Disney’s Aladdin at Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff

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Disney's Aladdin Wales Millennium Centre Cardiff review

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Thanks to Wales Millennium Centre for providing us with review tickets for Aladdin

Disney’s Aladdin is in Cardiff for the festive season – and what a true theatrical spectacular it is, a wonderfully magical production and thoroughly entertaining.

Filled with favourite songs from the animated film, plus a few new musical numbers, alongside enchanting special effects and featuring more than 350 costumes, it’s an absolutely stunning show bringing to life the film classics but also filled with unique elements of its own.

We were lucky to attend last night’s press performance at Wales Millennium Centre with Aladdin coming to the Welsh capital as part of its first ever UK and Ireland tour. Based on the 1992 animated Disney classic, with the book by Chad Beguelin, music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Ashman, Tim Rice and Beguelin, it’s already been seen by more than 14 million people worldwide since it premiered in 2011.

The set and costumes are so vibrantly colourful, and the clever lighting makes everything ‘pop’ out from the stage. From the bustling market of Agrabah, where we first meet street orphan Aladdin, to the lavish golden jewel filled Cave of Wonders, the atmospheric sunsets and the decadent palace, it all looks like it’s leaped straight out of a Disney film.

And it’s filled with performances to match too. Gavin Adams and Desmonda Cathabel are delightful as our lead couple Aladdin and Princess Jasmine, both so likeable and with a great rapport between them, and a feistiness to Jasmine who refuses to be married off to someone she doesn’t love. Aladdin’s act one solo, one of the new songs Proud of Your Boy, is a lovely showcase for his vocals and although their duets are lovely, it’s a shame Jasmine doesn’t have the same opportunity for a solo number (I would have loved to have seen her singing Speechless from the live action film).

Disney's Aladdin Wales Millennium Centre Cardiff review
Disney's Aladdin Wales Millennium Centre Cardiff review

Adam Strong as Jafar and Angelo Paragoso as sidekick Iago add a touch of evil menace but also a slight dash of panto, with their evil chuckle and comedy moments. They’re a great duo, playing well off each other.

Instead of Abu the monkey as his sidekick, Aladdin has a trio of loyal but rogue-ish friends Babkak (Nelson Bettencourt), Omar (Adam Taylor, a local boy from Penarth) and Kassim (Nay-Nay, back in Cardiff for the second festive season after delighting as the Prince in Snow White at the New Theatre last year). Their rendition of High Adventure is a welcome musical addition to the show and their second act duel with the guards has some brilliant sword fighitng. Nay-Nay in particular excels in his role with such charm and charisma; it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s promoted to Genie in a couple of years.

Disney's Aladdin Wales Millennium Centre Cardiff review

Which brings me to the role that, just as with both the animation and film versions, steals the show. Yeukayi Ushe as the man in the lamp is so charismatic and energetic. He’s influenced enough by Robin Williams and Will Smith’s versions to satisfy the fans but he makes the part his own too. He’s eccentric and animated but compassionate and caring, with a voice that fills the auditorium. The audience love him.

His rendition of Friend Like Me was the musical highlight of the night for me, one of the best routines I’ve seen on stage for a long time. Set in the gold-filled Cave of Wonders, the ensemble dancers whirl around carrying plates of food and other riches, everyone starts tap dancing like the great musicals of old, and the energy is electric. It lasts around 10 minutes, but kept our attention throughout, and got one of the longest mid-show round of applauses I’ve ever seen.

Disney's Aladdin Wales Millennium Centre Cardiff review

Prince Ali (one of my all-time favourite Disney musical numbers, the live action version in particular) manages to be extravagant and decadent especially given the limitations of being on stage (I had hoped for an elephant, but I liked the alternative), while Magic Carpet Ride is visually impressive as our loved-up couple float around the stage against the backdrop of a starry sky. The special effects here are so well executed.

The age guidance is six and above but other than that, it’s suitable for all ages, and the chat among the press contingent proved that everyone from seven to 70 absolutely loved it. It’s a sensational show.

If you’ve already booked tickets, you’re in for an absolute magical treat. If you haven’t yet bought them, be quick as there are still some left – a perfect last minute Christmas present.

Disney's Aladdin Wales Millennium Centre Cardiff review

Disney’s Aladdin is at Wales Millennium Centre until Sunday 14 January. Tickets are still available, although there is limited availability at some performances. Best availability is for January.

Age guidance 6+. Children under three, including babies in arms, are not permitted into the theatre. The performance is around two and a half hours including a 20 minute interval.

For more information and to book tickets visit the Wales Millennium Centre website here.

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