To celebrate the upcoming release of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast in cinemas March 17th, we’re bringing you a special double-dip of Disney goodness today! And what better way to celebrate all things House of Mouse than to bring you exclusive reviews for Disney’s biggest releases in both Film and Theatre? 

For our first dose of Disney magic for the day, I take a flying carpet to the streets of Agrabah (via London’s West End) to explore the cave of wonders that is Disney’s lavish musical extravaganza, Aladdin…

It’s a good time to be a Disney fan. 

The animation giant is currently bathing in the commercial and critical glow of its second renaissance, as recent output such as Frozen, Moana and Zootropolis show a studio firing on all cylinders creatively. And its recent slew of live action adaptations have gone from strength to strength, with the recent Academy Award-winning The Jungle Book a stunning achievement and film in its own right.

And Disney aren’t leaving their theatregoing fans out in the cold either - most recently, to sit alongside the musical theatre juggernaut that is The Lion King, they’ve brought Broadway smash hit Aladdin to the West End, based on their 1992 animated classic which follows the rags to riches tale of a street urchin whose life is transformed by an encounter with a certain magical lamp.

Thankfully, Aladdin is a very different beast to The Lion King. Whereas the latter is sweeping, dramatic and grandiose, Aladdin gets that what made the film such a hit was its funny. 

Yes, there are some nice character beats, including new numbers for Jade Ewen’s frustrated Jasmine, forced to find a suitor for convenience rather than love, and the re-introduction of Aladdin’s (Dean John-Wilson) beautiful motif ‘Proud of Your Boy’ helps to carve some depth and resonance to the loveable rogue, but generally this is light, buoyant and plenty entertaining. 

So much so that it’s difficult to perhaps imagine a more family-friendly show in the West End. The show moves at a brisk pace, even with it being almost an hour longer than the film by dint of being on-stage, and is littered with fun characters and big, colourful set pieces and performances that carry more than a flair of panto about them.

Which isn’t by any means a criticism. Watch as the villainous Jafar (a suitably contemptuous Cavin Cornwall in the performance reviewed) and his wise-cracking cohort Iago (a scene-stealing Jermaine Woods) peer out comically from behind pillars, self-satirically boast about their evil laughs, or bandy lampoonishly with the ‘spooky voice’ aiding them in their villainous plot to take over the kingdom. Whereas the film’s Jafar was camp, calculating yet undeniably malicious, here he is painted in much broader strokes and writ large, meaning that, like much of the show, it’s a less classy and sophisticated affair, but one that is constantly poking fun at itself and not taking anything too seriously.

The first act jumps along winningly, propped up Alan Menken’s songs which remains as infectious and hummable as ever, but it’s really with the arrival of Trevor Dion Nicholas’ Genie that the show really ignites. Aladdin on stage always had the unenviable task of having to try and live up to Robin Williams’ tour-de-force vocal performance in the original film, and base imitation simple wouldn’t do. So instead, Chad Beguelin’s book and Dion Nicholas’ performance craft their own distinctive - and equally memorable - take on the character that sets the stage alight every time he is on it.

An explosion of energy, fourth-wall breaking and intertextual quips, it’s a joy of a performance to behold, with the Genie’s ‘Friend Like Me’ extended production number one of the most impressive, dazzling and relentlessly entertaining set pieces you are going to find on a West End stage. The gags, quips and references come thick and fast, with Dion Nicholas keeping things deliciously fresh; the performance reviewed featured a hilarious, very welcome nod to the La La Land / Moonlight Best Picture flub at the Oscars, which had taken place just days prior.

Elsewhere, Aladdin frequently dazzles technically and creatively. Whilst the earlier streets of Agrabah staging feels perhaps a trifle underwhelming, they are more than made up for by Bob Crowley’s stunning set design for the likes of the Cave of Wonders, the Sultan’s Palace and the truly magical work done by all on the flying carpet sequence for ‘A Whole New World’. It all makes for a mostly sumptuous feast of a show which both looks and sounds great - the bigger numbers such as ‘Arabian Nights’, ‘Friend Like Me’ and ‘Prince Ali’, which showcase the full ensemble in voice, sound terrific.

If there were to be any criticisms levied at the show, it’s that at a midweek matinee performance, there were times when some of the cast (Dion Nicholas notwithstanding) seemed to be slightly coasting or playing safe with their performances. It was by no means a dealbreaker, and the likes of Nathan Amzi, Daniel De Bourge and Rachid Sabitri gave it their all with spirited turns as Aladdin’s three best friends (understandably replacing monkey pal 'Abu' from the film), but elsewhere it was noticed, making for a slightly underpowered ‘A Whole New World’, for instance.

Generally, though, Aladdin makes for a very easy recommendation for any fans of the House of Mouse and the 1992 classic. It’s very much it’s own beast - not adhering slavishly to the original, fleshing out its existing characters and introducing whole news ones where necessary, and Alan Menken, Howard Ashman and Tim Rice’s beloved music is front and centre along with some generally solid new additions. It’s a light, vibrant and showy spectacle that family audiences will lap up in equal measure. 

And, much like the film, the real MVP here is the Geniue who, with a firecracker performance from Trevor Dion Nicholas, steals the show and helps elevate Aladdin into a show-stopping treat of a production that will likely grant your musical theatre wishes three times over.

RATING - ★★★★

ALADDIN is running at the PRINCE EDWARD THEATRE, LONDON and is currently booking until September 30th 2017.

CLICK HERE to visit the show's official site for more information, including details on how to book your tickets.

Alternatively, telephone the theatre's Box Office direct on 0844 482 5151​.

Press tickets for this performance of Aladdin were provided courtesy of The Corner Shop PR. The author gratefully acknowledges their generous invitation.