‘Aladdin’ is a sparkling musical for the whole family

Cast members of “Aladdin” surround Anthony Murphy (Genie) with the gold tops of their serving cloches. Photo by Deen van Meer.

“Aladdin” is by no means a musical only kids can enjoy.

The entire family should be able to appreciate it — including elderly grandparents.

Like me.

The opening night audience at the SHN Orpheum, in fact, had many more adults (without kids) in attendance than youngsters.

What did I get to witness?

About 337 fantastically glitzy costumes that used 2,039 trims and fabrics from Morocco, Turkey, India, Uzbekistan, China, Tahiti, Japan, Guatemala, Mexico, France, Italy, England and Germany.

With 52 costume changes taking place in less than 30 seconds, 102 in less than a minute.

What else?

Fabulous choreography (by director Bob Crowley). An array of comical moments. Stunning sets. A huge, multi-ethnic cast of some 25 (including a disembodied spooky voice) and a 16-person orchestra in the pit. Multiple musical comedy voices worthy of appearing on Broadway, where the show ran in 2014.

 Oh, yeah, and a flying magic carpet whose wires are invisible to the naked eye so the illusion is perfect.

What didn’t I hear?

Crude language (no hells or damns, much less f-bombs). No monkeys or horses like you’d find in the original, animated films. No hummable songs except for “A Whole New World” (despite Disney stalwart Alan Menken being responsible for the music, and Chad Beguelin, who also wrote the book, Howard Ashman and Tim Rice the lyrics).

I, gratefully, also found no references to Middle East conflicts or Donald Trump’s visit to the region.

Although I couldn’t discern every word with absolute clarity, it made no never mind: The predictable storyline, with its twin motifs of adventure and romance (including a lovingly slow dance on a rooftop where Aladdin had squatted) is hardly complicated so I could always fathom what was going on.


Familiar to anyone who’s read or seen any rendition of the Grimm’s fairy tale, of course, is the magic lamp and the three wishes the Genie grants to Our Hero, who in this show is alternately referred to as a street rat, Aladdin, Prince Ali Baba or at just plain Al.

But Anthony Murphy steals the show as the over-the-top, comic, über-sized, energetic and congenial Genie who seeks freedom from the confines of his lamp home.

Although Half Moon Bay native Adam Jacobs, who replicates the role of Aladdin that he originated on Broadway, and Isabelle McCalla, as a feisty, feminist Princess Jasmine, are no slouches. And Jonathan Weir is appropriately sinister as the villainous Jafar.

The showstopper comes near the end of the first act, the multi-part production “Friend Like Me,” a finale that features a carefully choreographed and clanging sword fight, a game-show spoof, baton-twirling, tap-dancing and a lengthy chorus line highlighted by the men’s gold costumes that contained 8,644 rhinestones each.

The number, not incidentally, drew cheers and shouts of “bravo” from the audience.

The fast-paced 130-minute touring company show, with added songs that weren’t part of the 1992 animated film, is the ninth theatrical Disney production. Others include “Beauty and the Beast,” the company’s first way back in 1994, and its biggest success, “The Lion King.”

Its next, “Frozen,” is scheduled to open on Broadway in the spring.

I’ll never forget Robin Williams voicing the Genie in the film, but I’ll long fondly remember this sparkling version as well.

“Disney’s Aladdin” will play at the SHN Orpheum Theatre, 1192 Market St. (at Hyde), San Francisco, through Jan. 7. Night performances, 6:30 p.m. Sundays, 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays; matinees, 1 p.m. Sundays, 2 p.m. Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets: $45 to $213 (subject to change). Information: (888) 746-1799 or shnsf.com.

Contact Woody Weingarten at voodee@sbcglobal.net or at www.vitalitypress.com/

About the Author

Woody WeingartenWoody Weingarten, who can be reached at www.vitalitypress.com/ or voodee@sbcglobal.net, can’t remember when he couldn’t talk — or play with words. His first poem was published in high school but when his hormones announced the arrival of adulthood, he figured he’d rather eat than rhyme. So he switched to journalism. And whadda ya know, the bearded, bespectacled fella has used big, small and hyphenated words professionally since jumpstarting his career in New Yawk City more than 60 years ago. Today the author of the book “Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner’s breast cancer” is also a reviewer-critic, blogger and publisher — despite allegedly being retired. During his better-paid years as a wage slave he was an executive editor and writer for daily and weekly publications in California, Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York. He won writing awards for public service and investigation, features, columns, editorials and news. Woody also has published weekly and monthly newspapers, and written a national column for “Audio” magazine. A graduate of Colgate University, he owned a public relations/ad agency and managed an advertising publication. The father of two and grandfather of three, he and his wife, Nancy Fox, have lived in San Anselmo in Marin County for three decades. He figures they'll stay.View all posts by Woody Weingarten →