21 Belvoir Rd
Cheshire GB WA4 6PE
Phone: +44 7725 234022 Facebook Twitter Instagram Youtube

REVIEW - Disney's Aladdin is utterly captivating, truly magical and a joy for all the family!


On Thursday, we went to the Palace Theatre, Manchester to see Disney's Aladdin. Read what our reviewer Tom Maher thought about this superb family production...

I have always been drawn to the story of Aladdin. Well, not just Aladdin but all the Arabian night/Persiana fables. I grew up on the old stop-animation films of Sinbad, equally fascinated by and terrified of their many-limbed monsters wielding swords. For me there was always something so much more exotic, unworldly even than their Greek myth counterparts, which I found magical. For me, Disney’s animated film didn’t quite capture this, although the phenomenal score and Robin William’s outstanding performance were more than ample recompense. But as I trooped into Manchester’s Palace Theatre with my youngest son, I really hoped that the stage production of Disney’s Aladdin would somehow managed to capture that elusive spirit.

And I was not disappointed. A brilliant cast is supported by thoughtful, inventive and at times ingenious staging, creating a fabulous, highly polished production that uses every tool available to bring a whole new world of colour, pizazz and energy to the stage.

The story follows the familiar 1992 film fairly closely. Set in the bustling city of Agrabah, our eponymous hero Aladdin embarks on a journey of self-discovery, love, and adventure. We meet him as a street-smart youth, struggling to survive, but with dreams of a better life. His world changes when he encounters Princess Jasmine, who is determined to find freedom beyond the restrictive palace walls.

A twist of fate leads Aladdin to the mystical Cave of Wonders, where he discovers a magical lamp and unleashes the powerful, larger-than-life Genie. With the Genie's help, Aladdin transforms into Prince Ali, hoping to win Jasmine's heart and outwit the sinister and power-hungry Jafar, the Sultan's advisor with his own nefarious ambitions.

While the core plot remains faithful to the original 1992 animated film, this stage adaptation doesn’t shy away from making changes. For example Aladdin and Princess Jasmine are both more rounded, with dedicated time spent on their character development. Aladdin’s transformation to Prince Ali is driven by his love for Jasmine, and his need to be of the ‘right class’ rather than just material wealth. Whilst Jasmine is still a frustrated princess, she is also a more a strong, independent woman who actively seeks to break free from societal constraints and find her own path.

There are new compositions from Alan Menken (Little Shop of Horrors, Hercules) Howard Ashman, (The little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast) and Tim Rice (Joseph and his Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, The Lion King) such as "Proud of Your Boy" and "High Adventure," which support this character development as well as expanding the story. And finally there are new characters like Babkak, Omar and Kassim, who are Aladdin’s loyal friends, replacing Abu, Aladdin's monkey companion from the film.

Gavin Adams
(professional debut) is wonderful as Aladdin, perfectly capturing that spirit of downtrodden optimism, that sense of winging it through life. He is bold, shy, confident and uncertain all at once, and it makes him and incredibly likeable hero, and no more so than when larking around in the marketplace with Babkak, performed by Nelson Bettencourt (Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast), Omar, performed by Adam Taylor (The Kit Kat Club, Everybody’s talking about Jamie) and Kassim, performed by Nay-Nay (Hairspray, Snow White).

Adams’ performance of ‘Proud of your boy’, a ballad early in the first half, was very moving. This is one of the quieter, more moving moments of the show, focusing on Aladdin’s desire to be better, to improve his lot in life. It was performed with emotion and sincerity, but also demonstrated Adams’ fantastic vocal capability.  

By contrast, Desmonda Cathabel  (Miss Saigon, From Here to Eternity) Princess Jasmine is spiky, feisty and focused, yet she plays her with a certain guilelessness that again makes her very engaging. Together on stage, they make a playful couple, their chemistry is immediately evident and I particularly enjoyed watching their easy banter in their first meeting.

Yeukayi Ushe (The Lion King, Kinky Boots) as the Genie perhaps has the most difficult task, filling the boots of the beloved Robin Williams. Creating a character who is both omnipotent and slightly goofy is no easy task. Ushe takes the Genie in a slightly different direction, giving us a Genie I can best describe as “smokin’”. Think Jim Carrey’s The Mask, but more so. Trust me, this works better than I would ever have imagined. Combined with the Big Band style music, he is simply dripping with cool in a performance that is simply outstanding.  His highlight must be ‘Friend Like Me’, during which he sang whilst tackling incredibly complex choreography, all without missing a beat. The audience couldn’t help but clap along and Ushe’s performance for me was the standout of the evening.

Adam Strong
(Rock of Ages, We Will Rock You) as Jafar and Angelo Paragoso (Wonka, Raging Grace) as Iago (Jafar’s parrot sidekick in the animated film, here reimagined as a human character) make a gloriously villainous twosome. They scheme and stalk and machinate against Jo Servi’s (Dreamgirls, Peter Pan) foolish Sultan with a vindictive pleasure that oozes malevolence. Both actors take every chance to go full pantomime villain - “I think it might be time for some evil laughter…” - yet at times Jafar is genuinely scary, bringing just the right level of peril to the production. 

The main cast are brilliantly supported by the ensemble, who deliver the big set pieces such as the opening Arabian Nights with precision and flair. The choreography throughout is inventive and clearly complex to perform, notably the sequence in the Cave of Wonders and also the numerous sword fights and chase scenes, yet last night’s performance was flawless.

The staging of Disney's Aladdin is a standout feature of this production. The depth of thought and financial investment that has been made to create something enchanting is evident. Costumes are full of colour yet still intricate, rich with detail that complements and enhances the staging. The intricacies are well highlighted by clever lighting and at times the whole stage seems to glisten under the Arabian sunlight. Elaborate set designs vividly recreate the scale of Agrabah's bustling streets and the grandeur of the opulent palace. For me it was the Cave of Wonders set design that impressed. It is truly dazzling, with an abundance of jewels and treasure on display which must have taken the production teams weeks if not months to craft.

The highlight, though, is the use of innovative flying carpet technology during "A Whole New World," which creates the illusion of Aladdin and Jasmine soaring through the night sky. The effect, combined with a starry backdrop, is breathtaking. This, combined with heartfelt, genuine performances from both leads, is definitely a ‘wow’ moment of the productions and we heard lots of audible gasps of awe from the younger members of the audience when the carpet takes off!

All in all this is a fantastic night out for all ages – certainly the audience agreed, with many cheers, much laughter and a zinging atmosphere all the way through the evening. There were several young children near us, all of whom were utterly captivated by what they were watching on stage.  Lovers of the original Disney animated film will enjoy seeing all their favourites live, whilst people new to the story will get swept up in the magic and laughter of this inventive and polished production.


Disney's Aladdin is on at the Palace Theatre, Manchester until Sunday 7th July 2024.

Watch our "In Conversation with Adam Strong" video discussing the show!





disneys-aladdin disneys-aladdin
Follow Us
Join Our Free Mailing List