For years I’ve been clamoring for Disney Theatricals to finish up the trifecta and get the third of the Howard Ashman/Alan Menken-inspired Disney musicals onto the stage. The success of Beauty and the Beast led me to believe that both The Little Mermaid and Aladdin were just around the corner, but when critics trashed The Little Mermaid, I was afraid that Aladdin would never see the lights of Broadway.
On Jan. 22 my fears were put to rest, as Disney officially announced that Aladdin would be moving into the New Amsterdam Theater in Spring 2014.
This is not the first time Aladdin been put on stage, but it will be the first time the idea of a two-act Aladdin will have the full backing of Menken and Disney Theatricals.
Previously, Aladdin director, Casey Nicholaw, worked on a pilot production in Seattle. The musical also receives regular crowds through a one-act musical collage, done in front of Disney World crowds.
I originally worried that it would be hard for Menken to get Aladdin on stage. While the movie was an immense success, Howard Ashman died during pre-production, and while Tim Rice was more than capable of helping finish Aladdin, I did not know if Menken or, to a lesser extent, Disney would want to do a full-length musical without Ashman.
The other worry I have is concerning how critics tanked The Little Mermaid. My fear was that the short run-time of Little Mermaid would handcuff any future Disney musicals. Production would be afraid to create the grand spectacle that Disney musicals need. I guess we’ll see how it turns out when they begin pre-showings in Toronto come late-2013.
Regardless of the outcome, the story of Aladdin matches well with Disney’s need for magical, grand musicals. I hope that the success will lead to Disney figuring out how to get the remaining Disney musicals on stage, particularly my beloved Hunchback of Notre Dame, but time will tell.
A bit of a memorandum to close out the week’s column. Lady Geek Girl and Friends was saddened to hear that Kevin Gray passed away suddenly on Tuesday. Gray was known for some great performances. He stared in the Broadway revival of The King and I, and appeared as The Engineer in multiple productions of Miss Saigon. Gray also played the Phantom and Pontius Pilate in Phantom of the Opera and Jesus Christ Superstar, respectively.
I personally love his version of Phantom. His version of Music of the Night felt very creepy. It was a drastic change from the concept of the Phantom as a sex symbol, and I liked how something as simple as Gray changing his tempo changed the entire scope of the musical.
Kevin Gray was 55.