I have seen several opening nights at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) in Brisbane, Australia. I have even travelled to Broadway to watch shows like The Lion King, Billy Elliot, and Cats. But never have I ever seen a musical receive a completely spontaneous standing O during a song in the first act. ‘Aladdin- The Musical’ was hands-down one of the best musical theatre performance I have seen in my life, and I went with high expectations; they were exceeded in every way.
Arriving at QPAC, the Broadway created and Disney produced show pulled out all the stops for its opening night in Australia. Yes, that’s right, Brisbane was the first time Aladdin the musical has ever left the Broadway stages – so the cast and crew had A LOT riding on this performance.
‘Arabian Nights‘ opens the show in a burst of colour and flawless harmonies from the ensemble choir, followed by the introduction of one of my childhood favourites, ‘One Jump Ahead‘; where Aladdin (Ainsley Melham) can be seen frantically scaling rooftops and hiding from sword-wielding guards after stealing a loaf of bread.
When Australian theatre performer (Gareth Jacobs) appears center stage as the overzealous and over exaggerated Genie, you can still feel the influence of the late Robin Williams playing the voice of Genie back in the 1992 Disney film as he delivers his lines with pizzazz.
It was the epic solo Genie song ‘Friend Like Me’ that received the Earth shattering, ground-shaking standing ovation from every single member in the audience. The streets of Agrabah are glorious; Middle Eastern inspired market stalls, stone walls that looks almost real, and set designs the moved autonomously to make it appear as if the sky was moving at times. I could hear those around me agreeing that the set design and coordination definitely stood out as the most intricate and flawless setting.
If you are a Disney fan you already know about the cave of wonders from the original film, and it was no disappointment; it was almost more spectacular than the animated version. The cave of wonders brought to life on the stage of QPAC was another set change that I would have thought impossible until seeing it implemented. The lion head which was the entrance to the cave was lined in what appeared to be golden diamonds, and as Aladdin walk inside the lions head, the set changed to give the audience the perception from that of Aladdin being inside the cave.
I can’t forget to mention the magic carpet ride moment, another feast for all of my senses. The set once again transformed into Princess Jasmine’s palace bedroom where Aladdin arrives at her window in the magic carpet. ‘A Whole New World’ definitely surprised me, yet again, when the carpet takes off into the air as if it were really flying while Jasmine and Aladdin sit and sing in perfect harmony.
This musical was brilliant in design, performance, and execution. It kept true to the 1992 Disney Classic, while also making an outstanding impression all on its own by pushing the boundaries of stage and theatre like I have never seen.