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Aladdin Flies into The Big Easy
There are many things said about millennials, from a question of their motivation levels to their social media addictions. Full disclosure, I am a millennial and could potentially be biased, but this generation was truly blessed with a plethora of amazing children’s movies. This was the height of the Disney princesses and included classics like “Hocus Pocus” and “Home Alone.”
So, it should come as no surprise that we may question when a Disney classic like “Aladdin” has been transformed from the screen to the stage. They did it with immense success in “The Lion King,” so what could go wrong, right?
This hesitation was the reasoning behind one of my first questions for Trevor Dion Nicholas, who has played the beloved Genie for over three years, originating the role at London’s West End. I asked if there was pressure transforming the movie and the “Genie” from screen to stage.
“There’s always the expectation from the movie that everyone comes in with,” said Nicholas. “But I think our creative team was smart enough to aim the show and the character in a different direction, opposed to trying to emulate anything Robin [Williams] did with the character in the movie. It was more of letting it be its own thing instead of trying to copy it and anything else that happened before. And that allows audiences to connect with it like it’s new.”
After seeing the production for the first time, it’s clear that this show brings a lot of heart, while capturing the magic and awe that my generation remembers experiencing with the movie.
“It really is a dual love story that everyone can attach themselves on to and project themselves in to,” said Nicholas. “You get the idea of this love story between Aladdin and Jasmine, then you also have this friendship building between Aladdin and the Genie and it really boils down to the story of this kid that wants to do better then he already has been and I think that’s something a lot of people are able to relate to. So, I think it’s something that audience members can see themselves as a part of a really have a good time with it.”
Many New Orleanians who have seen the show expressed a love of the costumes, the pageantry and that the Genie, as played by Nicholas, made the show.
“Favorite part [playing the Genie], honestly, is that I get to play with the audience directly,” said Nicholas about his character. “I get to perform, but I also get to have these moments where I get to bring the audience inside and let them dictate the way I respond to different things.”
Though the character Aladdin is the namesake of the show, Nicholas and his beloved Genie truly steal each scene. Nicholas’ ability to take the character we know and love and give him an even bigger personality was truly amazing to watch as the show progressed. There are hints of Robin Williams, mixed with relatable and modern inserts – referencing Beyonce more than once – which allows Nicholas to transform the character into an equally eccentric and lovable Genie.
In addition to Nicholas’ character, Clinton Greenspan as Aladdin is a match tailor-made it seemed for the actor, while Zach Bencal, Philippe Arroyo and Jed Feder bring extra laughs as Aladdin’s best friends and lovable band of misfits Babka, Omar and Kassim.
As a millennial who grew up with the movie, and as a self-proclaimed Broadway snob, Aladdin is truly a magical evening that gives the audience, both young and old, a great night out at the theater.
Aladdin can be seen at The Saenger Theatre through Oct. 7.
Tickets and additional information can be found here.