We review the entire country and culture of New Zealand, one thing at a time. Today, the glitzy premiere of Aladdin at Auckland’s Civic Theatre.
Sam Brooks, culture editor
The musical Aladdin fixes the main problem with the film Aladdin: not enough Genie.
What’s even better is that it does it right from the top. The first thing we see isn’t a flying carpet or even the title character, it’s a comedic monologue from Genie, followed up by a new, improved, considerably less racist version of ‘Arabian Nights’, lead by Genie himself. People love Aladdin for two reasons: ‘A Whole New World’ (which I, personally, unpopularly, think is a slack-jawed, immobile dump of a ballad) and Genie, who is to Aladdin what the Emcee is to Cabaret.
It’s the right choice, but it’s not an easy thing to put on whoever has to play the harem-panted, no-haired mystical creature. It’s hard enough being in the shadow of Robin Williams’ Genie, which is rightly one of the most acclaimed voice performances of all time, but the musical adds a second, arguably more challenging, level of difficulty: it’s a really, really, demanding role, by far the hardest one in the show. There’s a seven minute extended version of ‘Friend Like Me’ and there’s a lot of choreography and laugh lines.
Whoever does this has to do all of it while giving the audience enough of the Genie they paid to see, while doing enough new things so that it doesn’t read like a scanned-and-photocopied version of Robin Williams’ performance. It’s essentially the Lear or the Blanche DuBois of modern musical theatre – if you can even do the thing, you’re a winner. Which is a long walk to get to this point: Gareth Jacob absolutely kills it as Genie. He’s doing everything that the role requires, all while layering some subtle queerness and hurt into the rare moments of quiet that Aladdin has. Buy it, take two wines into the show, laugh your ass off at him.
They might as well rename the show Genie, honestly.
(Oh also, someone around my seat, and definitely not me, had some wet eyes during ‘Proud of Your Boy’, by far the best new song of the show that someone around my bank account purchased on iTunes immediately upon getting home.)
Alex Casey, staff writer
Unbeeliieeeeeevable siiiiiiiiiiiights (Suzanne Paul, Colin Mathura-Jeffree) and indescribable feeeeeeeeeeeeeelings (gasping at a confetti explosion because I thought it was a bomb), the opulent premiere of Aladdin was truly one of the most exciting nights of my life. I can’t stress enough how no single part of this show is anything less than spectacular – apart from the fact that it ends and you have to crawl home to your non-twinkly life where NOBODY seems to know the verses of ‘Prince Ali’. It’s a hard gig singing both parts of ‘A Whole New World’, but needs must when your partner refuses to don harem pants and take on the role of Aladdin.
The glittering sets are phenomenal, the Genie is a comedy icon and Jafar is weirdly scary yet hot? Even the bloody CURTAIN is enchanted (changes colour), and I genuinely believe the entire show contains more magic than your average Spark Arena outing with Dynamo. Put it this way, I’ve spent a lot of time this morning on weird Broadway Reddit trying to figure out how they did all the things that made me want to hurl with childlike wonder. The only logical conclusion I can make after seeing Aladdin is that magic is real. If you don’t want to pay to see that, then I can do nothing for you.
Don Rowe, staff writer
I don’t know much about the theatre and I don’t pretend to – but neither do kids. With that in mind, I’m confident in putting my name to the fact that Aladdin objectively kicks ass and is indeed fun for the whole family. While there may not be a real live monkey in a hat, there’s just about everything else. The costumes are incredible, the sets surprisingly intricate, and the GENIE BY CHRIST THE GENIE. I’ve read a few Twitter threads about how seeing cartoon Jafar tie up cartoon Jasmin sparked more than a few people’s interest in kink, and in the light of day I can state that after last night I might be into sequins now.
Shave my head and paint me gold, I’m moving to Agrabah.