On Tour: ‘Aladdin’ the Musical Soars on Spectacle

Based on the flying-carpet classic Disney film, Aladdin the musical brings family-friendly comedy and spectacle. It runs through Sunday (4/28) at the Paramount Theatre.  

Note: sensory-friendly matinee on Saturday (4/27); see info here


Aladdin the musical made its premiere right here in Downtown Seattle (at The 5th Avenue Theatre, in 2011) before eventually opening on Broadway in 2014, so you could say its stop at the Paramount Theatre is something of a triumphant homecoming. But this production is clearly a seamless touring show, and it comes through with all the impressive set swaps, lightning-fast changes (the costumers just might be the heroes of this show), and confetti cannons to prove it. 

It’s no surprise this fantasy tale with the magic flying carpet thrives on big spectacle. More of a surprise are the places it finds it. Set design (by Bob Crowley) stands tall in unexpected places: the cave, in particular, is extraordinary, shining both extravagant wealth and murderous peril, aided mightily by the lighting design (Natasha Katz). Green smoke and a snake motif, which seems to come alive out of the backdrop, aid Jafar’s most villainous rise. The costumes (by Gregg Barnes), which can change by the instant — sometimes before our eyes, sometimes in a blink-and-you-miss-it step offstage — set the stage and its denizens a-shimmer without going gimmicky. 

Other times, however, things come up a little dry. There’s a lot of unsatisfying world-building with visuals that look like little more than lighting and lattice. Castle walls recall 8-bit Zelda. The magic carpet, which impressively looks suspended in mid-air, doesn’t give off forward progress so much as invisible hydraulic bop-around. It’s a cool trick, in and of itself, but does nothing for their joyride through the sky. Aladdin and Jasmine (Adi Roy and Senzel Ahmady) are on an illusion of a carnival ride. Sweet — now what? 

Overall, the show proceeds much like that: some very satisfying bits among a world that just doesn’t whisk you away into its fairy-tale fantasy. And against some of its fellow Disney musical counterparts — it more or less demands the comparison by working in a quick medley of Beauty and the Beast and Little Mermaid clips — for how ripe of a fantasy world those musicals have pulled off in recent shows, and how much built-in fantasy and adventure the Aladdin tale has to work with, ultimately the world this show crafts can feel like a let-down. 

But there’s a lot to like here, too. The ensemble gels, aided by near-continuous choreography (by director Casey Nicholaw) and fantastic costumes (by Gregg Barnes); their movement sets the tone and place as effectively as any set pieces. And as hard as it is to stand out among an ensemble (and all the more so when you’re a full head shorter than everyone else), Adriana Negron is positively magnetic: choreography that spins on a dime, motions sharp like a punch, expressions selling the whole character, at once inviting and giving sass. Anytime she’s on stage, things feel a little lighter. 

In the musical, both Abu (Aladdin’s beloved monkey) and Iago (Jafar’s parrot) are replaced by human stand-ins, with mixed results. I thought I’d miss Abu more than I did; but Aladdin’s trio of friends (played by Jake Letts, Nathan Levy, and Colt Prattes) form a Three Musketeers-style posse, and the three wildly different actors play off of each other wonderfully. Iago’s character (played by Nathan Choi), meanwhile, is a one-for-one replacement of animal with human, and it spins out as more of an overdone toady than anything. 

One thing we get exactly as promised is the Genie, who informs us he’s about to steal the show and then does exactly as advertised. Marcus M. Martin’s Genie is comic relief, to be sure, while creating a real tension: once Aladdin is so close to having it all, will he keep his promise? Or will the Genie forever be stuck in brass confines, beholden to others’ commands? Martin’s portrayal is a delight on both fronts: as an entertainer, he’s boisterous and electric; as a character, genuine and sympathetic. 

With strong characters all around, some of our leading characters have a tendency to fade into the backdrop. That, plus the script skimping on their development in favor of a lot of fluff in Act I, means it’s a good thing Aladdin and Jasmine’s pairing is a foregone conclusion. Otherwise, who knows if we’d see why they’re fighting for each other. 

As the characters concede, We can all use a hero right about now. Happily, there are a few versions to pick from on Aladdin’s stage. 


‘Aladdin’ music by Alan Menken; lyrics by Howard Ashman, Tim Rice, and Chad Beguelin; book by Chad Beguelin; based on the 1992 Disney film. Directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw. Musical supervision and direction by Michael Kosarin. Designed by Bob Crowley (scenic), Natasha Katz (lighting), Gregg Barnes (costumes), Ken Travis (sound), Jim Steinmeyer and Rob Lake (illusions), Josh Marquette (hair), and Milagros Medina-Cerdeira (makeup). 

Aladdin runs through 4/28 at the Paramount Theatre, in Downtown Seattle. Tickets here. Accessibility notes: main restrooms downstairs and upstairs are gendered and multi-stall, with gender-neutral, single-stall restroom on the main floor. Theatre and some common areas are wheelchair accessible. ASL-interpreted, open-captioned, and sensory-friendly performance (info here) at 4/27 matinee; ASL-interpreted and audio-described performance at 4/28 matinee; additional open-captioned performance 4/28 evening.

Run time: 2 hours 15 minutes, with intermission.

Chase D. Anderson is Editor & Producer of