Monday, November 11, 2019

Friend Like Me (Aladdin July 2018)




Outfit detail: 
Top: Piko//Vest: Made For Life (Similar here)//Jeans: American Eagle//Shoes: Madden Girl

If you thought seeing two shows in July was a lot, normally I would agree. I think I started to become a show junkie after seeing four shows in four weeks during the American Ballet Theater Spring Season. But I have to say this is the most insane adventure I've ever had for seeing a show.

It all started a few hours before. July 10 was Mary Ellen's birthday and I happened to get off work two hours before I thought I would, so we had some free time to kill before the restaurant we had planned to go to opened. Around 4:45 PM, we were killing some time in Starbucks and I decided to get on Twitter and just scroll through the feed.

Now Mary Ellen has wanted to see the show for a while and thought she wouldn't be able to before she moved, but settled to see it on tour next year. However, there was an understudy she also would've liked to see in the role of Aladdin in NYC. I was lucky enough to see the show the summer it opened with the original cast. While I was scrolling through my feed, I noticed that Broadway Understudies, a Twitter account posting about any understudies going on in a show, tweeted that said Aladdin understudy was going on for the role that night.

Well you couldn't just let an opportunity like that pass up on a birthday, so we decided to check out StubHub and TodayTix to see if there were any decently priced tickets still available for the show that evening. The fees on the tickets were not ideal, so we decided to go to the box office and see if they happened to have anything without the fee pricing. They did. We got tickets for the mezzanine at a killer price and were now seeing a show in an hour and a half.

This is the most spontaneous thing I have ever done for a show because if I rush a show, I have to plan it out in advance to figure out what time I need to arrive at the theater to be guaranteed a ticket. But I'm so glad we were able to see the show. I had wanted to see Arielle Jacobs as Jasmine and I'm always a fan of the Broadway shows Disney creates.

Currently, Disney has three very strong shows technically and performance-wise on Broadway right now. You can't go wrong with any of them if you want to choose just one Disney show to see on Broadway currently. It's also amazing that all three shows have different composers. Alan Menken is such a wonderful composer, who is the mind behind so many classic Disney songs. He takes the film score of Aladdin and expands on it to create a full show. He also used the show as an opportunity to bring "Proud of Your Boy" back, which was originally cut from the movie. Two of my favorite songs created for the musical are "A Million Miles Away", which allows Jasmine and Aladdin another duet that isn't as flashy and technical as the carpet ride for "A Whole New World", and "Diamond in the Rough", which was a villain song created for Jafar and Iago with a hint of humor. I honestly don't know what it is, but I tend to always enjoy the villain songs the most in most of the Disney films. 

I wish I could talk about every cast member in this show because everyone was amazing, but for the sake of not making this post too long, I'm only going to talk about four cast members who in my opinion carry the show the most. 

Mike Longo was the understudy who appeared in the role of Aladdin the night we saw it. I believe he has a history with the show and has even been with multiple companies, Broadway and National Tour. He had such a strong stage presence in the role and had such a comfort on stage as the lead role as those who play the role regularly. As soon as he started singing, I felt that his voice was similar to Adam Jacobs, the original Broadway Aladdin, who also had a similar voice to Brad Kane, the singing voice for the film. However, while they all sound the same, they bring something different to the role also. What I love about understudies being on is it allows the cast members to perform with someone different and brings a freshness to the show. It makes it better if their is multiple understudies or standbys on, as was the case for Aladdin. 

Arielle Jacobs was a splendid Jasmine. Her brother is the original Aladdin and I feel honored and privileged to be able to see both of them in the show. Arielle brings a mix of humor and strength to the role. She shows the vulnerable part of Jasmine, as a girl who has not had much life experience outside of the palace, but also head strong, in that she wants to her future husband to want her and not the title and fortune. 

Deonte L. Warren, one of the standbys, performed the role of the Genie for our performance and he owned the role. Every entrance Deonte made was met with loud applause and Deonte's and the cast performance of "Friend Like Me" was received with outstanding applause from the audience. I enjoyed watching Deonte play up and off the crowd for his performance and he's the only character to break the fourth wall and interact with the audience slightly, especially during his entrances. 

Jonathan Freeman. If you can't find any other reason to see the show from what I described above, go see the show for Jonathan Freeman. How often can you say that you've seen an actor portray a role on stage that he also voiced in the movie. I love that when you hear him speak, not only are you seeing him transformed into Jafar, but you are also seeing the animated version of Jafar. I am pleasantly surprised to see that he was still playing the role four years later and was so happy to see him and Don Darryl Rivera as the villainous team of Jafar and Iago. After being a team on stage together since the show opened, you can see how deep their partnership is and how well they work together on the stage. 

Disney doesn't disappoint with the technical aspect of the show and the flying carpet ride is breath taking. Mary Ellen and I honestly couldn't figure out how they made the magic happen, which is a well kept secret of Disney's. 

Aladdin is currently playing at the New Amsterdam Theatre on 42nd Street and is also currently touring the United States. 

*the YouTube links are for the original cast recording and do not all portray the cast members I saw for this performance
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