Six high school arts journalists review the musical ‘Aladdin’

The world of Disney musicals is a world that allows adults and teenagers a chance to revisit their childhoods. Last week, the musical “Aladdin” opened at the Kentucky Center, and Arts Bureau Edge, a youth arts journalism initiative brought six young critics to the press opening with the help of PNC Broadway in Louisville.

These journalists came from five schools throughout the metropolitan area, including Southern Indiana, to see “Aladdin” — with its flying carpet, pyrotechnics, comedy and inspiring love story. 

This effort is just one of many in Arts Bureau Edge’s mission to give young people experience in writing about the arts and give them a voice in the community.

— Elizabeth Kramer

“Aladdin” runs through Sunday, Oct. 21 at the Kentucky Center for the arts. Elizabeth Kramer and Frances Ward-Simmons founded Arts Bureau Edge. Special thanks to Matthew Porter at PNC Broadway in Louisville and Keith Stone of LEO. 

All that glitters is indeed gold in ‘Aladdin’
By Annie Bush
Louisville Collegiate School
Even if I hadn’t been able to hear the music, “Aladdin” still would have rendered me speechless. Overall a visual delight, the musical achieved a feat difficult to procure outside of the big showbiz cities — it successfully synthesized outstanding choreography, set design and costume choice to develop a work of art so engaging that it was a marvel in its glory for the entirety of its running time. 

One could spend hours debriefing the intricacy of the costumes or ruminating on the eye-popping abs of every performer, but no one detail is able to represent the overwhelmingly beautiful ambiance of the set. 

Not that any of this is any surprise: “Aladdin” had an all-star crew behind the scenes. 

Tony-Award-winning director and choreographer Casey Nicholaw manned the helm as director and choreographer working with six-time Tony winner and set designer Bob Crowley. It is evident that no expense was spared in the fabrication of this world, a world that breathes life into the 1992 Disney cartoon.

And, oh god, the music. It was not so much the specific timbre of an individual’s voice, but the ability of every actor to fill the room with sweeping notes and sincere emotion. The audience erupted in laughter alongside the Genie (Michael James Scott) in “Friend Like Me.” Some viewers not-so-subtly wiped the corners of their eyes while Aladdin (Clinton Greenspan) belted “Proud of Your Boy.” There was no moment in this production in which I didn’t feel emotionally invested in the characters onstage. 

This connection with the onstage performers appeared to transcend age. The theater was filled with toddlers, grandmothers and teen boys alike — and of the entire short-attention-span demographic. I didn’t notice a single person get up to use the bathroom or move an inch throughout the performance. “Aladdin” has something for everyone — juicy romance, quips about modern issues and unforgettable song and dance numbers all wrapped in a neat two-and-a-half hour musical. Opulent, beautiful and engaging — “Aladdin” is a sight to see.

‘Aladdin’: the Show That Reminds You Of That Special Feeling
By Sylvia Cassidy
Sophomore, duPont Manual High School
Disney’s musical “Aladdin,” now on tour across the country, can make you believe in magic again.

The show, based on the 1992 animated movie, is a colorful reminder of that special feeling you felt while watching Disney as a kid. While you come for energetic characters, such as the Genie (Michael James Scott), you stay for the new additions in the musical, like Aladdin’s new pals Babkak (Zach Bencal), Omar (Phillipe Arroyo), and Kassim (Jed Feder).

The Genie had an infectious personality and was definitely the best character in the show. While I enjoyed the other characters, too, they weren’t played true to the original film. For example, Jafar (Jonathan Weir) was menacing but not scary, and Jasmine (Lissa deGuzman) was passionate, but not fierce.

I had the privilege of seeing the show two nights in a row. During opening press night, the ensemble was sloppy and unsynchronized, and the dialogue was rushed. It became hard to understand what they were saying and what I was seeing from the high balcony. 

The next night, I thought I was seeing an entirely new cast. The actors seemed to stir each other as well as the audience. The difficulties with pyrotechnics that threw off the actors the first night were eliminated from the second show. The song and script drew viewers into the fictional world of Agrabah.

While the show was wonderful in almost every way, my favorite part was seeing a little boy beside me amazed by the “Whole New World” of musicals. It really warmed my heart to see kids like him immensely enjoy the show. Aladdin (Clinton Greenspan) seemed to capture the hearts of everyone in the audience, exhibiting the essence of the Disney spirit.

A Whole New World of Excitement
By Julia Kirchner
Junior, Pleasure Ridge Park High School
Thursday night, the cast of “Aladdin” took over The Kentucky Center’s stage. High-spirited actors with big personalities told the story of the young man who fell in love with the princess of Agrabah. The story had many twists and turns, and there were many obstacles for the characters. However, the musical remained positive and was a charming production. 

The captivating set designs and costumes gave the full Disney effect. Bright orange and purple backdrops pulled the audience right into the fictional marketplace where Aladdin (Clinton Greenspan) first saw Jasmine (Lissa DeGuzman). The two of them then flew on the infamous magic carpet in front of bright stars whilst singing “A Whole New World.” The costumes worn by the actors were similar to those seen in the 1992 film, making it seem as though they were really a part of the Disney universe. 

The musical did an excellent job at keeping its viewers engaged. Michael James Scott as the genie provided plenty of comic relief to keep everyone watching by, for instance, making references to pop culture and portraying an over-the-top personality that stole the show each time he was onstage. 

The rest of the cast accurately portrayed their characters as well. DeGuzman as Jasmine often sang light and princess-like, and Greenspan portrayed an endearing Aladdin. The actors functioned well together as a whole, and the production ran smoothly.

