after then the Genie has more power than he'll ever have. Taking the bait, Jafar wishes to be an all powerful Genie. In a shower of pyrotechnics the human Jafar vanishes and the desert behind the stage lights up with the shadowy form of the Genie Jafar. As Jasmine asks "What have you done?" Aladdin asks her once more to trust him. Over head, Jafar's power trip comes to a sudden end as he learns that, along with phenomenal cosmic power, being a Genie comes with an "itty bitty living space.
I really like way Aladdin learns his lesson here (rather than at the end) and turns it back on Jafar in this version. It was great to see Aladdin, having just been revealed as a street rat, stand up to Jafar and tell him that fancy clothes don't make him Sultan just like they didn't make him a prince. It gives Aladdin a nice arc from his street rat origins where he feels the need to be something more, to his transformation into Prince Ali at the end of Act 1, where he feels this is his moment to change, to what should be his lowest point, humiliated and disgraced by Jafar's revelations, where he instead stands tall, having realised that it's not what is outside but what is inside that counts, and shows that Aladdin is more a prince than "Prince Ali" ever was as he uses what he has learnt to defeat Jafar.
With the dark shadow of Jafar lifted, light returns to the stage and Genie hurls Jafar's lamp down a trap door to spend the next ten thousand years in the Cave of Wonders. His master defeated, Iago decides that it's time to beat a hasty retreat only to be stopped by Genie ("Hold it, you little Pokemon") and arrested. As he gets carried away protesting his innocence (it was all Jafar's fault) his last line makes one final reference to his animated self as he says "This is for the birds, really."
Reunited with the truth revealed, Jasmine tells Aladdin that she still loves him. Aladdin replies that he loves her too, but he can't marry her as he's not a prince. Genie tells him that he still has one wish left, he can be a prince again, but Al refuses, it's time he started keeping his promises. Genie is free.
As he bounds around the stage in delight, Genie tells Aladdin to wish for something outrageous like Zion National Park (one of Utah's stunningly beautiful state parks), when Aladdin does Genie laughs and tells him to get a car and drive there himself, "it's forty minutes in that direction!" Growing more serious for a moment, Genie says goodbye to his best friend, telling him "You'll always be a prince to me."
The Sultan agrees, Aladdin's actions are the most princely he's known, so from this day forward the princess may marry whoever she deems worthy. An ecstatic Jasmine says that she chooses Aladdin, who smiles as he embraces his princess telling her "Just call me Al." (and I swear Dan Domenech sounded just like Scott Weinger when he delivered this line).
Kassim however isn't quite so thrilled. He calls a time out with the Sultan and asks "You mean to tell me we went through all this, just so you could change your mind?!" The Sultan pauses for a moment before replying "Well, that's what happens on a high adventure!" I want to take a moment here to say that Bob Walton did a great job as the Sultan, I just wish he was given a little bit more to get his teeth into as he was fantastic as Wilbur Turnbald in Hairspray and had me in stitches as he performed You're Timeless to Me with Paul C. Vogt's Edna. The Sultan is probably the only character whose role didn't really get any sort of expansion in the transition from film to stage, and it would have been nice to see him get something more (perhaps a re-worked verison of To Be Free with Jasmine to fit between Call Me a Princess and Call Me a Princess Reprise?). That said, the pace/flow of the show is fantastic and I would hate to see it messed with too much, and the Sultan doesn't need a song in the same way Maurice and King Triton did in Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid.
Anyway, back to the ending! The crowd laugh at the Sultan's joke, it's a happy ending and as Aladdin and Jasmine prepare to get married Genie departs to enjoy his freedom singing Free Genie (a reprise of Somebody's Got Your Back).
|Genie (Edward Juvier) enjoys his freedom, Photo by Tuacahn|
|Aladdin (Dan Domenech) and Jasmine (Haley Carlucci) dance at their wedding, Photo by Tuacahn|
But it's not over yet. As the orchestra play one last medley, the cast take their well deserved bows before coming together one more time to sing a final chorus of Friend Like Me (which the audience is encouraged to join in). As the show comes to it's spectacular finale, fireworks lights the sky and the cast wave as they depart the stage one last time. It's an amazing end to an equally amazing show.
After the show, the foyer level turns into Tuacahn's equivalent of the stage door, as Dan Domenech, Haley Carlucci, Edward Juvier and members of the ensemble come out, still in full costume, to meet the fans. It's an amazing atmosphere, with the cast still in costume it feels like a wonderful cross between the stage door and Walt Disney World. As you'd probably expect, everyone was really friendly and it was a pleasure to get to meet them and have a quick chat whilst playbills were being signed and photos taken.
|Jane and I with Dan Domenech, Haley Carlucci and Edward Juvier|
|Me with Dan Domenech, Haley Carlucci and Edward Juvier (and Abu!)|
|Jane and I with Director Scott Anderson!|
This is probably the last time I'm going to say this, and if you've read this entire post (thanks!) then there's nothing else I can say to try and convince you, please go and see this show. If you like Aladdin (and if you're reading this I'd guess you do) and you can make it to Tuacahn then you owe it to yourself to go. Tickets for the show's final week are still available at Tuacahn's website. Aladdin: The New Stage Musical is playing Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday next week at 7:30pm and if you can, be sure to check out Tuacahn's production of the Tony Award winning Hairspray which has its final performances next Tuesday and Saturday at 7:30pm and features many of the same fantastic cast as Aladdin.