Review: ‘Aladdin’ and His Genie Mesmerise With Bambaiyya Flavour
Excited kid: “Is that the bad man?”
Mother: “Yes, now ssshh”.
This pretty much set the tone for the evening as Disney’s Aladdin The Musical unfolded. Re-imagined with an Indian cast, the musical premiered in Mumbai in all its magical glory after Disney’s successful debut on stage with Beauty and the Beast. And this classic tale from Agrabah made enough magic to enfold the younguns and leave the adults feeling more than a little wistful.
Aladdin, directed by Shruti Sharma, has been treated lovingly with local flavour à la a very desi Genie - one who has a penchant for Bollywood dialogues, and goes about making Aladdin his yaar. The titular character is played alternately by Taaruk Raina and Siddharth Menon. At the preview play on 19 April, we got to witness the former.
The Indian cast and crew of the play has competently translated the Broadway musical keeping in mind the local sensibilities, including costumes, songs, choreography, sets, and dialogue.
The Broadway-style musical comedy, which is adapted from Chad Beguelin’s book, mostly stays true to the Arabian Nights folktale, with reasonable modern tweaks. Aladdin’s trusty monkey, Abu has been replaced with his trio of friends, Babkak (Soham Majumdar), Omar (Omkar Kulkarni) and Kassim (Keith Sequeira).
Jasmine (Kira), one of Disney’s earliest feminist characters is, in millennial-speak - the princess we want and deserve. Kira, who has worked in stage productions abroad but marks her debut in India, plays her part to perfection as the damsel who knows exactly what she wants, and does not hesitate to take her destiny into her own hands. Royal decrees be damned.
Aladdin is packed with high drama, humour, action and dance sequences, and of course, a love story. Not just that of Jasmine and Aladdin, but also that of Aladdin and his wish-granting Genie.
The evil Jafar (played in turns by Roshan Abbas and Vikrant Chaturvedi) along with his sidekick, Iago (Dhruv Lohumi) plot their ascension to the throne with their sinister moves. But it is Lohumi (also understudy Genie) who is truly a delight to watch. Been given some kick-ass punchlines, he delivers them with just the right amount of malevolence and mischief.
While most songs go by in a blur of sparkly grandeur, the musical recreates foot-tapping numbers like Friend Like Me and Prince Ali from the Disney movie and some new additions like Diamond In The Rough which stand-out among the crowd. The cast’s live performance with their incredible breath control keeps one hooked throughout.
Choreographers Bertwin Ravi D’Souza and Shampa Gopikrishna breathe fresh life into the Indian musical with touches of jazz, hip-hop, belly dancing, ballroom as well as African and Arabian influences. Who else but we (the land of Bollywood) have the might to pull off musicals of such an enormous scale?
Alan Menken’s incredible background score adds a different dimension to the classic tale as it unfolds against a plush set.
The weak link in the casting, it would appear, is Aladdin (Taaruk Raina) who doesn’t manage to entirely hold the viewer with his performance. Even the supporting cast and the sheer opulence of the Disney stage does not entirely hide his somewhat lacking dancing skills.
All in all, the experience of Aladdin The Musical is magical in spirit, with its localised Genie as its soul.
(Disney’s Aladdin, the Broadway-style musical has its first public show scheduled on 20th April, 2018 at Mumbai’s National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) in April 2018.)