Entertainment & Arts

Aladdin musical 'begins panto season early', say critics

Trevor Dion Nicholas in Aladdin Image copyright Deen van Meer/Disney
Image caption Trevor Dion Nicholas plays the Genie, which Robin Williams voiced in the 1992 film

The West End launch of Disney musical Aladdin has been broadly welcomed by critics, with a number suggesting it shows "panto has come early this year".

The Sun's critic went on to predict the "lavish" adaptation of the 1992 cartoon "will be a huge hit with families".

The Guardian's reviewer also admitted being "won over" by the London show's "blend of spectacle [and] illusion".

Yet according to the Telegraph, "little registers emotionally" in a musical that "barely rises above the generic".

First staged in Seattle in 2011, Aladdin opened on Broadway in 2014 and has since been seen by more than 1.5 million people.

Its West End production follows other screen-to-stage transfers including Beauty and the Beast, Mary Poppins and The Lion King, which is now in its 17th year in London.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption L to R: Andrew Scott, Cynthia Erivo and Luke Evans were among the first night audience

Like the film, the musical tells of a wily street thief who finds a magical lamp containing a genie who promises to grant him three wishes.

Voiced in the film by Robin Williams, the Genie is played in London by Trevor Dion Nicholas, originally an understudy in the Broadway production.

According to the Mail's Quentin Letts, the US actor "certainly gives it full welly" and "is the best thing in the evening".

The Times's Ann Treneman agreed, describing him as "a genius genie" and his "big number", Friend Like Me, "a show-stopper".

Listen to Aladdin composer Alan Menken perform a medley of songs from the musical on BBC Radio 3's In Tune.

Image copyright Deen van Meer/Disney
Image caption Dean John-Wilson plays Aladdin while Jade Ewen plays Princess Jasmine

Aladdin himself is played by former Britain's Got Talent performer Dean John-Wilson, while ex-Sugababes member Jade Ewen plays female lead Princess Jasmine.

John-Wilson was supported on Wednesday's opening night by his girlfriend Cynthia Erivo, who won a Tony award on Sunday for her performance in The Color Purple.

"My other half was on stage playing Aladdin and I can't be any prouder," the 29-year-old Londoner told reporters after the show.

"I'm astounded by how wonderful he is - he was awesome."

Other attendees at the Prince Edward Theatre included Star Wars actor Mark Hamill, comedian and actor Rufus Hound, Kaiser Chiefs frontman Ricky Wilson and The Hobbit star Luke Evans.

Sherlock actor Andrew Scott, McFly's Tom Fletcher and panto regular Christopher Biggins were also among the celebrity-filled audience.

Analysis - Tim Masters, entertainment and arts correspondent

Image copyright Deen van Meer/Disney
Image caption The show features a number of lavishly choreographed dance scenes

Aladdin has reinvented many of its jokes to make it more relevant to a British audience.

While its cast use mainly American accents, the script contains references to Sir Bruce Forsyth, Tommy Cooper and Strictly Come Dancing.

"There were a lot of American references that people wouldn't get here," director Casey Nicholaw told the BBC after Wednesday's gala premiere.

"We got people here to read the script and say what they didn't think would work and suggest what we should try instead. We just kept playing with it."

"This version of Aladdin is something you can't see anywhere else on the planet," said Trevor Dion Nicholas, whose Genie produces a Union Jack umbrella during his opening monologue.

The American star, who also played Genie on Broadway, said Aladdin was his favourite Disney film growing up.

"I had the cassette tape and the VHS and I used to read the lyrics and learn all the songs when I was a kid."

Image copyright Deen van Meer/Disney
Image caption It also features a lavish representation of the film's 'Cave of Wonders'

Aladdin's producers have revealed the lavish show features 108 costume changes that each take place in under a minute.

According to Nicholaw, though, that does not rule out the occasional wardrobe malfunction.

"There might have been a girl with her costume round her ankles when she exited the stage after the Prince Ali song," he revealed.

Nicholaw is excited about being back in the UK later in the year to direct Dreamgirls, a musical inspired by the rise of 1960s R&B acts such as The Supremes.

"London feels like a second home to me," said the director, whose other credits include West End hit The Book of Mormon.

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