“I can show you the world / Shining, shimmering, splendid,” Aladdin promises Princess Jasmine in “A Whole New World,” the iconic romantic ballad from the 1992 Disney film. During its own performance of “Aladdin” on Aug. 3, Broadway SF took this thrilling sentiment to heart, bringing audiences at the Orpheum Theatre on an unforgettable magic carpet ride.
From the moment the richly dyed, tapestry-like curtains rose to reveal the stage, it became evident that “Aladdin” was not simply a cursory experience. Rather, Broadway SF had developed an immersive journey intended to transport onlookers to a magical realm of wonder and romance.
Throughout the night, the sets seamlessly transitioned between the bustling bazaar of Agrabah, the resplendent Cave of Wonders and the opulent palace of the Sultan. Complete with meticulously crafted props and lavishly embellished, jewel-toned costumes, the Orpheum stage succeeded in constructing a world that felt both tangible and fantastical.
At its core, “Aladdin” is a story of dreams, self-discovery and the power of true love. Adapted from the classic animated film, as well as folk tales like “One Thousand and One Nights,” the script remained faithful to the themes explored in the original source material. Yet Broadway SF’s adaptation managed to bring a unique sense of intimacy to the grand story, a feat largely accomplished by its undeniably talented cast.
Blending infectiously playful charm with an adventurous streak a mile long, Aladdin (Adi Roy) effortlessly captured the audience’s hearts with his playful asides and longing glances into the distance. But Roy’s Aladdin also remained grounded by endearing emotionality, his vocals masterfully externalizing ongoing inner conflicts. During his solo “Proud of Your Boy,” Roy’s voice swelled convincingly with desperation and hope, moving theatergoers to the edges of their seats.
Bay Area native Senzel Ahmady dazzled as Roy’s counterpart, Princess Jasmine. Merging strength with vulnerability, her performance embodied the strong-willed mentality of the original Jasmine, a figure constantly fighting to move beyond the patriarchal expectations imposed on her by the Sultan, her father (Sorab Wadia). But Ahmady also added a distinctly daring and comedic flair to the role, intrepidly wandering Agrabah’s marketplaces and comfortably teasing Aladdin’s boyish antics — a refreshing, multidimensional take on the traditional princess.
Together, Aladdin and Jasmine’s on-stage connection was palpable, igniting sparks that radiated throughout the theater and drew the audience even further into their dazzling realm. Unsurprisingly, their chemistry erupted during a radiant rendition of “A Whole New World.” Suspended aloft by stunning special effects, the two leads embarked on an enchanting magic carpet ride around the center of the stage, their voices soaring in harmony. The result: a breathtaking moment that elicited audible gasps of awe from the audience.
The undeniable star of the show, however, was the Genie (Marcus M. Martin). Teeming with ceaseless energy, impeccable comic timing and soulful vocals, Martin paid a fitting tribute to the iconic role originally voiced by Robin Williams. From bringing out a stuffed Baby Yoda toy at the show’s onset to teasingly instructing the audience to offer even more enthusiastic applause, his larger-than-life presence electrified the stage with an imaginative interpretation rather than mere imitation.
Though “Aladdin” delivered an astonishing array of performances, act one finale “Friend Like Me” stood out as the show’s highlight. In the glittering catacombs of the Cave of Wonders, the Genie, Aladdin and a handful of snazzily-costumed cast members executed an extravagant number filled with grandiose instrumentals and impeccably coordinated choreography. Suffice to say, onlookers spent the intermission catching their breaths with delight.
Brimming with magic in every sense of the word, Broadway SF’s “Aladdin” was a testament to the power of storytelling and imagination. As they trickled out of the theater and shuffled back to reality, the audience undoubtedly left bewitched, knowing they had discovered a whole new world in the Orpheum Theatre that night.