Did Disney's Aladdin impress?
The much-hyped production opened at the Prince Edward Theatre yesterday evening
Sarah Crompton, WhatsOnStage
"It has a kind of delirious silliness that makes you go with the flow, try as hard as you might to resist."
"There's nothing subtle about any of it, and panto is never far away but there is a lot of mischievous warmth and production numbers that throw everything including streamers and fireworks into the sheer effort of making everything look, sound and feel as big, brash and all-embracing as possible."
"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, Daily Telegraph
"Yet isn't this opulent stage version of the 1992 film really just panto in disguise? Sure, there's an original score instead of borrowed pop hits; yep, there's no audience-participation, dodgy innuendos or slapstick. And we're in a land of American accents. But at root it does exactly what the British pantomime does - takes an old folk-tale and drapes it in the tinsel of cheery comedy, cutesy romances."
"The combined talents of the constituent creatives (composer Alan Menken, lyricists Howard Ashman, Tim Rice and Chad Beguelin, director Casey Nicholaw) should have made Aladdin 'fly' as a musical. But, for all the visual splendour, spry, yearning-filled lyrics and syrupy sounds, it barely rises above the generic; a cynic's idea of Disney 'magic' at its blandest."
"My honest advice, as a usually profligate dad? Save your shekels."
Michael Billington, The Guardian
"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."
"It is all nonsense but it is done with conviction by Casey Nicholaw, the director and choreographer, who bombards us with business. Bob Crowley as designer has created a composite Middle East of rotating minarets and latticed palaces and gone to town on Aladdin's cave which positively drips with gold. Special credit should also go to Jim Steinmeyer for what is called 'illusion design' that creates a magic carpet that floats through the air with no strings attached. Not visibly, anyway."
"The songs themselves are a mixed bag: the big romantic number "A Whole New World" is completely upstaged by the carpet. Dean John-Wilson, however, is a likable, rough-hewn Aladdin; and Jade Ewen lends her Jasmine, refusing to be auctioned off to the highest bidder, a touch of fire."
Paul Taylor, The Independent
"There are some breathtaking special effects (the ride on a magic carpet, with no visible means of support, against a star-jewelled sky) but the production, directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw, has an old-fashioned feel."
"Any individuality that the talented Dean John-Wilson and Jade Ewen bring to Aladdin and the rebellious Princess Jasmine, who refuses to be auctioned off "to any Tom, Dick, or Hassim", keeps being sabotaged by the characters' steadfastly bland and generic songs."
"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."
Andrzej Lukowski, Time Out
"Alan Menken's musical gives you the same things as a decent British panto Aladdin: lavish set pieces (designer Bob Crowley has done some impressive things); campy, knowing, fourth wall-breaking humour; songs (obvs); a magic carpet sequence; a dull hero (Dean John-Wilson's prominent man-cleavage is the most memorable bit of his performance); a ludicrously OTT villain (Don Gallagher's Jafar laps up the boos at curtain call); and a scene-stealing dame."
" It's well done, but talk about selling coals to Newcastle: the humour hits the spot with Howard Ashman's dry lyrics, but it lacks the inspired madness of, say, the Hackney Empire panto."
"One decision producers won't be regretting is importing star of the Broadway show Trevor Dion Nicholas as Genie. The role could have been something of a poisoned, er, lamp, given Robin Williams's iconic turn in the 1992 film. But glitter-doused Nicholas makes it his own with a kinetic mix of fabulousness and physicality."
Quentin Letts, Daily Mail
"This is a no-expenses-spared stage version of the 1992 kiddies' cartoon film. The backdrops and costumes are as madly colourful as the acting is two-dimensional. Welcome to Planet Disney – spangles, sequins, soupy storyline."
"Schmaltzy songs, we got ‘em, not least the film's "A Whole New World", long a favourite with little girls. The whole thing is more saccharine than a shedload of Sweetex. Sub-teens will lap it up and I suspect hen parties may also find it a hoot – particularly the muscular pecs of Dean John-Wilson's Aladdin. Phwoarr, what a cleavage!"
"But look, it's Disney, not Chekhov. It's pink and white, with little between. It's cynical, saleable, palpable pap and I suspect it will make a fortune."
Aladdin is booking at the Prince Edward Theatre until February 2017.