Adventures of a Lost Boy in Disneyland (Part 13): Aladdin: a Musical Spectacular

“Welcome to the Hyperion Theatre, you’re about to embark for the land of the Arabian nights. A land of magic and mystery, a land of no visual lighting, flash photography, cell phones, or pagers, so please do not interrupt our journey with such distractions.”

California Adventure never got the crowds that Disney wanted it to, hence the redoing of the park. When Aladdin: a Musical Spectacular opened in the Hyperion Theatre in 2003, replacing the Blast! show that never really got the audiences to fill the 2000 seat theatre that Disney wanted, it started showing off the future of the park back when the future of the park was completely uncertain. It quickly became the best attraction in the park and developed a substantially large fan base that would see the production every time they went into the park. This fanbase was actually so large that when Disney announced plans to replace the show with Toy Story the Musical from the Disney Cruise Line, there was an overwhelming amount of backlash and Disney put the plans on an indefinite hold.

The show is a 45-minute long Broadway-style retelling of the Aladdin film that manages to cover the story fully in a condensed manner. They did this by shortening the time between major plot points (for instance, Aladdin meets Jasmine and they immediately bump into the palace guards and Aladdin is saved by Jafar in disguise all within a manner of 3 minutes and in one setting). They also removed the character of Abu completely, which was disappointing the first time I saw the show, but it was quickly realized that his character is rather superfluous and it allowed the producers of the show to shorten the story to a manageable point for the actors to perform it 4 times a day.

One of the aspects of the show that makes it very special is the character of the Genie. Most of his lines throughout the show are completely ad-libbed, which makes it so that the consistently pop-culture aware Genie to riff off of current events. Popular topics in the 3 times I saw the show while I was at California Adventure this trip were Lindsay Lohan (“Where’s all my stuff? I had a whole bunch of stuff here and now it’s just rocks. Did Lindsay Lohan take all my stuff too?”), Avatar (“Are you kidding? I’m blue, I have pointy ears! I’m your Avatar!), Pirates of the Caribbean, the Godfather, Star Trek (“There’s no wishing for more wishes, capische? I just can’t do it, captain! I don’t have the power!”), Dr. Phil and the Kardashians (“Just like Dr. Phil, I can’t make someone fall in love with you. I used up all that magic on the Kardashians.”), and the iPhone (“I can’t bring people back from the dead, but if you have an iPhone there’s an app for that!”). Also note that all of these jokes happened between when the Genie first appeared and the beginning of “Friend Like Me.” The actors who play the Genie manage to pull off Robin Williams’ quick-fire machine gun style of comedy perfectly and it really adds a lot to the show. Some of the actors even interact directly with the crow by reacting in humourous ways to their responses.

The best line the Genie got off, though, was “You guys are just like Bella and Edward from Twilight, except you’re not depressing!” There is also a line about Iago being a “Tiki Room reject”, which at this point in time is made even funnier with the Enchanted TIki Room: Under New Management being completely gone.

The music in the show is the music from the film almost to a “t”, with only a few small changes here and there to help the shortened running time flow better. The biggest departure music-wise is the inclusion of a new song written by Alan Menken. The song was written for Jasmine and uses her theme from the movie, “To Be Free” is a surprisingly sad song about how Jasmine has everything in the world at her beck-and-call, but what she really wants is to be free and live her own life. This song really adds to a strengthens the whole theme of being trapped from birth in your life and the desire to become something more.

The sets are the real star of the show here, though. They manage to pull of the over-blown and grand style of old-school Broadway shows perfectly (which will fit perfectly into the 1920’s styling coming to California Adventure in the near future). The sets range from being deceptively simple flat shapes, to exceptionally gaudy light-up stair-cases, to surprisingly convincing giant tiger-headed entrances to certain Cave of Wonders. The sets look very good “up close, but they look even better from Jafar.” The show also uses puppets very well with both Iago, puppets representing different countries in “A Whole New World”, and a giant snake puppet for Jafar’s transformation at the end.

Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular, even with all of the changes going on at California Adventure, continues to be one of the best attractions at the park and is probably in the running with Festival of the Lion King for best stage show at a Disney Park (at least state-side. I can’t say anything about the international parks). Now if you’ll excuse me, “I’m going to go find Nemo.”

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