Disney’s Aladdin Finally Hits the Broadway Stage

Aladdin on BroadwayAladdin, a musical stage adaptation of the beloved 1992 Disney movie, has finally come to Broadway.  Previews began on February 26, 2014 at the New Amsterdam Theatre on 42nd Street, and the red carpet opening night will take place on March 20, 2014.

Based off of centuries-old folklore including One Thousand and One Nights, Aladdin is the story of a street urchin who wins the heart of a princess with the help of a genie from a magic lamp.  With a musical score by Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, the stage version incorporates additional lyrics and a book written by Chad Beguelin (Elf the Musical, The Wedding Singer).  The show is directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw (The Book of Mormon, Monty Python’s Spamalot, The Drowsy Chaperone).

The cast is led by Adam Jacobs (The Lion King, Les Misérables) as Aladdin, Courtney Reed (In the Heights, Mamma Mia!) as Princess Jasmine, James Monroe Iglehart (Memphis, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee) as Genie, and Jonathan Freeman (The Little Mermaid, Mary Poppins) as Jafar.  Freeman also played Jafar in the original animated film.  Furthermore, the musical features a trio of sidekicks to Aladdin, who reportedly were conceived and then discarded during the making of the original film, but who are now finally incorporated into this stage adaptation.  These roles are played by Brian Gonzales as Babkak, Brandon O’Neill as Kassim, and Jonathan Schwartz as Omar.

Aladdin is the newest in a line of Disney animated movie to musical theatre adaptations mounted by Disney Theatricals, whose producing history includes Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, Tarzan, Mary Poppins, and The Little Mermaid.  Three of these were enormous hits.  Beauty and the Beast ran for 13 years (from 1994 to 2007), grossing over $1.4 billion worldwide.  The Lion King has been a huge smash since its opening in 1997, and this past October it became the first show to gross over $1 billion from its Broadway production alone.  Mary Poppins also had a profitable run from 2006 to 2013, recouping its investment after only one year.  However, Tarzan and The Little Mermaid were notorious flops, failing to attract an audience despite the success of their precursors.  Therefore, Aladdin is not necessarily a shoo-in for mega-hit, but its fate will be more discernible when the reviews come out after its opening.

The show has had several out-of-town runs prior to its arrival in New York.  After its premiere at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre in July 2011, the musical has had stints in Ivins, Utah in June – October 2012, St. Louis, Missouri in July 2012, and it has just completed its official pre-Broadway run at Toronto’s Ed Mirvish Theatre, where it ran from November 2013 to January 2014.

It is not unusual for a musical’s producers to counter their risk by trying out a show in a different city before bringing it to Broadway.  In anticipating a Broadway run, producers may choose to enhance the budget of a not-for-profit theatre’s production of the show while retaining legal rights to the property, and generally while maintaining a degree of creative control.  Though they do not stand to profit monetarily from the early run, they can test the waters in the press to tweak creative elements before investing the whole Broadway budget, and they can also economize by keeping the same costumes and sets.  In certain cases, if the show really isn’t as good as predicted, they may even decide to cut their losses and put a kibosh on the Broadway run.  Though they would have lost their enhancement (often in the realm of one million dollars), they would be avoiding an eventual loss of much more (Broadway musical budgets can easily range $10 – $16 million).

In this light, the fact that Aladdin has had so many pre-Broadway productions implies that its producers were not satisfied with the quality of the first run and felt the need to make adjustments.  Despite any changes that may have been made after the first three attempts, Aladdin’s most recent run in Toronto still triggered a mixed response.  The Toronto Star said that A Friend Like Me was a show-stopping number, but otherwise the musical did not match up to its animated predecessor.  The Vancouver Sun predicted that kids may enjoy the spectacle and simple story, but that its gleam may be lost on adults who crave more complex characters.  Still, Canada’s National Post gave it a rave.  In any case, critical response does not always dictate ticket sales, and over time we may see the brand power of this animated classic overriding ambivalence from the press.

Upcoming Film To Tell the Story of Making Mary Poppins

Saving Mr. BanksThe Broadway stage version of Mary Poppins recently closed, but another iteration of the beloved musical will be hitting the big screen on December 13 when the new film Saving Mr. Banks opens. The movie tells the behind-the-scenes tale of Walt Disney’s effort to get the Mary Poppins books made into a movie musical.

As a Disney blurb about Saving Mr. Banks describes it, “When Walt Disney’s daughters begged him to make a movie of their favorite book, P.L. Travers’ Mary Poppins, he made them a promise—one that he didn’t realize would take 20 years to keep. In his quest to obtain the rights, Walt comes up against a curmudgeonly, uncompromising writer who has absolutely no intention of letting her beloved magical nanny get mauled by the Hollywood machine.”

