REVIEW: Aladdin – Palace Theatre – Manchester


Having already captivated over 14 million people worldwide, Disney’s Aladdin at the Manchester Palace Theatre delivers an exuberant and enchanting experience. This lavish production, based on the beloved 1992 animated film, is brimming with unforgettable magic, comedy, breathtaking sets, and dazzling costumes. With the addition of new music alongside iconic songs by Alan Menken, Howard Ashman, and Tim Rice- such as “Friend Like Me,” “A Whole New World,” “One Jump Ahead,” “Prince Ali,” and “Arabian Nights”- this show is a spectacular treat for audiences of all ages.

Yeukayi Ushe’s portrayal of the Genie is a highlight, exuding a delicious charisma that perfectly captures the essence of this iconic character. Ushe’s performance is a masterclass in energy and charm, drawing the audience in from his very first appearance. His Genie is larger-than-life, combining a quick wit with an infectious sense of fun that keeps the audience engaged and entertained throughout the show. Ushe’s impressive stage presence is matched by his versatility as a performer; he sings, dances, and acts with equal flair, making him a true triple threat. One of the standout moments of Ushe’s performance is during the show-stopping number “Friend Like Me.” This high-energy sequence is a phenomenal display of theatricality, filled with rapid-fire choreography, witty banter, and impressive vocal acrobatics. Ushe navigates this complex number with ease, delivering each line and move with precision and flair. His ability to connect with the audience, breaking the fourth wall and inviting them into the fun, makes this number a highlight of the entire production.

Desdemona Cathabel, as Jasmine, shines with the vocal clarity of a true Disney Princess, infusing her performance with a unique musical theatre spin. Her portrayal is both believable and honest, adding depth to the character. Her rendition of “A Whole New World” is particularly enchanting, blending beautifully with Gavin Adams’ Aladdin to create a magical moment that resonates with the audience. Beyond her vocal prowess, Cathabel brings a modern, independent spirit to Jasmine, portraying her not just as a romantic interest but as a strong, assertive woman who knows her own mind. Adam Strong’s Jafar is a mesmerising display of villainy, delivering a performance that is both chilling and enthralling. His commitment to the character is evident and captivating throughout. Strong’s ability to balance the character’s dark, villainous traits with a subtle, almost theatrical flamboyance adds an extra layer of complexity, making his Jafar a villain audiences love to hate. Gavin Adams, as Aladdin, impresses with his vocal and dance abilities, bringing clarity and finesse to every note and move.

The talented ensemble, including Juan Jackson, Hannah Amin, Rico Baker, Damien Winchester, Dammi Aregbeshola, Daisy Barnett, Sarah Benbelaid, Tau-En Chien, Zac Frieze, Erin Gisele Chapman, Jared Irving, James Lim, Harriet Miller, Luchia Moss, Aaron Elijah Patel, Abbie Platts, Joseph Poulton, Chris Ribz, Oliver Scheers, Kerry Spark, Ricardo Spriggs, and Niko Wirachman, brings Agrabah to life with dynamic and energetic performances. Their dance capabilities, under Casey Nicholaw’s expert choreography, add spectacular flair to the show. The extended dance sequences are laden with glamour and artistic excellence, showcasing the ensemble at its best. However, Nicholaw’s direction during the straight acting scenes sometimes falls short, particularly in the market scene, which lacks the bustling energy one would expect. This issue recurs throughout the show, with characters occasionally feeling stunted or one-dimensional. Scene changes also feel repetitive and could be more creatively handled.

Gregg Barnes’ costume design is nothing short of magnificent, transforming the stage into a vibrant tapestry of colors and textures that beautifully complement the characters and settings. The costumes for the ensemble numbers are particularly striking, with intricate beadwork, rich fabrics, and a dazzling array of hues that capture the exotic allure of Agrabah. Each outfit is carefully constructed to reflect the character’s personality and status, from the regal opulence of Jasmine’s gowns to the playful, colourful attire of the street vendors. The Genie’s costumes, in particular, are a highlight, blending whimsical elements with a sense of grandeur that perfectly suits Ushe’s charismatic performance.

Bob Crowley’s scenic design creates a stunning visual backdrop that enhances the storytelling. Some scenes immerse the audience fully into the world of Aladdin, with the palace interiors exuding grandeur and the Cave of Wonders sparkling with golden treasures. The use of vibrant colours and intricate detailing helps to create a sense of place that is both magical and immersive. However, there are moments where the scenic design feels less developed, such as the market scene, which lacks the bustling energy and scale one might expect from such a pivotal location. Despite this, the overall effect is visually captivating, transporting the audience to a fantastical version of Agrabah.

Jim Steinmeyer’s illusion design is another standout element, bringing the magic carpet to life in a way that exceeds expectations and creates a truly show-stopping moment. The seamless integration of the carpet’s flight with the surrounding visual effects makes it a highlight of the production. Natasha Katz’s lighting design further enhances these magical moments, transforming the stage with a palette of light that shifts to reflect the changing moods and settings of the story. The use of light and shadow is particularly effective in the night scenes, adding a layer of enchantment to the romantic and adventurous sequences.

Despite some minor shortcomings, Disney’s Aladdin at the Manchester Palace Theatre is an enchanting production that successfully captures the timeless magic of the original film. The stellar performances, especially by Ushe, Cathabel, and Strong, combined with breathtaking visuals, elaborate costumes, and memorable music, create a theatrical experience that is both nostalgic and refreshingly new. It is a show that offers something for everyone, making it a must-see for theatre lovers and families alike.

Aladdin plays at the Palace Theatre Manchester until the 7th of July before continuing its nationwide tour.

Photography throughout by Deen Van Meer






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