The production of Aladdin at Seattle’s Fifth Avenue Theatre is great fun and a fine example of musical comedy theater — which makes me a happy camper. Actually, I’m a very happy camper since the production includes four of Howard’s songs that were cut from the movie – Call Me A Princess, Babkak, Omar, Aladdin, Kassim (that’s one song title, not four), Proud of Your Boy, and my personal favorite, High Adventure.
Howard’s original story line wasn’t used (it would be pretty hard to do that at this point and still call the show Disney’s Aladdin – audiences know the movie inside and out) but three characters from Howard’s original concept happily made the cut. I say happily since they have two of the best songs in the show (Babkak, Omar, Aladdin, Kassim and High Adventure). The original concept was that the movie would play like a Crosby and Hope road movie and that’s just what happens whenever Babkak, Omar and Kassim are on stage. They also function as a Greek chorus – shades of the Little Shop urchins.
I admit to being in love with Casey Nicholaw. Okay, I said it, so sue me. I’m not alone, of course, most of the New York theater community joins me. I am just so happy to see a director who gets and loves classical musical theater and isn’t afraid to be a true craftsman (an artist but not an artiste). There are others, of course, Michael Mayer springs to mind, and many that I don’t know of, but Nicholaw is sure one of the best.
There were so many moments in Nicholaw’s Drowsy Chaperone that made me think of Howard and his directorial approach (not to mention the fact that Howard would act out complete musicals, just as the main character in Chaperone does). I’m sure I’ll feel the same way about Book Of Mormon if I can ever snag a ticket (so far, no luck).
And can I just say a word here about Alan Menken, who has worked and pushed to showcase these songs that he and Howard wrote? In a way, I feel like this production is a valentine to Howard from Alan. Of course, Alan has much here to showcase himself and Proud of Your Boy stops the show – it’s just a magnificent blend of words and music. In the days when Broadway (or whatever) shows created standards – this would be a standard for sure.