Watching ‘Aladdin’ on the eve of election: More baklava, please

Adam Jacobs as Aladdin and James Monroe Iglehart as the Genie. ‘You got 3 wishes’

Adam Jacobs as Aladdin and James Monroe Iglehart as the Genie. ‘You got 3 wishes’

By Cristina DC Pastor

I watched “Aladdin” on the eve of the presidential election as I thought it would be a great way to just sit back and de-stress. Until I heard Princess Jasmine insist on having a woman “rule the kingdom” and Aladdin branded a thief and a liar, I did not realize that political sound bites would echo all the way to Broadway.

“Aladdin” is the fairy-tale story of an Arab princess whose father is determined to marry her off to ensure a male ruler takes over the kingdom after him. Enter Aladdin who falls in love with Princess Jasmine but is not a suitable suitor because he is poor and picks pockets for a living. Enter the Genie whom Aladdin frees from a Lamp, and grants Aladdin’s wish to be a prince. Enter the magic carpet where the two fall in love as they sing the signature anthem, “A Whole New World.”

Enter the luxurious production number “Friend Like Me” rendered with gusto and charm by James Monroe Iglehart who plays the adorable Genie and Adam Jacobs as the kind-hearted thief Aladdin. A cameo role by the Lamp completes the backdrop.

As a Filipino American, I couldn’t help but be in awe that Adam Jacobs – whose mother is Filipina — plays the lead. This California-born actor graduated with a BFA from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, got his start in “Hot Mikado,” and has been playing a series of lead roles, from “Les Miserables (Marius),” “Mamma Mia (Sky),” to “The Lion King (Simba).”

Adam is not the only FilAm among the roster of talented performers.

Angelo Soriano played Omar, one of the three thieves who are buddies with Aladdin. From where we sat, he looked like a young Manny Pacquiao. Angelo was a regular at Disney musicals and joined the Christmas Day Parade with Justin Bieber. Joshua Dela Cruz is another member of the Ensemble. He counts among his theatre credits the well-received production “Here Lies Love” created by David Byrne from the life story of Imelda Marcos.

Perhaps the most applauded numbers was “A Whole New World” when Aladdin and Princess Jasmine go on a magic carpet ride. “Friend Like Me” was sparkling and upbeat, and the exchange between the Genie and Aladdin just hilarious.

“Aladdin” is said to be the first Arab fiction to get a glossy Disney treatment. It’s loaded, however, with stereotypes, where women are always dressed in revealing clothes and where rulers — like every “Tom, Dick and Haseem” — must be male.

Having perfected the art of the musical theater, the production is visually engaging and superbly entertaining. The trite plot line of an ill-fated romance ends happily. “Aladdin” delivers on the music with Alan Menken and Chad Beguelin’s impish lyrics as in “Friend Like Me.”

You’re the boss, the king, the shah.
Say what you wish; it’s yours, true dish.
How ’bout a little more baklava?

Ignore the midriff-baring costumes and the ‘stache because not all Arab women dress that way and not all men have that facial flourish. Election or not, “Aladdin” is a treat.

Superbly entertaining.

Superbly entertaining.

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