Tom Hanks plays Walt Disney, while Oscar winning actress Emma Thompson takes on the role of P.L. Travers, the woman who wrote the original Mary Poppins stories. Jason Schwartzman and B.J. Novak play the Sherman brothers, the men who wrote the classic score to the Mary Poppins movie.

Mary Poppins, Virginia Woolf, and The Other Place Close on Broadway

Mary Poppins Broadway MusicalThree shows are closing on Broadway today. One is Disney’s long-running production of the stage musical version of Mary Poppins. This has been a mainstay for Broadway theatergoers with kids looking for family-friendly entertainment since it opened in 2006. But the show has been on discounts for most of its run, and presumably finally ran out of steam. Mary Poppins‘ exit will make room for Disney’s latest musical adaptation, Aladdin, which will come to the New Amsterdam Theatre in 2014.

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, the Broadway revival of the Edward Albee classic, is closing after more than five months on Broadway. Starring August: Osage County playwright Tracy Letts and Amy Morton (who actually starred in August on Broadway), the Steppenwolf Theatre Company production enjoyed critical acclaim and a positive audience reception.

The third show to close today is The Other Place, an intimate drama about a brilliant woman and her mental health challenges. The play’s previous Off-Broadway run garnered many accolades for leading lady Laurie Metcalf’s performance, prompting this limited Broadway engagement produced by the Manhattan Theatre Club at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre.

Aladdin To Play Toronto Before Hitting Broadway in 2014

Disney's AladdinMary Poppins will be flying away from Broadway’s New Amsterdam Theatre this March, but the theater won’t be empty for long.  Disney’s Aladdin will take over the space in 2014, though exact dates have yet to be announced.  The stage version of Aladdin will expand the 1992 film from a slim 90 minutes to a full two-act format.  The musical will feature songs from the movie by Alan Menken, Howard Ashman, and Tim Rice, but there will also be new lyrics and a new book by Chad Beguelin (Elf, The Wedding Singer).  Some of the new material was originally developed for the movie, but didn’t make the cut.

Before Aladdin arrives on Broadway, the show will have an out-of-town, pre-Broadway tryout at the Mirvish Theatre in Toronto, playing from November 13, 2013 to January 12, 2014.  Aladdin had a “pilot” version at the 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle in 2011, but Disney has stated that the Broadway version will be a brand new production.  Casey Nicholaw will direct and choreograph Aladdin, and the creative team includes scenic designer Bob Crowley, costume designer Gregg Barnes, lighting designer Natasha Katz, dance arranger Glen Kelly, and musical supervisor Michael Kosarin.

Disney Reduces Lion King Tickets to $99 (Orchestra Seats) for four shows in 2013

yellow The Lion King Broadway Musical giraffe sun boyIn a time of great change for Disney on Broadway, with eternal favorite Mary Poppins now set to close on March 3, 2013, Aladdin set to open on February 2014, Disney on Broadway announced a temporary price reduction on The Lion King tickets for just 4 performances in February and March 2013. The seats are located in the orchestra and front mezzanine and the normal price for these tickets is $139, so they are clearly a bit of a bargain.  As everyone knows, Disney very rarely discounts The Lion King given that it has maintained very strong sales over the years.

With Mary Poppins leaving Broadway, it is anticipated that ongoing demand for The Lion King tickets will rise even further, leading to overall price increases for The Lion King — both for face value tickets and for aftermarket pricing.  That means that this Disney offer may be the last time that The Lion King will be this affordable for quite some time.  More details about this limited time offer offer can be found at:
http://www.nytix.com/Links/Broadway/listofcurrentshows.html

Mary Poppins To Close, Possibly Making Way for Broadway Aladdin

Mary Poppins Broadway Musical disney blue black red Everybody’s favorite nanny is leaving Broadway as Mary Poppins has announced its plans to close on March 3. The Disney musical, which opened on Broadway in 2006, will have played 2,619 performances by the time it closes. And soon it will be seen everywhere when Music Theatre International starts licensing productions throughout North America.

Mary Poppins producer Thomas Schumacher stated that “The show’s extraordinary success is due to the 500 plus actors, musicians and stagehands who have brought the show to magical life on Broadway and, most importantly, to the audiences who have fallen in love with Mary, Bert and the Banks family every night. We thank them and New York for six tremendous years.”

It is expected that Disney plans on bringing yet another of their famous movie properties, Aladdin, to the New Amsterdam Theatre soon. Disney has already debuted their new stage version of Aladdin at the 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle in a production directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw, who helmed Broadway’s The Book of Mormon.