Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

November 10, 2022

REVIEW: The Bushnell, “Aladdin”

The Bushnell, Hartford, CT 
Through November 13, 2022
by Michael J. Moran

After a 15-minute delay due to technical problems, a hyperkinetic Marcus M. Martin as the Genie literally burst onto scenic designer Bob Crowley’s colorful stage set for “Aladdin” to welcome an enthusiastic opening-night full house with a lively “Arabian Nights,” and for the next two and a half hours the high energy level of this riotously engaging production rarely flagged. 

Set in the fictional Arabian city of Agrabah, the story follows the classic folktale of a poor young man given three wishes by a genie in a lamp, which he uses to court a princess and to defeat her father’s wicked servant, Jafar. Based on the 1992 Disney animated film of the same name, the long-running (since 2014) Broadway hit features tuneful music by Alan Menken and witty lyrics by Howard Ashman, Tim Rice, and book writer Chad Beguelin. This is its second U.S. tour. 

While Martin steals every scene he appears in, going especially all-out in his big Act I number, “Friend Like Me,” the leading couple are appealingly played and winningly sung by Adi Roy as an endearingly honest Aladdin, who hopes to please his dead mother (“Proud of Your Boy”) and Senzel Ahmady as a beguiling Princess Jasmine, who yearns to experience the world and marry for love (“These Palace Walls”). Anand Nagraj is a fearsome Jafar, and Aaron Choi, amusingly over the top as his aptly named henchman, Iago. Jake Letts’ Babkak, Ben Chavez’s Omar, and Colt Prattes’ Kassim are all entertaining as Aladdin’s energetic sidekicks.   
Director/choreographer Casey Nicholaw keeps his large ensemble in almost constant motion, with occasional quiet interludes quickly succeeded by show-stopping dance numbers, which include many styles, from tango to cha-cha to tap. They’re enhanced by Gregg Barnes’ dazzling costume design and vibrant musical direction from arranger Michael Kosarin, conductor James Dodgson, and his powerful nine-member band. 

Kudos to special effects designer Jeremy Chernick and illusion designers Jim Steinmeyer and Rob Lake for vividly animating the Cave of Wonders where Aladdin finds the lamp in Act I and mounting a mid-air magic carpet ride for Aladdin’s and Jasmine’s lovely Act II duet, “A Whole New World,” on the Mortensen Theater’s deep stage.

Broadway fans of all ages should catch this joyous romp of a show before it vanishes (spoiler alert) like Jafar.