Aladdin Review Sunderland Empire

Review: Disney’s Aladdin at Sunderland Empire

Caroline Dask embarks on a stroll down memory lane as Disney’s iconic musical Aladdin lands at Sunderland Empire…

No matter which corner of the world you come from, Aladdin is certainly a name you have heard of. While I was vaguely familiar with the story, it has been nearly two decades since I’ve last seen it, and on Friday evening (16 February) Sunderland Empire did a simply brilliant job reminding me of the magic and the undeniable appeal of this Disney production.

For those who have to really focus and dust off that corner of the brain in which the storyline of Aladdin is hidden, here’s a run-down on what it’s all about.

In the streets of Agrabah, Aladdin is a classic witty underdog, navigating them with ease and charm. He steals to survive but dreams of a better life and little does he know, his dream is about to become a reality.

After stumbling upon a magic lamp and rubbing it quite accidentally, he meets a larger-than-life Genie, the inhabitant of the lamp. He’s here, he’s out and he’s ready to grant Aladdin his three wishes.

With Genie’s help, Aladdin becomes a prince and hopes to win the heart of Princess Jasmine, the daughter of the Sultan, however the path to a fairytale ending is not without its obstacles, or in other words – the antagonist, power-hungry Jafar.

Aladdin Review Sunderland Empire

Amidst flying carpets, a luxurious palace, mystical caves, as well as danger and deceit, Aladdin learns that true wealth and happiness lie not in material possessions but in love and the people around him.

Let the Night Begin…

There’s no better day for delightful food and fascinating theatre than a Friday. Leaving the busy week behind me, I’m excited for the night to begin. Before the start of Aladdin at Sunderland Empire, we make a stop at Spice Empire, conveniently located just a short walk from the theatre.

A quality hour there with excellent food and superb service, it’s a sad goodbye and we’re already making plans to come back again. As of now, the Sunderland Empire is waiting, adorned with purple lights in theme with the production of Aladdin. Show after show, Sunderland Empire’s attention to detail never fails to impress me and my ‘always-on-the-look-out for aesthetically appealing content’ eye.

Having left Spice Empire in only the best of spirits, I’m keen to find out whether this Friday night could get any better…

First Impressions

Aladdin Review Sunderland Empire

As the curtain opens, my whole attention is on the stage and the cast. They all bring a subtle sparkle and charm to the already sparkling production and together they deliver the same fascination and magic that I remember having all those years ago watching the animated film.

It’s hard to put a finger on what it is exactly that makes the musical so fascinating to this wide range of audience, as from the very first opening scene, there’s so much action on stage, it’s hard to decide which corner of it grabs the attention the most.

Sunderland Empire Aladdin Review: The Cast

Gavin Adams, playing the role of Aladdin, is what I imagine a Prince should be. Witty, charming, good-hearted and spontaneous. Gavin has it all. His portrayal of Aladdin is so natural and effortless. It’s hard to believe that Disney’s Aladdin is his debut role, yet at the same time, if there was anyone born to play Aladdin, it surely is Gavin.

Genie, played by Yeukayi Ushe, is the star of the show for me. He brings out the comedic side of the character beautifully and holds the attention of the audience so well that I find myself on the edge of my seat for the next twist and turn of the story narrated by him.

Desmonda Cathabel, playing Princess Jasmin, is the true definition of a princess who can stand on her own two feet and there is no messing around with her. Desmonda balances the femininity of the character with a charming bossy undertone, resulting in her ability to make the character very relatable. Watching her perform, I found myself thinking that if I were a Disney Princess, I would want to be no other than Jasmine.

Aladdin Review Sunderland Empire

A local sense of feeling is brought on stage by our very own Sunderland talent, Adam Strong, playing the villain Jafar. Adam brings a sense of reality to the production, reminding the audience that life is never black and white and that no matter how dreamy the fairytale is, there are and will always be unpleasant moments in life, but just as his character, they’re nothing to be scared of, and they surely can be overpowered by the good.

Sunderland Empire Aladdin Review: The Set and Costume Design

A special mention goes to the creative team behind the musical. Bob Crowley (scenic design), Gregg Barnes (costume design), Jim Steinmeyer (illusion design) and Propworks among others. Being a newbie to Disney Theatrical Production, the stage and its ability to transform from the charming streets of Agrabah to the luxuries of the Palace fascinates me.

There are 162 costumes in the show, 110 pairs of shoes, 100 hats, over 1,000 fabrics, 700 styles of beads in the costumes, five layers of fabric in Jasmine’s wedding skirt, and that’s not all! The dedication and time that has gone into bringing this production to life is evident through every detail portrayed on set.

From the first seconds of the show, you just know that this is a Disney production.

Sunderland Empire Aladdin Review: The Music

Aladdin Review Sunderland Empire

Act One starts with ‘Arabian Nights’ led by Genie and accompanied by the rest of the cast and it’s safe to say, it’s my favourite number. My familiarity with the song just adds to its appeal, and combined with Yeukayi’s vocals and stage charisma, it’s a brilliant opening of the show, leaving a lasting impression.

Act Two has the classic ‘A Whole New World’, a heartfelt duet by Aladdin and Jasmine. It’s a dreamy number, captivating with the flying carpet in a starry night sky. Desmonda’s and Gavin’s voices blend extremely well together and the emotion as well as a sense of wonder is very easily relayed to the audience.

Disney’s iconic soundtrack is yet another element that makes this show a roaring success, and even after the show is over, on my way back, all of them are lingering in my memory.

Who Should See It?

Make no mistake about it, this show isn’t just for the little ones! If you like theatre, if you like sparkling costumes, if you like beautiful soul-touching music, if you’re in need of a feel-good ‘something’, then Disney’s Aladdin is for you.

It’s a stroll down the memory lane. One, that brings up only the very best of memories, filled with positivity, laughter and happy endings.

Would I go watch the show again? Absolutely.

And you should too.

Disney’s Aladdin is playing at Sunderland Empire until 10 March. Flying carpets at the ready, and snatch your tickets here.