In all honesty the words “Disney’s Aladdin” did not fill me with joy. Being advertised as “already seen by over fourteen million people worldwide” added to my expectation of a bland, anodyne, politically-correct evening. Nonetheless it would take a lot to keep me away from the Wales Millennium Centre, a venue that I’ve grown to love more and more over the years – going there always seems like an event and certainly many were dressed in their finery in anticipation of the show. Although the show has no connection to Christmas there was certainly a festive feeling as the foyer filled with excited audience members, surprisingly few of whom were children.
And so we settled down to watch the show with limited expectations. Well, I should have trusted those 14 million people because the show was absolutely wonderful. The production values were, as expected, sky-high with incredible sets and stunning costumes – about ten minutes in my thirteen year old daughter turned to me, commented on the “amazing outfits” and added “I love this show already”.
At two and a half hours long the pace didn’t slow for a second. It ticked all the boxes – the aforementioned sets and costumes, the catchy songs – many of which were already familiar to the audience, the energetic dance-routines. In fact many of the cast members looked positively “glowing” at some points such was their exertion. So far, so Disney. What I wasn’t expecting was just how funny the show would be. Laugh-out-loud funny.
The highest credit must go to the casting director whose choices were spot-on. Often the hero of these shows is the least charismatic member of the cast with a tendency to be over-shadowed by the feisty heroine or the wisecracking villain, but Gavin Adams’ Aladdin was perfection – variously cheeky, engaging and sensitive, he stole the show. He met his match in Desmonda Cathabel’s determined, independent Jasmine with whom he shared an easy chemistry. While their magic-carpet ride was predictable it was also beautifully arranged and certainly pleased the younger members of the audience.
Credit must also be given to Yeukayi Ushe as the genie, below, and Angelo Paragoso as Iago, the former providing charm and energy and the later providing many of the funniest moments of the show.
For me, many of the highlights were the scenes where Aladdin was joined by, and interacted with, his buddies Babkak, Omar and Kassim, played by Nelson Bettencourt, Wales’ own Adam Taylor and Nay-Nay. Their easy camaraderie, tight choreography and slapstick banter stole the show.
It is rare that a two and a half hour show leaves you wanting more but this truly exceeded my expectations and I would have happily stayed for an encore.
Until January 14
Gavin on playing Aladdin: https://www.asiw.co.uk/my-own-words/gavin-adams-playing-aladdin-at-wales-millennium-centre