“Magic to Do”
Ladies and gents,
Over the years, Disney World ads have often featured parents taking their children into a world of wonderment and finding themselves suddenly swept up away, in childlike awe, by the sheer magic in the air.
So it is fitting that Disney Theatricals should pull off the greatest magic act of all: transforming a theater full of seen-it-all Broadway types into wide-eyed children, right on precipice of one of the most competitive awards seasons in recent memory. Industry insiders often lament that, this time of year, the Broadway community is cranky, tired, jaded and filled to the balcony with schadenfreude. Disney, of course, has sometimes gotten the brunt of this ill will — from critics and awards committees alike — perhaps fueled by nostalgia for a Times Square teeming with hookers, pick-pockets, and smack dealers.
Well, at Thursday’s opening of the astonishing Aladdin, all of Broadway seemed to turn out (a few in glittering Arabian garb) for one reason: to have a great time. And a great time was delivered! Unless you’ve been locked in a palace dungeon for the last 20 years, you know the story, so I won’t waste space on exposition. What I will say is that the material, under the guiding hand of Tony® winner Casey Nicholaw, is perfectly suited for the stage. The
stage craft is, as expected, top shelf stuff. (If I were granted three wishes, my first one would be for someone to tell me how the hell that magic carpet floats around the stage!) The show isn’t just astonishing; it’s also funny! Proof: America’s Joke Writer Laureate herself, Tina Fey, cackled at one zinger after another, as her adorable daughter sat beside her, so rapt that she seemed to forget all about the giant lollipop she was holding.
The late, great Howard Ashman’s conceit for the Genie was a Cab Calloway-esque character recalling the glory days of the Cotton Club. Well, his vision is fully realized (and then some) by James Monroe Iglehart, who steals (and stops) the show with his ridiculously high-energy stage antics. You get the feeling that, if you ran an electrical wire from the beating heart of this bottle-dwelling behemoth, you could power all the lights on Broadway!
Kudos to Disney Theatricals topper Thomas Schumacher for masterfully pulling the strings on another meticulously crafted production (an apt metaphor since he is a avid puppeteer in his spare time).
Perhaps Broadway will wake up today with a champagne headache and renewed jitters about Awards Season, and that annual competitive edge will return. But for one special night, we were all wide-eyed children, carried away on that most special of carpet rides. The kind powered not by magic, but by community.
Tidbits from around town…
Overheard Hoda Kotb telling Kathie Lee Gifford that she was laughing so hard that she was worried she was going to wet her pants at a recent matinee of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder.
Caught Gloria Estefan dancing in the aisles at Beautiful.
Spotted Patti LuPone leading the standing ovation for Tyne Daly and the company of Mothers and Sons (from one legendary Mama Rose to another).
As always, a toast of something sparkling to you and yours!