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Want to preview the original cast recording of Disney "Aladdin" ? Then head on over to EW & BuzzFeed

Want to preview the original cast recording of Disney "Aladdin" ? Then head on over to EW & BuzzFeed

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For those who are keeping tabs on these things ... Nancy and I are now in Week 1235 of dealing with the cold-that-won't-quit. So our mornings are spent snuffling. Our afternoons are spent hacking. And as for our evenings ... Well, they're mostly spent cleaning up after all of that snuffling & hacking.

In the entire 55 years I've been on this planet, I've never honestly been this sick for this long. And given that all of this coughing & wheezing has completely fried my voice, I had to put out of last Saturday's walk-n-talk in Times Square (That's since been rescheduled for Saturday, May 31st. So if you'd like to come along as I look back on Disney's past 20 years on Broadway, you might want to drop Evan at e.t.c. a line) as well as postpone recording some new Disney Dish podcasts for a while. Which -- in a word -- sucks.

So at a time like this, when Nancy & I are definitely in need in something to lift our spirits, it was a real treat to learn that Walt Disney Records has just released four tracks from the original cast recording of Disney "Aladdin" online.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

I know, I know. We've already run a number of stories here at JHM about this new stage version of Disney's 1992 Academy Award-winner. But there's a reason for that. Disney "Aladdin" is that rarest of rare thing: an actual old-fashioned Broadway musical comedy. With the most important word in that last sentence being "comedy."

Oh, sure. The costumes & sets in Disney "Aladdin" are eye-catching. And this show's 31 member cast sings & dances their brains out eight performances a week at the New Amsterdam. But what makes "Aladdin" different from all of the Disney Theatrical productions currently on Broadway is that it's really funny. And by funny, I mean like in "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" kind of big-belly-laugh funny.

Don't believe me? Okay. Head on over to EW where they're now showcasing two tunes from this new Broadway smash: Adam Jacobs & Courtney Reed's sweet and sincere version of "A Whole New World" as well as Brian Gonzales, Brandon O'Neill & Jonathan Schwartz's wonderfully funny "High Adventure."


Brandon O'Neill (center) rehearses the "High Adventure" number for the Broadway
production of Disney "Aladdin," the new musical comedy. Copyright
Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Alright. I know. You can't see any of the great comic schtick that director / choreographer Casey Nicholaw has cooked up for Gonzales, O'Neill & Schwartz to perform in this number. But what's great about "High Adventure" is that it's one of the main reason that Alan Menken got behind the production of this new stage version of "Aladdin." Alan wanted the world to hear some of the great comic songs that the late, great Howard Ashman originally wrote for the animated version of this musical. Back when Disney's "Aladdin" was supposed to be a complete throwback to those Bob Hope & Bing Crosby "Road" pictures. Which have this wonderfully breezy "anything-for-a-laugh" quality.

Mind you, one of Howard's main conceits for this early, early iteration of "Aladdin" was that the Genie would be a 1940s-style entertainer who could scat like Cab Calloway but still have the same sort of playful, fun quality that made Fats Waller such a legendary entertainer. Which is why the folks at Disney Theatrical are so happy that James Monroe Iglehart came in to audition for "Aladdin." Because here -- in one somewhat overstuffed package -- was that performer who could do the impossible. Just like Ashman originally envisioned, here finally is a Genie who finally captures the spirit of both Calloway & Waller. And not only that, but as Iglehart fills that stage with so much talent, charm & energy that -- as "Friend Like Me" draws to its show-stopping close -- you may find yourself saying "Robin who?"

Which -- for someone like me, who absolutely loves Robin Williams' vocal performance in the animated version of "Aladdin" -- kind of borders on heresy. But that's honestly how good James is as the Genie. There's a reason that this guy got nominated for a Tony in the Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Again, I know, for "Aladdin" purists, that must sound impossible. But if you go over to BuzzFeed and then listen to the version of "Friend Like Me" that's presented in the stage musical version of "Aladdin" ... Okay. I know. This number in the Broadway show is 7:32 minutes long while the version for the animated "Aladdin" is only 2:25 minutes long. Thanks to Iglehart's everything-INCLUDING-the-kitchen-sink performance (Not to mention Danny Troob's stellar orchestrations, Michael Kosarin's witty vocal arrangements and Glen Kelly's sure-to-get-your-toes-tapping dance music arrangements), this scat-infused take on "Friend Like Me" is sure to make you smile for its full 7-minute-and-32-second running time.

And given that smiles have been very short supplies here in the Stadlerhill sick ward, I have to admit that I've been playing "Friend Like Me" over & over & over again this past afternoon. With occasional breaks to go listen to "A Million Miles Away." Which is this sweet new song that Alan Menken & Chad Beguelin wrote for the stage show which musicalizes that moment from the movie where Aladdin & Jasmine find themselves alone in that rooftop with the palace in the distance.

Mind you, these are just four songs from the score for Disney "Aladdin." When the digital version of this original Broadway cast recording goes on sale next Tuesday, May 27th, you'll be able to hear all four of the new songs that Menken & Beguelin wrote for this new stage musical. Not to mention three of the tunes that Howard & Alan originally wrote for the animated version of "Aladdin" before Disney decided to step away from that film's original Fats Waller / Cab Calloway / Bob Hope & Bing Crosby 1940's "Road" picture conceit.


Copyright 1942 Paramount Pictures. All rights reserved

And if you're someone like me who needs to own the physical version of any recording (What can I tell you? I'm an old fashioned kind of guy. Which is why I love Fats Waller & Cab Calloway & Bob Hope and ... Well, you get the idea) ... Well, you're just going to have to wait 'til June 17th. Which is when the original cast recording of Disney "Aladdin" is due to hit store shelves.

But for now, these four songs that are being showcased at Buzzfeed & over at EW will do. They remind me of the great line out of "42nd Street," where Julian Marsh (who -- in the original David Merrick production of this stage musical -- was played by Broadway legend Jerry Orbach)  stood onstage and talked about " ... the most glorious words in the English language: Musical Comedy."

Seriously. If you're in need of even a momentary lift, go listen to these songs from the original cast recording of Disney "Aladdin." The music & laughs that you'll discover in these exquisitely produced tunes will pull you right out of whatever funk you may find yourself in.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

And -- yes -- you can thank me later.

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