"Sheer bravura"

"A jazzy riot of infectious brio"
-The Daily Telegraph-

"Certainly spectacle"
-The Daily Mail-

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Trevor Dion Nicholas' Genie steals the show in this spectacular, yet somewhat hollow Disney adaptation

Critic Rating

13 June 2016, Prince Edward Theatre
Shaun Millis Shaun Millis
When the name ‘Disney’ is involved you cannot help but having high expectations – whether it is theme parks, movies or West End shows, you know that you’re going to get something that’s both big and spectacular.

With Disney’s Aladdin at the Prince Edward Theatre, you certainly get that. As the opening chords of One Jump strike up, the excitement in the theatre is genuinely palpable, with over 20 years of countless replays of the original film by now multiple generations to live up to. Casey Nicholaw’s production certainly manages it, with the huge ensemble leaping around the outstanding sets with uncontainable energy as Dean John-Wilson’s Aladdin weaves his way through the melee, spectacularly disappearing and reappearing into both the scenery and groups of characters alike.

Although this is certainly a breathtaking way to open the show, it does set the tone for the next couple of hours. It is indeed going to be big and spectacular, but it may be rather lacking in anything else.

You cannot help but watch Aladdin and think of panto. This is done very knowingly too. Whereas Disney’s previous West End runaway success The Lion King expanded on the original film by weaving in elements of the culture and wildlife of Africa, Aladdin does the same with pantomime. Jafar is now the over-the-top cackling villain who looms ominously in the background, while the bright eyed and wide smiled Aladdin tries to defeat all adversaries. This actually makes the production far more true to the film than it otherwise would have been, however whereas in a cartoon these elements can feel endearing, they do sometimes feel just plain corny on a West End stage.

Even the vocal performances of the two leads – Dean John-Wilson and Jade Ewen – are just a bit panto. Yes, they are very good, albeit not groundbreaking, but the flamboyance of performance and cheesy American accents stops any of the more emotive songs from having any real impact and start feeling a bit like filler before the next big number. In their big duet ‘A Whole New World’, the spectacular flying carpet manages to upstage one of Aladdin’s most loved songs.

This could easily make Aladdin a good, yet throwaway piece of spectacle, but then, there is Trevor Dion Nicholas.

Taking the part of the Genie must be a daunting role for any actor. With Robin Williams’ legendary vocals and even the Disney animators drawing the character based on Williams’ stand up performances before he was even cast, the Genie and Williams are practically inseparable.

Trevor Dion Nicholas, in his first West End role, completely manages to step up to Williams’ level, while also somehow completely making the character his own. From the opening sequence, where he acts of master of ceremonies, welcoming the audience and introducing the setting, to the mind-bogglingly brilliant ‘Friend Like Me’, you cannot help but have a smile from ear to ear when he is on stage.

The addition of Aladdin’s friends Babkak, Omar and Kassim is also fantastically done, with some of their songs and one-liners being the highlights of the show. It is just a shame that some of Aladdin and Jasmine’s solos cannot match up, with new songs such as ‘Proud of Your Boy’ feeling weak, clichéd and lost amongst the fast paced nature of the rest of the show.

It is safe to say that Aladdin will not challenge The Lion King’s status as the most loved Disney musical in the West End, lacking the depth and emotion in quite a pantomime performance. That being said however, it is certainly better than any panto you’ve ever seen before and Trevor Dion Nicholas’ Genie alone ensures you’ll leave with a smile on your face, while the spectacular sets, stage trickery and huge numbers are all just a bonus.

Review by Shaun Millis

Sarah Crompton
As the Genie, Trevor Dion Nicholas, the only transfer from the American cast, brings his own brand of Broadway razzle dazzle to leading the charge. From the moment he appears as the Genie in Crowley's astonishing golden cave, he flings everything into making sure everyone has a brilliant time.
Dominic Cavendish
The Genie’s big show-stopper Friend Like Me – a jazzy riot of infectious brio and trick-mustering showmanship that conjures the spirit of Las Vegas and hits the jack-pot in terms of hummability – will leave you heading for the interval ice-creams with a smile on your face.
Quentin Letts
They have injected a modicum of panto-style self-mockery. The master of ceremonies is Trevor Dion Nicholas as the genie and he certainly gives it full welly. Fiddling in one of his pyjama-trouserpockets for his lamp, he comes up, instead, with a Union Jack umbrella. Mr Nicholas is the best thing in the evening.
Paul Taylor
Amidst the orgy of bling-flashing and scimitar-waving, it's the moments of mischief, as when one of the sidekicks reveals that he's allergic to dairy and sequins, that charm rather than the attempts at the heartfelt. That's why the claim that in Agrabah “enchantment runs rampant” sounds a bit of an overstatement.
Rasha Barazi
However, Aladdin’s major casting highlight comes in the form of Trevor Dion Nicholas, who absolutely shines in the role of Genie, delivering a multitude of witty jokes with pizzazz and panache, and the body language to match. Adding to the fun is his ability to draw in the audience with British cultural references and modern humour that viewers can easily relate to.
Mark Shenton
Alan Menken's irresistibly tuneful score, with lyrics by the late Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, is beautifully rendered under the musical direction of Alan Williams, and director and choreographer Casey Nicholaw takes it all home with a staging that nails every number with brilliant showmanship.
Neil Norman
The big ‘but’ is the wonderful ‘Friend Like Me’ number which stops the show mainly because it is an entire show in itself, including tap-dancers, fab costumes, Bob Crowley’s shimmering gold set and real fireballs hurtling across the stage.
Henry Hitchings
As the Genie he is show-stealingly brilliant in this lavish Disney adaptation of the beloved early Nineties film. Dusted with glitter, he is charismatic, warm and very funny — never more so than during the infectiously energetic song Friend Like Me. It is hard to escape the feeling that Aladdin is a pantomime and should not be opening in June.
Michael Billington
Imagine a Christmas panto minus the dame and with a budget of zillions and you get some idea of this musical extravaganza. At first, I resisted the corporate zeal that has taken the 1992 Disney animated feature and turned it into a live show, but I gradually found myself won over by the blend of spectacle, illusion and a greater supply of corn than you will find in the Kansas wheatfields.