Disney has done its best over the years to expunge memories of British Pantomime with its slick Broadway-style musical versions of panto-season staples such as Cinderella, Peter Pan and Aladdin.
So one comes to the Prince Edward theatre in London with high expectations of this Broadway transfer of one of Disney’s biggest hits. And, of course, it also begs the question, can it match the hugely imaginative and powerful re-invention of The Lion King as a stage musical?
Well, the answer is – to some extent. In the flesh this interpretation of the story feels, at least to a UK audience, closer to our own dear panto than it does to a magical musical reinvention like The Lion King. But it’s not without its brilliance and sparkle. Outstanding in the central role, the part of the Genie is brought gloriously to life by Trevor Dion Nicholas making his West End debut having played the part on Broadway. Also making his West End debut at this performance was Anthony Hewitt in the title role, standing-in for regular Aladdin Dean John-Wilson and listed as usually being ‘Ensemble’. So a big step-up and handled brilliantly. Also outstanding was the magic carpet, flying effortlessly around as the stand-out special effect. Fitting, actually, as the carpet in the movie was claimed to be Disney’s first fully computer animated character.
The sets have a ridiculous amount of sparkle and general bling to them. And Alan Menken’s score has been added to with some new numbers by the man himself. The original film always sounded like a Broadway musical and now it’s here in the West End. Does it earn its place? Yes – its tuneful, huge fun and spectacular. But at the same time, we all know what it is really. Although others, having seen it, may say “Oh no it isn’t!”