If, while amidst a Marie Kondo-inspired de-cluttering of the back shed, you happen upon a dusty lantern housing a genie, you should use at least one of your wishes to conjure up tickets for Disney’s 'Aladdin – The Musical' for yourself, your friends and family. It’s just that good.
An almost fail-safe rule of thumb for determining the extent to which an audience has enjoyed a performance is by observing whether a standing ovation is given once the curtain falls on the final act, and if so, the speed and spontaneity of this upstanding.
Sometimes there’s just a smattering of ticketholders. Sometimes it feels forced. With Disney’s, 'Aladdin', the ovations, plural, were exuberant, instantaneous, and sustained, and the first occurred late in Act One, as Gareth Jacobs’ Genie concluded his final note in ‘Friend Like Me’, the song made famous by the late-great Robin Williams in the 1994 animated feature, upon which this spectacular stage production is based.
For Disney, it was no easy task adapting the cartoon classic for the stage. It took over three years of off-Broadway tinkering, rewrites and polishing. One of the biggest dilemmas, no doubt, was how to create a genie as impactful and hilarious as Robin Williams’ creation, but without the legendary and inimitable comedian. The solution was to not endeavour to imitate. Gareth Jacobs’ genie is less manic, but more camp, and it works. In his mystical blue genie pants, The 'X-Factor' alumni commands the stage with every raise of his painted eyebrows.
Image © James Green
Gareth shares the spotlight with fellow reality show stand-out, Graeme Isaako, of 'So You Think You Can Dance', 'The Voice' and 'X-Factor' fame; a career history cheekily referenced late in Act One. Both Graeme and Shubshri Kandiah, who plays his star-crossed lover, Disney Princess Jasmine, look like cartoon characters brought to life. The alchemy that exists between the pair is enough to have the audience swooning by the time the magic carpet arrives; an aeronautical marvel that will have you wondering why we have Lime Scooters, when we should have hoverboards by now.
This isn’t just a show with magic carpets; there are also magic curtains. Every time a curtain is raised, a luxuriant new pastel-coloured set is unveiled. The sets are rivalled in their splendour, though, by the 300 sparkling costumes. There are more genie pants than a yoga convention and more colour than a Middle-Eastern bazaar.
The villainous Jafar, wielding his cobra snake staff, is the only darkness in this show. The towering Adam Murphy has great fun as the malevolent sorcerer, and his comedic interplay with Doron Chester’s Iago is yet another highlight in a show overflowing with them.
Beneath the glitz, though, lie timeless themes, such as economic and gender inequality, and the longing for miraculous and magical solutions to these disparities.
For the next few months in Adelaide, don’t just dream of genie, see him. 'Aladdin' is better than a never-ending pack of Tim Tams.
'Aladdin – The Musical' is on at Adelaide Festival Centre until 9 June.