Remember Aladdin? Not the character as such, but the animated fantasy show which had most of us glued to our television sets in the ’90s? Its Broadway-style musical adaptation, produced by BookMyShow, is now running at Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.
Disney’s Aladdin is a two-and-a-half hour show, featuring neon sets and stunning choreography. It is a bilingual production, with the onstage cast delivering their lines in both Hindi and English. A total of 50 performers are part of the musical, enthralling the audience with their musical and dancing chops.
Right with the opening act, the audience is transported to the fabled city of Agrabah, recreated through oriental décor and exquisitely dressed street performers, vendors, soldiers and magicians.
Guardian 20 speaks to the show’s director, Shruti Sharma. “I have watched Aladdin’s animated series on Doordarshan as a part of the Disney Hour, where every day he would have a new adventure on his magic carpet. I thought Aladdin and his friends were very adventurous and fun-loving characters and I loved the story as a child. Now, when I’m directing the show, the feelings towards the story are absolutely the same, just that I understand the characters better. It is definitely a huge responsibility on my shoulders to re-imagine this world-class musical for the Indian stage. The cast underwent intensive training in dance, vocals, acrobatics and much more, and rehearsed for many hours a day to perfect each aspect.”
All the hard work of the preparatory stages was evident at the musical’s preview screening in Delhi earlier this week. The artistes have mastered all the aspects of Aladdin, the visual as well as the sonic. Suzane D’Mello, the vocal coach of Disney’s Aladdin, says, “With each of the characters, we underwent an extensive and advanced set of exercises through which they discovered a side of their voice they never knew existed. This was imperative for them to be able to re-imagine and re-create the magic of a Broadway-style production on the Indian stage.”
Music, too, is an integral part of Aladdin’s story. Dhruv Ghanekar, the music director of the show, speaks to us about the basic points he had in mind while creating the score for Disney’s Aladdin. “At its core,” he says, “the show is the celebration of the American Broadway-style musical that audiences love the world over. It’s also an incredible mash-up of jazz and swing music, orchestral film score influences with foot-tapping music, and also a tip of the hat to a lot of classic Disney scores. For the Indian production, I have recreated the music using big band orchestra pieces, which will give the audiences the feeling that the music is being played live and sounds grand, fantastic and magical.”
The play has been modified to suit the taste and temperament of the Delhi audience. At one point, Genie even refers to Delhi’s odd-even traffic management scheme, by planning to arrange two flying carpets for Aladdin—one odd-numbered and the other even.
Genie is surely the star of the show, with his witticisms on everyday life in Delhi. This character is played by Mantra, a prominent Delhi-based radio jockey.
For Mantra, the role came with many challenges. He says, “Genie is such an iconic Disney character, voiced by the legend Robin Williams in the animated version of the story. In the animated version, Genie had the liberties to do a lot of things. But we are humans. So, when the opportunity to create this magnificent musical production came, we had to make sure that Genie’s magical attributes remain intact. We knew we had to work around the limitation of just being a human body to achieve it.”
The friendship between Genie and Aladdin also brought many bittersweet moments in front of the audience. Mantra says, “The bromance between Genie and Aladdin is something the audiences will definitely love and relate to. Their relationship completely identifies with the story of every friendship. Genie is a friend, philosopher and a guide to Aladdin.”
Aladdin’s other special friend, and love interest, is Jasmine. This character is played by the actress Kira Narayanan. She says, “Disney’s princesses symbolise strength and character through their demeanour. Princess Jasmine needs to be soft and strong at the same time. This dual personality makes her one of my favourite princesses. Jasmine is free-spirited and isn’t afraid to speak up, but she’s also grounded, kind and has no airs of being a princess.”