When you grew up with a movie like Disney’s Aladdin being played on repeat, it’s no wonder that even as an adult, the thought of magical flying carpets and a singing Genie is still pretty awesome.
Aladdin The Musical brings the timeless Disney classic alive in a monumental way, with more sequins, special effects and spectacular scenery than you can shake a stick at. First born on the Broadway stage in New York, it landed in London’s West End last year and has since been enjoyed by over a million people.
Between the epic set, the bejewelled costumes and the award-winning cast and crew, here are 7 impressive facts you should know about the West End production.
1. There are over 300 costumes in the show
337 to be exact. Which means a lot of outfit changes. In fact, one scene (that only lasts three and a half minutes) sees 24 actors wearing 71 different outfits. You try and work that one out. Over two million Swarovski crystals were used by the costume department and every single costume in the show shimmers with them – one rather dazzling pair of gold trousers (worn for the ‘Friend Like Me’ number) boasts 1,428 crystals alone.
2. The set weighs the equivalent of 4.5 double decker buses
Set designer Bob Crowley created an awe-inspiring masterpiece that took over 100,000 hours to build and that weighs the same as four and a half London buses. Inspired by Middle Eastern tiles, rugs, textiles and architecture and Hollywood films such as 1940’s Arabian Nights, he dressed and draped the set in mounds of silk and glittering gold material. It also boasts hydraulic lifts that propel the cast from the basement onto the stage. Interestingly, Crowley only watched the Disney movie once and the only thing he recreated for his theatre set was the image of the gigantic tiger’s head emerging from the sand dunes, which is a sight to behold.
3. The Cave of Wonders has Star Wars connections
You’d expect a show like Aladdin to have a pretty impressive set. But we bet you didn’t expect it to have secret Star Wars parallels. The majestic Cave of Wonders, where Aladdin first meets his pal the Genie, was built for the stage using the same golden material that was used to finish C-3PO in the Star Wars films. Who knew?
4. An iconic song gets a surprising makeover
The minute you first hear those famously familiar trumpet toots kicking in for ‘Friend Like Me’, you know you’re in Aladdin territory. The iconic song was only two minutes long in the 1992 film, but on-stage, it’s transformed into an eight minute extravaganza that regularly receives standing ovations. We don’t want to give too much away, but prepare to hear a whole load of Disney classics – it’s practically a mini musical of its own.
5. An Oscar-winning legend wrote the soundtrack
Musical genius Alan Menken is a man who has an incredible eight Academy Awards to his name. He’s also a huge part of what makes Aladdin so special. As well as writing the scores for fellow Disney smashes The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Pocahontas, he also worked on the original music for the Aladdin film. And for the musical, he really pulled it out of the bag.
Menken resurrected seven ‘lost’ songs that didn’t end up being used for the 1992 film, including emotional ballad ‘Proud of Your Boy’ and ‘Somebody’s Got Your Back’. “I took these songs and said, ‘Let’s integrate these’ – and so we did, and I think it’s one of the keys to the success of the show,” he told Digital Spy.
6. Jasmine struggled with the magic carpet
Well, nearly. Jasmine is played by British actress Jade Ewen, whose previous stage roles include The Lion King and In The Heights, and who admits that riding the magic carpet in the stage production took some getting used to. “It’s a lot harder than you think it’s going to be,” the actress revealed on Lorraine. “You’re sitting down and the carpet’s moving so your stomach is tensing and relaxing. You’ve got to try and keep your voice smooth… But you get the hang of it.”
She’s also allowing audiences to see a different side to the Disney princess. “Jasmine has this sass and she’s independent,” Ewen told Evening Standard. “She doesn’t actually want a man, she wants to be on her own. In the end she goes for the street rat, which shows her heart and it goes to show it’s not about the bells and whistles. I think she’s a strong role model for girls everywhere.”
7. The actor who plays Genie comes direct from Broadway
US born Trevor Dion Nicholas was so impressive as Genie on Broadway that as soon as Disney Theatrical got ready to bring the show to London, Nicholas was asked to join the UK production. And it sounds like his turn as the energetic Genie was a long time coming – this guy’s been an Aladdin super fan for years. “That movie… I had the VHS, the cassette tape, I learnt every lyric, sang along and probably irritated the hell out of my siblings!” he told Digital Spy. “I fell in love with Aladdin, so to have the opportunity to do it in New York, let alone in London – it’s a childhood fantasy come true.”
Experience Aladdin in the West End with Aladdin The Musical at the Prince Edward Theatre.