But no survey is needed at the new Disney musical Aladdin, which has begun what will probably be a long run at the New Amsterdam Theatre. Because the standing-O comes towards the end of the first act and it's clear, at least it was at the performance my sister Joanne and I saw, that pure joy is bringing people to their feet.
Aladdin is adapted from the beloved Arabian Nights folktale about a poor boy who finds a magic lamp and discovers that rubbing it releases a genie who will grant his wishes. Aladdin uses his wishes to become rich, woos the beautiful daughter of the sultan and thwarts an evil vizier who threatens to take over the kingdom.
Menken has added a couple of news songs for the stage version and additional lyrics have been written by Chad Beguelin, who wrote the book, which changes a few talking-animal characters into human ones and tones down some of the potentially offensive ethnic references that might have slipped by in 1992 but wouldn’t today.
The numbers are performed by an energetic—and typically for Disney, multi-ethnic—cast of 34. There are a couple of familiar faces—or voices—among them. Jonathan Freeman who provided the voice for the vizier Jafar in the film now gets to play him on stage. And Clifton Davis, who was nominated for a Tony back in 1972 as one of The Two Gentlemen from Verona, plays the sultan.
A large black guy (6 feet and 220 lbs.) with a bald head and a mischievous smile, he is quick with the quips and charmingly light on his feet. It’s his rendition of “Friend Like Me” that stops the show.