I sat in my seat at the Orpheum Theater in Minneapolis, mouth agape and eyes sparkling, as the actors and actresses for Aladdin took the stage. Four years ago I sat in the same theater and utterly melted under the sounds and sights of Beauty and the Beast, the best show I’d had ever seen. I never thought I’d like another show more, but Aladdin gave that show a run for its money.
I usually know exactly what to say and how to say it, but this show left me completely speechless. From the beautifully built set, to the sparkling costumes, to some of the longest and most flawless musical numbers I have ever seen, I walked out of this show with very few negative criticisms.
I could babble on and on about how the costumes absolutely glowed under the bright lights, or how realistic it looked when Jasmine and Aladdin embarked on their magic carpet ride, singing the Disney classic “A Whole New World”, but what amazed me more than anything in this show was the musical numbers.
Aladdin (played by Adam Jacobs), Genie (played by Anthony Murphy), and Jasmine (played by Isabelle McCalla) led some of the most fantastic musical numbers I have ever witnessed. As someone who was formerly in theater, I know firsthand how complicated it is to put together a musical number that both looks and sounds good. The piercing cry of my choreographer yelling “FROM THE TOP” kept ringing in my head as I watched these actors and actresses perform in a way I could only wish I could be a part of.
Many of these musical numbers included upwards of fifteen actors and actresses on the stage, simultaneously weaving in and out between backstage and onstage, often changing costumes or bringing out new props when they came back. I kept searching for flaws, thinking I could catch an actor in the back row just slightly off beat or someone who appeared to be in the wrong position, but I came up short every time.
The upbeat and amusing number “Babkak, Omar, Aladdin, and Kassim”, taking place in the marketplace, included (you guessed it) Aladdin and his friends Babkak (played by Zach Bencal), Omar (played by Philippe Arroyo), and Kassim (played by Mike Longo), along with a plethora of ensemble members. These fun-loving characters put on a show for the audience with choreography as colorful as the marketplace they were dancing in.
Perhaps the most phenomenal of all musical numbers in the show was “Friend Like Me”, led by the boisterous and flamboyant Genie. This musical number had me utterly stunned. Lasting nearly ten minutes and including several set changes, “Friend Like Me” displayed impeccable choreography, with the cast swaying and rocking through every beat. I wanted to get up on stage and join in with them. When the musical number finally ended the entire crowd joined in for a round of applause that lasted so long the actors and actresses on stage had to wait before speaking the next lines of the musical.
If there was any doubt remaining as to if the cast was able to win over the audience, those doubts were erased during their final bow. The audience rose to their feet, giving the cast of Aladdin a standing ovation undoubtedly earned in their impeccable performance. I have seen a lot of shows in my life and been in a lot of shows, but Aladdin may have just taken the cake for the best performance I have ever witnessed.