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W!ld Rice’s “Aladdin”

December 2, 2011
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Aladdin production shots

photo courtesy of W!ld Rice

Event: “Aladdin: A Magical Musical Adventure”
Venue: Drama Centre Theatre
Run: 24th Nov – 17th Dec 2011
Directed by: Glen Goei | Written by: Jonathan Lim | 
Music by: Elaine Chan

I was initially a little uncertain of how well this would go, especially with two new faces to musical theatre as leads, even though they were singers in their own right (my last experience with an Idol-turned-musical-actor wasn’t as fulfilling). But what can go wrong with a W!ld Rice pantomime right?

And true enough, I soon warmed up the moment the show started. I hadn’t watched the first Aladdin, so I came with no preconception of what it would be like. Anyway, it seems the whole show was rewritten and significantly different. And it sure was a crowd-pleaser, with something for everyone. And the choice of Hady Mirza (Aladdin) and Sylvia Ratonel (Jasmine) worked out well with this production (can I call it a pop musical?) as both were in their element of singing the cover adaptations of popular songs and gave it their all in their acting, fitting in well with the ways of stage theatre for this instance.

Talking about covers, we already know that the songs used were not originals (as already told by Jeremy). The musical had an updated song list (not that I know what was before) including songs like “Born This Way” and “Marry You” but also of older songs like “Dancing Queen” and “I Want to Break Free”. So in a way, the songs were already set to relate to a wide range of audiences. But of course, under the clever hand of Jonathan Lim, they were not simply covers, but with lyrics close to our lives and home, with of course, a wittily humorous tweak. I agree with Jeremy that Jonathan is surely one of our best lyricist around. The songs were delivered with a good display of song and dance, and I liked “Rehab”, Jasmine’s “I Want to Break Free/Breakaway” and of course the lovely duet “A Whole New World” in the flying carpet scene.

I thought the simple, light-hearted and easily-understandable storyline flowed nicely, with its tinge of local flavour with Peranakan culture.  The satirical references, although subtle and less in-your-face, could be picked up relatively ok, at least for me, like the dig at Siri (yah, I think I got most of the techy stuff), Emily of Emerald Hill, etc. But even if some were missed, the show still made for a fun-filled evening. I believe the lightly-grazed, not too heavily-accented references made for all-round enjoyment, rather than catering to any particular age group, e.g. too many political references might be lost on the children or foreigners (and it’s already been overdone this year). Certain minor points were quickly glossed over though, like the whole riddle part of who could enter the firewall with hints like “honest liar”, and maybe the part of “be careful of what you wish for” when Aladdin saw his wish of being rich almost colliding with his one true love. I was a little concerned about that element, but as predicted, there’s always a workaround that make all’s well that ends well, even though there was a conflict of interests over here. But the whole tone of the musical was meant to be light, so that was ok, I guess.

My favourite character has got to be ABBA-k’adab-rah, all thanks to the amazing and funny Karen Tan as the affable villian of pantomimes. The cooperative audience played a part too with their conscientious “boo”s (especially from the kids) whenever she appeared, of which Karen always responded with ABBA-k’adab-rah pomp and self-assurance, and also not forgetting ABBA-k’adab-rah’s self-indulgence of ABBA songs. Jeremy and I were just running through how many shows we had watched this year that had Karen Tan in it just before the musical, and this was yet another great performance by her. In addition, Darius Tan as Widow Wong Kee (Aladdin’s mum) gave us a “vivacious” element to the whole affair. I kinda liked Jo Tan too when she was the MaMa/Grandma Neo with her “naughty, naughty, naughty” slap-on-the-hand punishment. The children cast were simply adorable, especially the really young ones. Always a winner. All in all, we saw a relatively strong cast with good chemistry.

You would have caught me smiling throughout the show, as I found myself feeling rather happy watching it, maybe also being in Christmas spirit, not to mention the colourful sets and displays (even though the pyro stuff made me jump a little, but I still enjoyed them). I wouldn’t say there were many laugh-out-loud segments, but it was pure family entertainment. I think the combination of a good cast, wonderfully-designed sets (especially for a debuting effort by CK Chia), lovable characters, great lines and good songs made it all a fine carpet ride.

Just sit back, relax and enjoy.

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