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Show Guide: Everything You Need to Know About ‘Aladdin’ the Musical

13 June 2019 by Allison Considine
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Courtney Reed and Adam Jacobs in “Aladdin” on Broadway.

“Aladdin” takes audiences on a magic carpet ride. Alan Menken, Chad Beguelin, Tim Rice, and Howard Ashman’s adaptation of the Disney film is everything you could wish for. It is a rags-to-riches adventure about a budding romance, complete with a magical genie, a flying carpet, and hummable songs. The musical is Disney’s fifth stage adaptation, and received five Tony Award nominations. The new live-action film is putting this ancient fairytale back into the spotlight, but the story has a long history on the stage.

What is ‘Aladdin’ About?
Princess Jasmine of the fictional city of Argabah is feeling suppressed by her father’s wishes for her to find a royal groom. The Sultan’s right-hand man, the malicious Jafar, is plotting to poise himself as a royal candidate — he just needs a little magic to grant his wish of becoming sultan. When Jasmine escapes the throes of the castle and ventures through the city in disguise, she meets Aladdin, a resourceful street urchin who catches her eye. Aladdin is then captured by the palace guards and thrown into the castle prison. Jafar, in disguise, promises Aladdin freedom if he retrieves a magic oil lamp hidden in the Cave of Wonders.

Aladdin and his sidekicks find the lamp, but they get trapped inside the Cave of Wonders. Aladdin rubs the lamp and its inhabitant, a magical genie, is awakened and offers to grant his three wishes. With the coveted lamp in hand, and three magical wishes, Aladdin just may be able to win Princess Jasmine’s heart and defeat Jafar’s evil plans.

A History of ‘Aladdin’
In an interview in 2010, composer Alan Menken first spoke about the music team’s work on a stage adaptation. The movie is rife with catchy tunes fit for a musical, and it was only a matter of time for the story to hit the stage. In 1991, before the film’s release, the lyricist Ashman died. The project’s journey to the stage continued with a team comprised of Menken, Chad Beguelin, and Tim Rice, who crafted the musical with Ashman’s legacy in tow. The musical offered the creative team the opportunity to include songs that didn’t make the film’s cut, and to further develop characters through music. Numerous workshop and pre-Broadway productions began in 2011.

Photo Credit: Aladdin

Who wrote ‘Aladdin’? Who is on the creative team?
“Aladdin” was originally adapted from a Middle Eastern folk tale called “Aladdin and the Magic Lamp,” part of the “One Thousand and One Nights” collection of stories. The Disney film was written by Ron Clements, John Musker, Ted Elliott, and Terry Rossio. The musical’s book was penned by Chad Beguelin, and features music by Alan Menken, and lyrics by Howard Ashman, Tim Rice, and Beguelin.

Here is a list of the creative team:

  • Alan Menken – The composer wrote the songs for the musical, and is a mainstay in the Disney canon. Menken’s other scores include “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast,” and “Pocahontas.”
  • Chad Beguelin – The playwright wrote the book and additional lyrics for “Aladdin.” Beguelin’s other credits include co-writing the book of “The Prom,” “The Wedding Singer,” and “Elf the Musical,” all with collaborator Matthew Sklar.
  • Howard Ashman – The late playwright and lyricist penned the lyrics for the “Aladdin” film, and collaborated with Menken on “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast,” and “Little Shop of Horrors.”
  • Tim Rice – The author and lyricist wrote lyrics for “Aladdin” the musical, and “Beauty and the Beast.” Rice also collaborated with Andrew Lloyd Webber on “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” “Jesus Christ Superstar,” and “Evita.”
  • Casey Nicholaw – The director and choreographer of “Aladdin” also helmed “The Prom,” “Mean Girls,” “Something Rotten!,” and “Spamalot.”

Who is in the cast of ‘Aladdin’? Who are the characters?
Several actors have worn the harem pants and crystal-bedazzled costumes of “Aladdin.” Here’s a list of the musical’s characters, and the actors who have performed the roles.

Aladdin – Aladdin, the musical’s eponymous protagonist, is a charming street busker open to adventure. The role was originated by Adam Jacobs, who was nominated for a Drama Desk Award. Jacobs left the Broadway production in 2017 to lead the U.S. National Tour. Other actors who have played the role on Broadway include Jacob Dickey, Telly Leung, and Ainsley Melham. On the West End, Dean John-Wilson was the first actor to play the character.

Jafar – Jafar is a menacing villain whose ill-intentions to become a powerful sorcerer and the sultan of Agrabah sets the story into motion. Jonathan Freeman, who voiced the character in the Disney film, originated and is currently playing the role on Broadway. In London, the show opened with Don Gallagher as Jafar.

Iago – Iago is Jafar’s comedic sidekick, who also happens to be a parrot. Don Darryl Rivera originated the role on Broadway, and it has also been played by Reggie De Leon. Peter Howe was the West End’s inaugural Iago.

