Music: Alan Menken
Lyrics: Howard Ashman and Tim Rice
Libretto: Jim Luigs, based on “1001 Nights”
ROMA Musical Theatre: 26 November 2011
The musical ALADDIN JR. is one of several stage adaptations of the 1992 Disney animation “Aladdin”. This film, one of the most loved and most popular of all Disney productions, was the famous studio’s 30th full-length animation and contributed to the so-called ‘Disney Renaissance’ of the 1990s. The film itself was based on the celebrated collection of traditional Middle Eastern folk tales known as “1001 Nights” (also called the “Arabian Nights”) but the musical’s producers have updated the messages contained in these old tales and ascribed the heroes with motives which are easier for contemporary audiences to understand. The success of the film “Aladdin” was due in large part to the fact that the main characters – the besotted young street urchin Aladdin and Princess Jasmine – like to take matters into their own hands. A major influence on the final shape of the film, and therefore also on the resultant musical version, was the British fantasy film “The Thief of Baghdad” (1940).
The film version of the story of Aladdin and Jasmine was first performed on stage in the Disney California Adventure theme park in 2003. The performance lasted 45 minutes and featured most of the film’s best-known songs, and also one new one. This production of ALADDIN JR., which was devised for younger performers, is a one-act stage version based on the plot of the film. Street thief Aladdin meets by chance the beautiful and rebellious Princess Jasmine, who has just run away from the palace to escape a wedding arranged for her by her father, the Sultan. After being captured by the guards of the evil vizier Jafar, the boy finds help in the form of a genie, who grants him three wishes. He therefore asks – as “Prince Ali” – for Jasmine’s hand in marriage. But will the young street urchin be believable in a disguise which doesn’t totally suit him? And how will he be received by the princess, who is dreaming about Aladdin…?
A spectacular part of the show is the ride of the two young protagonists on a magic flying carpet. Not to give anything away, but the news that ROMA Musical Theatre was putting on a performance where the action takes place above the heads of the audience electrified the whole of Warsaw. An additional strength of this humorous and moving performance are the beautiful melodic songs composed by Alan Menken, who received two Oscars for his work on “Aladdin”.
The Warsaw production – the first in the world on such a scale – exceeded the expectations of the rights holders to such an extent that, at the suggestion of Disney Theatrical Productions Ltd, the Polish producers recreated the ROMA Theatre’s production in 2013 and staged it in the Musical Comedy Theatre in St. Petersburg. This Polish version of a Russian “Aladdin” (the only difference being the language) also turned out to be a huge success.
Selected songs: “Arabian Nights”, “Friend Like Me”, “Prince Ali” and “A Whole New World”.