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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
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"
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
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
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
Brandon O'Neill (center) rehearses the "High Adventure" number for the Broadwayproduction of Disney "Aladdin," the new musical comedy. CopyrightDisney 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
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.
And -- yes -- you can thank me later.