While the story of Aladdin has long found its way onto British stages, a staple of the annual pantomime season each Christmas, Disney’s musical version sticks releatively closely to its 1992 animated film. That returned to the story’s roots, as told in The One Thousand and One Nights – an impoverished urchin granted three wishes by a magic genie – and Disney infused its characteristic style and humour, all replicated in Bob Crowley’s lavish designs and Casey Nicholaw’s staging.
Set in the city of Agrabah, Aladdin follows a young man who lives by pinching street food from market stalls– always trying to stay ‘One Jump Ahead’ of the authorities. He’s shamed as a “street rat” by Agrabah’s honest citizens, and aspires to a better life – even to riches and royalty.
Those things do not make Princess Jasmine happy, however. Stuck in the palace, having rejected a string of suitors lined up by her father, the Sultan, she disguises herself and heads into the city – only to meet Aladdin. The two are instantly attracted, and yet the lives they return to are ‘A Million Miles Away’ from one another.
Meanwhile, the Sultan’s adviser Jafar is plotting to overthrow his master and seeks out a powerful magic lamp in the Cave of Wonders. He enlists Aladdin as the one person who can enter it, only for Aladdin to trap himself in trying to sneak out some gold coins. Stuck, he rubs the lamp and unexpectedly unleashes the Genie, who grants him three wishes. This, Aladdin realises, offers a way to woo Princess Jasmine and he wishes himself a prince, promising to free the genie with his final wish.
Returning to Agrabah in his new guise, Aladdin tries to seduce Jasmine – only to rub her up the wrong way. It takes a magic carpet ride for her to recognise his real identity. She’s not alone. Jafar clocks it too and spies a chance to get the lamp for himself – a plan that grievously imperils Aladdin’s life, the Sultan’s kingdom and the genie’s hopes of freedom.
To the songs of the film’s soundtrack, which include the Oscar-winning ‘A Whole New World’ and ‘Prince Ali,’ original composer Alan Menken has added a handful more – some intended for the original movie, some new compositions. Though there are some noticeable differences from the film – not least the disappearance of its animal characters – the spirit of Aladdin remains very much intact.