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Disney's 'Aladdin' unleashes a genie on Broadway

A part of the signage at the main gate of The Walt Disney Co. is pictured in Burbank, California, May 7, 2012. REUTERS/Fred Prouser
A part of the signage at the main gate of The Walt Disney Co. is pictured in Burbank, California, May 7, 2012. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

By Patricia Reaney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - It has a flying carpet, a cave full of treasures and show-stopping songs, but critics said on Friday the Broadway debut of Disney's "Aladdin" lacks the magic of the original Oscar-winning animated film.

The tale of the street urchin Aladdin, who wins the heart of Princess Jasmine, unleashes the Genie from the lamp and battles the evil Jafar, was the top-grossing film of 1992, and picked up Academy Awards for best original score and song for "A Whole New World."

The musical that opened on Thursday night is the latest Disney film to be adapted for the stage, following the long-running and hugely successful "Lion King," "Beauty and the Beast," "The Little Mermaid" and others.

Although "Aladdin" includes new songs, elaborate costumes and sets, dance numbers and a magical carpet that mysteriously floats, it left some critics wishing for more.

"This super-costly extravaganza doesn't do justice to the movie, or to the spirit of the late Howard Ashman," trade magazine Variety said, referring to the lyricist who had the original inspiration for the film.

The Hollywood Reporter described the show as "sweet, silly fun," while the New York Daily News found the extravagant production lacking compared to the film.

"Most moving thing in 'Aladdin' is the flying carpet," it said in a headline, adding that the musical was "entertaining but an emotionally sparse adaptation" of the film.

"While burning through wishes, you should ask for a musical with a lot more heart," it said.

But the New York Times' Charles Isherwood, who admitted he was not enthusiastic about the prospect of yet another Disney show on Broadway, said the show defied his dour expectations.

"Aladdin' has an infectious and only mildly syrupy spirit," he wrote. "Not to mention enough baubles, bangles and beading to keep a whole season of 'RuPaul's Drag Race' contestants in gear."

NIFTY GENIE

Adam Jacobs ("The Lion King") plays Aladdin in the show directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw ("Elf"). Courtney Reed ("Mama Mia") is the rebellious Princess Jasmine and James Monroe Iglehart ("Memphis") takes on the role of the Genie that was voiced by comic Robin Williams in the film version.

Although less enthusiastic about the musical, the New York Post had high praise for Iglehart's rousing performance.

"Disney's new 'Aladdin' doesn't quite catch lightening in a bottle - but it lets a pretty nifty genie out of a lamp," the newspaper said. "That would be James Monroe Iglehart."

USA Today went a step further, saying Iglehart's rendition of the song "Friend Like Me" topped the version sung by Williams.

"By the end of the number, which includes a game-show segment, a medley of tunes from other Disney musicals, Iglehart's Genie is deliriously huffing and puffing: the audience, which received it at a recent preview with a standing ovation, is just as giddy," the newspaper said.

The Hollywood Reporter found the musical perhaps the most old-school of Disney's screen-to-stage adaptations since "Beauty and the Beast" but added it could still become a family-friendly hit.

"It's not the most sophisticated entertainment, but the target demographic won't mind at all," it said.

Another Disney movie bound for Broadway is "Frozen," this year's Oscar-winning best animated film which has generated $1 billion at the global box office since November.

(Editing by Eric Kelsey and Andrew Hay)

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