The choreography made the musical stand out with enthusiastic dancers filling the whole theater with energy. This was one of the most significant reasons why the show was so enjoyable.

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This musical is both adult and child-friendly. Disney fans of all kinds will enjoy this rendition of “Aladdin.”

Stepping into a Whole New World
By Emma Presnell
Sophomore, duPont Manual High School
From the big screen to the big stage, Disney’s musical adaptation of the 1992 animated feature “Aladdin” captures the light heartedness of the classic tale while introducing new elements that make the show enjoyable for most ages.

I say most because this adaptation throws in jokes and on-screen interactions that appeal to the younger audiences, such as corny puns and fairly exaggerated facial expressions. But there’s so much more that any audience member may find exciting to watch, such including the magic carpet ride taken by Jasmine (Lisa deGuzman) and Aladdin (Clinton Greenspan).

Speaking of exciting, the ensemble bring so much life and color to the numbers that I found myself missing them during solos like “Proud of Your Boy,” performed by Greenspan. Casey Nicholaw’s choreography mixed with Gregg Barnes’ costumes made the numbers with the ensemble more exciting.

This adaptation also has new songs written by Alan Menken and Chad Beguelin, and uses songs written by Howard Ashman for the movie that had been cut. The song “Proud of Your Boy,” written by Ashman, furthers Aladdin’s motives by revealing his wish to make his long-deceased mother proud. “High Adventure,” performed by Aladdin’s friends Babkak (Zach Bencal), Omar (Philippe Arroyo), Kassim (Jed Feder) and the ensemble, adds a fun number despite hardly furthering the plot.

The three main characters the musical focuses on — Aladdin, Jasmine and Genie — perform phenomenally to sweep viewers into this new world. Michael James Scott as Genie is charming and hilarious from beginning to end. Clinton Greenspan introduces Aladdin as a lost boy persona, which creates empathy, despite all the questionable actions Aladdin makes. While Lissa deGuzman does well as Jasmine, her voice is notably higher than Jasmine’s in the movie, which can take away from her mature and independent personality at times. 

Overall, “Aladdin” is a musical you could be talking about for weeks after the curtain closes. 

‘Aladdin’ Revives Disney in a New Fashion
By Rachel Street
Senior, Silver Creek High School
Thursday night’s performance of the musical “Aladdin” was Disney magic in the best of ways. 

It brought me back to a place of wonder, similar to that of a young child. “Aladdin” was so much more than a fluff piece; it was a spectacle. 

There were several additions made to the stage version of this well-known story from the film, but they all worked well. Much of this success comes from was aided by a clever book for the musical by Chad Beguelin. The fast-paced dialogue was witty and humorous, but did not override the necessary serious moments. 

Bob Crowley’s scenic design used every inch of the stage, and contributed to several “wow” moments, specifically during the Cave-of-Wonders sequence. 

Each musical number pushed the story along masterfully, which is almost expected from a great writers like Alan Menken, Tim Rice and Howard Ashman, who died in 1991. The numbers added for the stage show gave more depth and warmth to beloved characters like Aladdin and Jasmine.

The most impressive parts of the show, however, were the performances. The cast worked together wonderfully, and the chemistry between the actors added to the show’s ambiance. In act one, Lissa deGuzman’s Jasmine struggled to find her footing. But by the end, she became the headstrong princess we expect her to be. Clinton Greenspan embodied the charm and charisma of Aladdin, but transitioned to seriousness with ease, particularly in act one’s song, “Proud of Your Boy,” a song that doesn’t appear in the film. 

But the show’s star was Michael James Scott as Genie. Scott originated the role in Australia, and has played it in London and New York. His energy carried the show. During the show-stopping number “Friend Like Me,” he almost had the audience on its feet. 

“Aladdin” creates a bright spot at a time when the culture often finds itself divided. The pure joy exuding from the cast and audience brought a sense of unity to the show. And if I could rub Genie’s lamp and get three wishes, one of them would definitely be to see this show again. 

‘Aladdin’ sets sail with wonders
By Gracie Vanover
Junior, Floyd Central High School
As beautiful stars fill the room depicted onstage along with the silhouette of a hazy moon, a magical carpet glides seamlessly across the sky. A lovely princess and secretive prince sit together on it singing gracefully of a journey and a whole new world for both of them.

The ever so lovely scene featuring the song “A Whole New World” is an eye-catching part of the applaudable “Aladdin” that opened Thursday. “Aladdin,” the Broadway play hit based on of the 1992 Disney film, recreates the fantasy city of Agrabah and the tale inside of it. The musical is a true sight to see.

This show provides hit songs from the film such as “Friend Like Me,” performed by the joyous Genie (Michael James Scott), and introduces songs such as “Babkak, Omar, Aladdin, and Kassim.” With old and new songs, viewers can hop right into the show as every song works as a very transitional vehicle to push the show forward.

The sets for scenes are marvelous and eye-catching. In The Cave-of-Wonders scene, designer Bob Crowley creates a magnificent glittering cave of jewels and riches. Other scenes, such as the “A Whole New World” scene, are spectacular. 

Distinguishable costumes by Gregg Barnes helped truly create a magical Arabic township that filled the audience’s eyes with properly placed sequins and jewels. Barnes also created pieces used to pull off incredibly fast and flashy costume changes for characters like Jafar (Jonathan Weir).

Scott as Genie was funny and lovable, providing wonderful comedic relief. Often talking directly to the audience with sassy comments, Scott made the Genie the whole package for his character. 

Overall, this spectacular Disney original film transferred nicely into a musical and made for great and comedic show for an audience of all ages.

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