It would be an understatement to say I was excited that “Disney’s Aladdin” was coming to the Des Moines Civic Center. “Aladdin” has been my favorite Disney movie since I saw it in theaters when I was 5 years old. We didn’t go to the movies much when I was that age, but I remember this trip vividly (the sound didn’t work for the first two minutes, and they had to restart the movie).
“Aladdin” is my go-to movie when I need a little pick-me-up after a tough day. I could quote the dialogue in the movie and sing every song. I even own both of the sequels, though they will never live up to the original.
My wish was granted as I filed into a crowded Civic Center to watch the magic of my favorite childhood movie brought to life on stage. I expected differences from the movie; a 90-minute children’s movie will need a little bit more to be a two-and-a-half-hour stage production. I purposefully didn’t read about any changes in order to be fully in the moment when I saw it for the first time.
The show didn’t disappoint. There were times I felt the same glee as my 5-year-old self in the old movie theater, and others, where I was moved by a theme only an adult would truly understand.
There were quite a few new songs in the stage production. My favorite being “Proud of Your Boy.” This is sung by Aladdin after his “One Jump Ahead” opening scene. He is singing to his mother, who has passed away. All he wants in that moment is to change his life and finally make his mother proud. I was crying listening to the lyrics. The song was originally written for the movie but was cut after storylines were changed and redeveloped. It was written by lyricist Howard Ashman, who died before the film was completed. He worked on both “The Little Mermaid” and “Beauty and the Beast” prior to “Aladdin.” It was awesome that the musical producers were able to bring back the song for the stage production.
In the movie, there are many animal sidekicks for both our heroes and villain. As a stage production, it would be hard to work with a monkey, tiger and parrot. These roles were transformed into people. Monkey Abu was replaced by Aladdin’s three friends who are in the thieving business, too. Parrot Iago became Jafar’s human henchman. Tiger Raja was replaced by Jasmine’s three handmaidens. The impact of the characters are still there but done in a way that makes sense for the stage.
The Genie was by far the best character, a fact consistent with the movie. We saw the “standby” actor, Korie Lee Blossey. I never would have guessed he was the understudy. He was fantastic. The Genie is a high energy part, and Blossey brought it to the stage. I could watch the “A Friend Like Me” scene a hundred times and not get tired of it.
Clinton Greenspan brought our hero, Aladdin, to life. He was wonderful at playing the diamond in the rough. Our leading lady, Jasmine, was beautifully portrayed by Lissa deGuzman. The two played the love story between a street rat and princess to perfection.
The overall production of the show was just top level on all accounts. There were hundreds of costume changes, tons of props and, of course, singing and dancing to go along with it. “A Whole New World” took the crowd on a magic carpet ride. I still haven’t figured out how they made the magic carpet fly the way they did. It certainly exceeded my expectations.
“Aladdin” will be at the Civic Center through Sunday. Don’t miss your chance to see the spectacle on stage for yourself.
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