After premiering an earlier version in Seattle several years ago, the Disney musical “Aladdin” returns in a far more bedazzling edition.
The hit Disney musical “Aladdin” has returned to Seattle all aglitter and aglow with baubles, bangles and beads. It’s also stuffed with Abbott-and-Costello-at-the-Casbah antics, rollicking dance and enough humorous tongue-in-cheek high jinks and snazzy stage magic to beguile children and adults — including those unfamiliar with the Disney animated “Aladdin” it is loosely, and I mean loosely, based on.
This old-school and solidly G-rated Broadway extravaganza, now at the Paramount Theatre, is far more bedazzling than the first edition of “Aladdin,” which had its world premiere at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre in 2011. Though equipped with jazzy, pumped-up tunes and emotive ballads composed by Alan Menken, with lyrics by Howard Ashman, Chad Beguelin and Tim Rice, that tryout was anemic. The sets were minimal. Jokes sputtered and the romance was bland. Also, the tight budget didn’t allow for a proper magic carpet — just a little rug that barely got off the ground.
But Disney later upped the ante, and Casey Nicholaw (the intrepid director-choreographer also behind “The Book of Mormon”) and writer Beguelin went back to the drawing board.
Through Oct. 29 at Paramount Theatre, 911 Pine St., Seattle; tickets start at $29 (800-745-3000 or stgpresents.org).
Abracadabra! The result is this eye-popping delight, with much snazzier costumes (by Gregg Barnes), sumptuous new sets (by the great Bob Crowley), more marvelously over-the-top Nicholaw dances (think “42nd Street” in harem pants), and a less clunky, friskier flavor to the whole affair.
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You want palaces? There are filigree palace gates up to the rafters. A magic cave, festooned with gold jewelry and tchotchkes? Check. They’ve also got hairy-chested male hoofers in brocade vests, gals in midriff-baring tops kicking up their heels in a desert marketplace, and yes, a carpet that really takes flight.
This tour faithfully preserves the splashy stagecraft of the $12 million-plus “Aladdin” still running on Broadway.
The fired-up cast includes original players and newcomers. Adam Jacobs, who originated the title role in Seattle and on Broadway, gives a zestier, less tentative account of the nimble street thief, who tries to go straight as a street entertainer with his pals to honor his late mom’s memory (“Proud of Your Boy”).
After a jiving Genie (Anthony Murphy) emerges from a brass lantern to grant him three wishes, “Al” woos the picky Princess Jasmine by masquerading as a prince. In the tryout version, Princess J was a hissy-fitting brat; now she’s a feminist (in belly dancer’s spangles) who longs for more autonomy in a meaningful new song (“These Palace Walls”). Isabelle McCalla plays her with tenderness and spunk, and blends well with Jacobs in the show’s (chaste) love duet, “A Million Miles Away.”
Another returnee: the prized Seattle clown, Don Darryl Rivera. He’s the chatty, leering accomplice Iago to the dastardly usurper Jafar, played by Jonathan Weir with cape-swishing malice (and the usual British accent for Disney villains).
As Genie, Murphy goes all out as the showboating, plus size imp whose motor-mouth riffs are variations on Robin Williams’ hyperactive voicing of Genie on film. He can be endearing (especially in the big blowout “Friend Like Me” number), and sure works up a sweat. But the role is still too frenzied, and as Murphy’s voice hikes up to falsetto the words blur together — in part because the excellent pit orchestra is cranked up too loud.
Fun historical facts: The original Aladdin legend may have been set in Iraq or Syria, not Arabia. And Al was punkier, Chinese and no orphan.
But a good fairy tale stays alive by mutating and morphing over the ages. And when Disney pours this much talent, eye candy and brio into a myth, it’s still a crowd-pleaser.