Aladdin the Musical and Time

Source: TimeWerke Videos on YouTube.

No, “Alf layla wa-layla” is not a Singlish phrase (a colloquial form of English commonly used in Singapore), it is the Romanised form of ألف ليلة و ليلة‎ in Arabic and it refers to the One Thousand and One Nights, better known in the western world as the Arabian Nights, a collection of Middle Eastern folklore that includes well-known tales such as Aladdin, Ali Baba and Sinbad the Sailor.

These Middle Eastern tales were compiled in Arabic during the Islamic Golden Age between the 8th to the 14th centuries. The Arabian Nights is said to be the title for the English language edition that was published in the early 18th century.

According to the Encyclopaedia Brittanica, the Arabian Nights includes Indian stories even though “the names of its chief characters are Iranian, the frame story (the overall unifying story where one or more tales are related) is Indian, adding that the range of origin: India, Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Turkey and possibly Greece, make single authorship unlikely.

Aladdin and Princess Jasmine on the magical flying carpet. Photo: Aladdin Singapore.

The Arabian Nights has an interesting link to time. The main frame story is about King Shahryār who upon discovering his wife’s unfaithfulness, has her killed. The enraged king becomes bitter with women and every marriage of his thereafter ends up with his new wife being executed the following day.

Shahrazād, the daughter of King Shahryār’s vizier (chief minister), having conceived a plan to save herself and others, offers herself as a bride. On the night of their marriage, she tells him a tale but does not end it; instead telling the king that she would conclude the story the following night.

The king enjoys her entertaining story and allowing curiosity to get the better of him, postpones Shahrazād’s execution. Putting off the conclusion night after night, Shahrazād delays her execution until the king finally decides to abort his planned serial marriage murders once and for all.

There, for those who have read till this point, we have also prolonged your reading time. Now, to answer the question: is it truly worthwhile to spend your time watching Aladdin the musical at the Sands Theatre in Marina Bay Sands Singapore?

Let’s just say it really depends on what you wish for. Do you wish to be entertained by an energetic and colourful fairytale musical? Do you wish to watch and listen to the Academy-award winning song “A Whole New World” being performed live? Do you wish for a magical Disney experience?

If you said “yes” to the above three wishes, then you will probably not be disappointed with Aladdin the Broadway musical. If you are wishing for a more serious musical performance, then perhaps this isn’t for you.

Genie (played by Gareth Jacobs) and Aladdin (Graeme Isaako) in the Friend Like Me performance. Photo: Aladdin Singapore.

Gareth Jacobs who plays Genie is at his best with his high-octane performance of “Friend Like Me” inside the Cave of Wonders. This was probably the most memorable and entertaining act for us. Speaking of which, the gold finish in the Cave of Wonders is similar to that of C-3PO of Star Wars fame.

The colourful costumes are a visual treat. There are 337 costumes and 1,225 different fabrics are used. There is high attention to detail even if the audience doesn’t notice – some 712 different styles of beads and around 500,000 Swarovski crystals are used. We are told that one single pair of men’s pants in the finale of “Friend Like Me” holds 1,428 Swarovski crystals!

Wedding scene for Aladdin and Jasmine witnessed by the Sultan and Genie. Photo: Aladdin Singapore.

While many will be familiar with the song “A Whole New World” and will pay utmost attention when it is sung by Graeme Isaako who plays Aladdin and Shubshri Kandiah playing Jasmine, be prepared to be swept away by the couple’s magical carpet ride. This is Disney magic at work.

What other arguments are there in favour of watching Aladdin? Well, there are four new songs in the musical and three that were actually written for the movie but weren’t included due to running time limitations.

In addition, watch out for new characters in the musical: Iago, Jafar’s sidekick, friends of Aladdin – Babkak, Omar and Kassim.

Watching Aladdin was a pleasure for us. One final wish is for a highly memorable experience for those who are going to watch Aladdin the musical.