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“Aladdin” by Wild Rice

November 28, 2011

Event: “Aladdin” by W!ld Rice
Venue: Drama Centre Theatre
Run: 24th Nov – 17th Dec 2011

A Dazzling Place You Never Knew (All For Under $70)

W!ld Rice’s big year-end production “Aladdin” sees Glen Goei directing this incredibly colourful extravaganza, with two of the biggest stars from Singapore’s pop music world headlining the show.

This is “Aladdin 2.0”, not to be confused with the original “Aladdin” pantomime that W!ld Rice first staged in 2004, as it is significantly different in so many ways.

Jonathan Lim is the new bookwriter and lyricist, Elaine Chan musical directs, Richard Chia choreographs, and CK Chia is responsible for the set design.

Having Hady Mirza and Sylvia Ratonel play the lead roles of “Aladdin” and “Jasmine” for a musical is indeed an interesting experiment, considering it is their first attempt at musical theatre, but in my opinion it was an experiment which paid handsome dividends in the end.

After all, stars do help to sell a show.

Let’s get the important question out of the way first: Are the songs in “Aladdin” original?

No, all the songs are based on popular radio hits such as “Rehab”, “Dancing Queen”, “Born This Way”, “Genie in a Bottle” and “Jai-Ho”, except that some of the lyrics have been re-written under the wicked pen of Jonathan Lim in order to make the lyrics more relevant to the show.

Standout performances include the ever-reliable and ever-amazing Karen Tan, playing the role of the evil wizard Abba-k’adab-rah (who develops a strange fascination for peppering her speech with song names by a certain Swedish group not named Roxette), and the boisterous Darius Tan, playing the mother of Aladdin, who was simply a riot.

The sets were amazing, and you wonder how W!ld Rice quite managed to put forth such an impressive array of beautiful sets while charging no more than $69 for their most expensive tickets.

This, in my opinion, was essentially the biggest magic trick of the entire production…far better than the little piece of sleight-of-hand which Karen Tan attempted to pull off at the beginning of the show.

Personally, I felt that “Aladdin” suffered from a bit of lack of focus, in terms of who it was trying to play to.

It did not go out of its way to pander to the children in the audience the way past W!ld Rice pantomimes did.

Many of the jokes and adult references were lost on the children.

But yet, it didn’t exactly manage to completely grab the adults by the scruff of their necks either.

Some of the jokes seemed to had fallen flat, because in my opinion the tone of the musical was not firmly established.

True, there were plenty of ingenious lines, as is what we have come to expect from the pen of Jonathan Lim.

But the musical’s ambiguous tone, plus its slightly questionable denouement made things just seem a little short of perfect in the book department.

And let us give credit where it is due – Jonathan Lim is far and away the best lyricist in town.

We are usually quick to laud our playwrights and our composers, but hardly anyone ever talks about the skill of the lyricist.

And once again, through his clever re-writing of lyrics in “Aladdin”, Jonathan Lim convinces me that he is truly the most skillful known lyricist we have in local theatre today.

One example that comes to my mind is the use of two-rhyme when he pairs “F1” with “have one”, which is something an ordinary lyricist would not be able to do.

But unfortunately, because most of the songs in “Aladdin” were rock/pop in nature, a lot of the lyrics were drowned out by the sound of the drums and guitars, so I wasn’t able to catch all the lyrics that were being sung.

While the script was generally lively and pacy, I thought that genuine heartfelt moments in the musical were few and far between.

Perhaps more could have been done to illustrate the falling in love process between Aladdin and Jasmine, or maybe even the mother-son bond between Aladdin and Widow Wong Kee (which was so perfectly set up at the beginning).

Nonetheless, the main stars of the show did not disappoint.

Sylvia’s belting rendition of “Breakaway” in the first act was easily the highlight of the evening, while Hady held his own just as competently with the opening number of the second act (“I Want To Break Free”).

And of course, the two of them rendered Alan Menken’s lovely duet “A Whole New World” most exquisitely in the final scene.

“Aladdin” by W!ld Rice is essentially a fun and enjoyable experience at the theatre, something audiences both young and old alike will be able to enjoy.

It has something for everyone – witty lines, lovable characters, villainous villains, gags for the children, great sets, fantastic songs, plus the now-obligatory theatrical poke at Chinese nationals.

Not exactly high art, but good wacky fun nonetheless.

And for less than $70, this is probably as shining, shimmering and splendid as it gets.

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