This past month, our very own Santiago band embarked on a trip to New York to perform at the legendary Carnegie Hall. While this was certainly a prominent part of the trip, it was not the sole focus. We were able to sightsee on tours around the busy city, spend time with friends on a relaxing dinner cruise around the statue of liberty, and most importantly, for me at least, watch a Broadway show. While all band members got to see a performance, the color guard got to do a little extra something. Not only did we see the musical Aladdin, but we were able to take part in a dance workshop instructed by a current performer from the cast, who taught us some classic moves from the opening sequence in the show. Overall, I’d say we got to know the show pretty well, inside and out.
Some of you reading this may wonder, “Why see the Broadway musical when I have watched the Disney movie a bazillion times?” Well, I can assure you that these two differ in so many ways. The basic storyline is the same, but with new characters and added songs, the musical is hardly a replica of its source of inspiration. Not only that, but it’s simply incredible to see the characters from your childhood come to life in a captivating performance, right in front of your eyes.
While the main characters have remained the same, a few were added, and others omitted. Aladdin, Princess Jasmine, and the Genie were the same classically lovable characters. Yet in this production, their roles were much more complex, with added attributes to both their past and personality. Aladdin was the same endearing “street rat,” but his entire storyline revolved around his desperate desire to make his mother proud of him, and every decision he made was ultimately influenced by this wish. Jasmine remained a rebellious girl, who desired freedom, yet in the musical, she was a courageous feminist and an advocate for equal rights amongst her subjects. Genie was still the comic relief, with loads of jokes to send the audience into hysterical laughter, but he was also a slave to others and yearned for the freedom to be his own person. These characters were essentially the same but the added depth to their personalities made the show much more mature with many themes about issues we currently experience in today’s society, thus making the roles easy to connect with and entirely relatable.
Although some characters were added, some of the unrealistic roles had to be removed. Aladdin’s adorable sidekick Abu wasn’t in the musical at all, but he was in a way replaced by the street rat’s friends Babkak, Omar, and Kassim. These three characters essentially took the place of the monkey in a more realistic way and engaged in Aladdin’s schemes while coming to his aid multiple times. On another note, the magic carpet wasn’t entirely deleted but didn’t dance, move, or communicate at all. It was present as a mode of transportation for “A Whole New World” but was absent for every other scene. Then we have Iago, Jafar’s evil yet adorable accomplice, who instead of being omitted was impersonated by a hilarious man in billowy red robes, mimicking the original character. While some in the audience were outraged by these changes, I found it to be a genius move. By making these slight alterations, the storyline had plenty of room to expand and become more dynamic. This allowed the target audience to broaden from just young children, who were awed by the bright costumes and flourishing dances, to the adults, who could relate to the underlying themes and take pleasure in the subtle humor.
Not only were there slight changes in the original roles, but several songs were added that have quickly become fan favorites. The songs emphasized certain aspects of the story and gave the musical the classic Broadway pizazz we all know and love. Act One consisted of “Proud of Your Boy,” “These Palace Walls,” “Babkak, Omar, Aladdin, Kassim,” and “A Million Miles Away,” as well as some original songs from the Disney film. Then, Act Two concluded with “High Adventure” and “Somebody’s Got Your Back,” along with the beloved “A Whole New World” and others from the first audio recording. Overall, it was a fantastic soundtrack for a fantastic show.
If I had to choose one word to describe this musical, it would be, without doubt, enchanting. The actors were utter perfection, the dances incredibly intricate and complex, the sets were astounding, and the music complimented it all perfectly. If you have the chance to experience it for yourself, do it. It’s a “Whole New World” just waiting for you to take part.