Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Lukewarm Arabian Night

Last weekend, I went to southern Utah with fellow blogger Jonathan Revell of Rubber Duck Activist. One of the main goals of the trip was to see some plays, namely Les Misérables at the Cedar City Shakespeare festival and Hairspray at the Tuacahn amphitheater. Sadly, Les Mis was sold out and Hairspray just didn't fit our schedule. So we went to Aladdin at the Tuacahn instead.

A whole new world? I think I'll stay in mine, thanks.
I hate to say it, but we definitely saw the worst of those three plays. I will say that the singing and dancing were pretty good. However, there were many flaws that were hard to overlook.

Being a performer, I notice things that many would not. For instance, things that should have been seamless within this production often stood out in a bad way. Two examples of this are some carpets getting knocked over and a fire-based prop not lighting at the right time.

The acting was generally forgettable. In fact, the only memorable characters were the Sultan and Iago, in my opinion. The performance of the Sultan was gentle and kind with a touch of humor, much like the original movie. The actor portraying Iago seemed to be channeling his inner Nathan Lane, and while his character had been changed to a human for the stage adaptation of the film (which I found to be an odd choice at first), it actually worked.

The actor playing the Genie was totally the worst. Not only were his impressions bad, but there were far too many of them as well. He didn't seem to have an "off" button. He would go at such a rapid-fire pace with his pop culture references that the audience had to struggle to even understand what he was saying. It didn't seem to matter to him whether his contributions were relevant- he obviously just wanted the spotlight constantly. He could learn a thing or two from Robin Williams about balance. And I don't like how the director chose to make him the focal point of the finale, rather than Aladdin and Jasmine. Bad call, director.

Like I said, the singing was good for the most part. The actor playing Aladdin was an understudy and it occasionally showed in moments where he would forget certain words, sing wrong words, or the Jasmine actress would sing without him because he was apparently lost. These were my only qualms with this show's musicality. In fact, some of the singing was even great. Three new characters who served to replace Abu and Carpet (Raja was removed as well) had beautiful harmonies, despite being painfully schmaltzy, self-promotional, and just plain annoying. I don't remember their names, nor do I care to.

Also mentioned previously, the choreography and its execution was pretty well done. My only critique there is that there was too much walking around at times, rather than actual dancing. The dancers themselves, however, were very well trained and athletic, performing stunts, aerials, tilts, toe touches, and many other acrobatic feats.

The effects were a mixed bag, much like the rest of the show. The tiger's head cave (you know what I'm talking about) was really cool. It was a mix of water and lights that was the most visually stunning part of the show. I also enjoyed the occasional implementation of the surrounding desert landscape of the Tuacahn and it made me wish it would've been used more. For instance, rather than transform the gorgeous desert backdrop into the inside of the treasure cave, the production team chose to use 3D. Bad 3D, I might add. It seemed gimmicky and hastily put together.

As for the writing of the was terrible. In fact, it was by far the worst aspect of the show. For a more in depth critique of the show's writing (from a legit writer, I might add) click here: Aladdin the musical: Highly contrived adventure

So my final verdict on this show is that it was...ok. But for something that is supposed to be Broadway-quality, that's not exactly high praise. Better luck next time, Tuacahn!



  1. Cool review, very personal, I liked your inside views from the perspective of a performer. Also, bravo on the use of "schmaltzy".