Genie – The wise-cracking genie is a scene-stealing character. He’s a witty comedian, and his aspirational friendship with Aladdin is a love story of its own. James Monroe Iglehart originated the role and won a Tony Award for his performance. Other actors to slip into the Genie slippers include Major Attaway and Michael James Scott. On the West End, Trevor Dion Nicholas made his London stage debut in the role.

Jasmine – Jasmine is a princess, and she’s opinionated with a rebellious streak. She longs for a life outside the castle walls, and to find true love that isn’t defined by money or positional power. Courtney Reed originated the role on Broadway. Other actors to wear the princess jewels include Arielle Jacobs and Isabelle McCalla. Across the pond, the production began with Jade Ewen as Jasmine.

Babkak – Unlike the film, Aladdin’s sidekick isn’t a monkey. Instead, the hero has a trio of buddies. This friend group was cut from the movie. In the musical, Babkak is one of Aladdin’s layabout friends who is part of a street performance barbershop quartet. Brian Gonzales originated the role on Broadway. Nathan Amzi was the first Babkak in the London production.
Kassim – Kassim is another member of Aladdin’s friend crew. Brandon O’Neill originated the role. Steel Burkhardt and Mike Longo have also played the part on Broadway, and Stephen Rahman-Hughes opened the London production in the role.

Omar – Omar rounds out the friend quartet. Jonathan Schwartz originated the role on Broadway. It has also been played by Brad Weinstock, and by Rachid Sabitri in the West End production.

Sultan – The Sultan is Jasmine’s father and the ruler of the city of Agrabah. Clifton Davis originated the role of Broadway. The Sultan is currently portrayed by J. C. Montgomery. In the West End, Irvine Iqbal played the part.

What songs are in ‘Aladdin’?
The Disney film’s lovable songs won the Oscar for Best Score in 1991. Many of the film’s tunes are included in the musical, along with some that were cut for the film and specially written for the stage version. For example, “Proud of Your Boy,” “High Adventure,” and “Babkak, Omar, Aladdin, Kassim” were resurrected for the stage. The musical’s new songs include “A Million Miles Away” and “Diamond in the Rough.” The cast album was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2015.

Here is a list of songs from “Aladdin”:

“Overture”
“Arabian Nights”– Genie & Company
“One Jump Ahead” – Aladdin & Ensemble
“Proud of Your Boy”– Aladdin
“These Palace Walls” – Jasmine, Attendants
“Babkak, Omar, Aladdin, Kassim”– Babkak, Omar, Aladdin, Kassim, Ensemble
“A Million Miles Away” – Aladdin & Jasmine
“Diamond in the Rough”– Jafar, Iago, Aladdin
“Friend Like Me” – Genie, Aladdin, Ensemble
“Prince Ali”– Genie, Babkak, Omar, Kassim, Ensemble
“A Whole New World”– Aladdin, Jasmine
“High Adventure”– Babkak, Omar, Kassim, Ensemble
“Somebody’s Got Your Back”– Aladdin, Genie, Babkak, Omar, & Kassim

How many productions of ‘Aladdin’ have there been?
There have been numerous productions of “Aladdin” across the globe. More than 10 million audiences have experienced the show. From Seattle to Singapore, check out the musical’s development journey:

  • Aladdin” had its world premiere at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre in 2011.
  • The following year, productions were staged at the Tuacahn Ampitheatre in Ivins, Utah; The Muny in St. Louis, Missouri; and at the Meralco Theater in the Philippines.
  • In 2013, the musical was performed in Spanish in Bogotá, Colombia.
  • A pre-Broadway tryout of the show was staged at the Ed Mirvish Theatre in Toronto, Ontario, from November 2013 to January 2014. The show was drastically reconfigured. The narration was cut, the opening number switched, and a third of the book was rewritten.
  • The musical bowed on Broadway on February 26, 2014, at the New Amsterdam Theatre, where it has been running since. The show received five Tony nominations. James Monroe Iglehart was lauded for his performance as the Genie.
  • “Aladdin” opened in Hamburg, Germany in 2015, where it ran through February, 2019.
  • The Shiki Theatre Company of Japan began presenting “Aladdin” at the Dentsu Shiki Theatre Umi in Tokyo in 2015.
  • A West End production in London opened in 2016 and is scheduled to run through August 2019.
  • The musical premiered in Sydney, Australia at the Capitol Theatre on Aug. 11, 2016, where it played until Feb. 19, 2017. “Aladdin” then opened at Her Majesty’s Theatre in Melbourne on April 15, 2017. The show toured around Australia, including stops in Brisbane and Perth. The musical transferred to a production in New Zealand.
  • The U.S. National Tour launched at Chicago’s Palace Theatre on April 11, 2017, where it played for three months. The musical travels to presenting houses coast to coast.
  • “Aladdin” is set to open at the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore on July 21, 2019.