Disney's Aladdin Dazzles On Tour at the Van Wezel

The Broadway musical adaptation makes some successful changes to the classic animated film version.

By Kay Kipling January 25, 2023

Marcus R. Martin as the Genie in Disney's Aladdin, with company members.

Image: Deen Van Meer

I was a little skeptical going in about the Broadway musical touring production of Aladdin, now onstage at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall. Did that Disney animated film of 30 years ago really need a stage adaptation, even if it did add new songs to the mix? Wasn’t it, to quote from another Alan Menken-Howard Ashman collaboration, Beauty and the Beast, a “tale as old as time” that had already been told?

That feeling lasted a little while as the opening night show began on Tuesday, but began to dissolve pretty quickly. The hard-working cast, and the tweaks made to the book (by Chad Beguelin) and those new tunes (by Menken, with lyrics from Ashman, Tim Rice and Beguelin) gave this Aladdin a whole new energy. And the direction and choreography, by Casey Nicholaw, helped make the magic, along with the scenic design by Bob Crowley that transported us to the mythical town of Agrabah, where our story begins.

You probably remember the basics: “Street rat” Aladdin (Adi Roy) lives on his wits around the marketplace, picking up what he can to exist, however illegally, with his buddies Babkak (Jake Letts), Omar (Ben Chavez) and Kassim (Colt Prattes). Despite his petty crimes, we know he really is good at heart, and when he by chance meets up with the independence-craving Princess Jasmine (Senzel Ahmady), we also know that sparks are gonna fly.

In this telling of an old, old story, Aladdin encounters the genie of the magic lamp (Marcus R. Martin) through the machinations of the evil vizier to the sultan, Jafar (Anand Nagraj), and his sidekick Iago (Aaron Choi)—no, not a parrot here, although a couple of references to his bird counterpart of the movie are made. Believing that Aladdin is the “diamond in the rough” who can enter the Cave of Wonders and retrieve that lamp for his own wishing purposes, Jafar gets him inside. But it’s up to the genie to get him back out, and to continue to save his bacon throughout.

Senzel Ahmady as Jasmine and Adi Roy as Aladdin.

Image: Deen Van Meer

Enough of the plot; you know where it’s headed. What makes it especially fun is the ensemble numbers, performed with vivacity by a troupe of singer-dancers aided by some quick costume changes backstage. (Those costumes, by the way, by Gregg Barnes, are impressive and wide-ranging.) “Arabian Nights,” “Prince Ali” and “Somebody’s Got Your Back” all dazzle, but of course the highlight of the whole show is “Friend Like Me,” where Martin really gets to demonstrate his talents in a fast-moving, don’t-blink-or-you’ll-miss-something scene that deservedly brought the audience to its collective feet.

There’s also a quieter charm to the familiar duet “A Whole New World” (yes, a flying carpet is involved) and “A Million Miles Away,” but chances are it’s those big dance numbers you’re going to remember most. I’m sure some adjustments were made to the original Broadway staging to make touring more efficient, but it doesn’t feel like anything was skimped on here. And the cast members all have opportunities to stand out and make the most of them.

Disney’s Aladdin continues at the Van Wezel through Jan. 29; for tickets, call (941) 263-6799 or go to  

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