The comments I heard from those sitting around me at the end of “Aladdin” summed it up. “This was awesome” said a lady who had brought her two children, and I couldn’t have agreed more. It takes a powerfully entertaining show to bring 8,000 people to The Muny on a day when the top temperature was well over 100 degrees, but it happened on opening night and for many good reasons.
The Muny has promised a 2012 season with enhanced production values, more creativity & formidable casting, and they are keeping their promise. As “Aladdin” begins, three central comic characters make their entrance on camels. Not the wooden kind from the carpentry shop. Real camels, and at that point you know the evening is going to be full of surprises.
The biggest and best is Tony nominated actor John Tartaglia as the Genie. Tartaglia has made a name for himself as a singer, actor, dancer and puppeteer. When he makes his entrance on a motorcycle out of the audience, the show is instantly elevated. The Muny’s “Aladdin” is faithful to the Disney film of the same title, but it’s adaptation here is full of a carefree, wise-cracking attitude with lots of local and show biz references that are fun and often sharply humorous. The Muny’s “Aladdin” uses the audience as a kind of launching pad several times, and it’s delightfully successful.
Much of the score has a tempo and upbeat tone that give it almost a jazzy, speakeasy sound that The Muny orchestra handles with finesse and fun. Robin DeJesus as Aladdin has a great singing style for his role and a boyish demeanor that really accents his character well. Standouts in supporting roles include Francis Jue, Jason Graae, Curtis Holbrook, Thom Sesma and the great Ken Page as the Sultan.
“Aladdin” may be known as the “kid’s” show this season, but it’s a lot more than that description permits. For all ages, The Muny’s” Aladdin” conjures up an evening of pure entertainment, variety and laughs on a scale you haven’t seen for a long time, perhaps never. It catches you off guard, but it’s always on target, and that target is an evening of delightful diversion on a scale only The Muny can present.