“Friend Like Me” -- with Anthony Murphy, center left as Genie, Adam Jacobs in the title role, and the sparkling ensemble -- is a show stopper in “Aladdin.” (Courtesy Deen Van Meer)

‘Aladdin’ boasts Disney magic

It’s indeed a whole new world when Aladdin and Jasmine take their crowd-pleasing flying carpet ride in the Disney musical “Aladdin,” now at the Orpheum Theatre in The City on its North American tour.

When the scenery gets as much applause as the performers, it often means a show is problematic, but that isn’t the case here — not with the powerhouse Genie, who, like in the 1992 animated movie on which the show is based, gets the best bits and songs.

Following in the footsteps of Robin Williams and Tony-winning James Monroe Iglehart, ribald and rotund Anthony Murphy steals the show as the wild and crazy guy with the power to grant wishes.

He literally smokes and brings down the house in “Friend Like Me,” the huge production number packed with sequin-studded tap dancers and hilarious riffs on Disney blockbusters the likes of “Beauty and the Beast.”

Directed and choreographed with glee (and Steve Martin-inspired “King Tut” moves) by Casey Nicholaw of “The Book of Mormon” fame, “Aladdin” has a bright, fun, zippy cartoon feel.

It really comes across in “One Jump Ahead,” Aladdin’s big first number, in which he steals food and races through the colorful Arabian marketplace, scurrying to flee authorities in hot pursuit.

Bay Area-bred Adam Jacobs, who originated the title role in 2011 (and looks like Erik Estrada in his heyday) is cute and charming, and sounds fantastic singing Alan Menken’s ballads.

However, on the faster, denser, wordier full-company tunes, some of the super clever lyrics (by Howard Ashman, Tim Rice and Chad Beguelin, who also wrote the book) get lost, particularly for the uninitiated.

This lively live version mostly follows the arc of the movie — poor Aladdin vies for the hand of Princess Jasmine (lovely Isabelle McCalla), with the aid of the Genie and facing resistance by scheming palace vizier Jafar (Jonathan Weir) — but a few changes are notable.

Some work. Aladdin’s sidekick Abu the monkey is replaced by human pals Babkak (Zach Bencal), Omar (Philippe Arroyo) and Kassim (Mike Longo), who mug, croon, dance and wield scimitars in their own amusing numbers.

Likewise, Iago is no longer a parrot, but a snarky little fellow (Reggie De Leon) in cahoots with Jafar. They end up being more annoying than evil, but it’s not enough of a distraction to detract from the nonstop glitz, with sets by Bob Crowley (the golden cave dazzles) and costumes by Gregg Barnes (whoever got the rhinestone concession is doing quite well).

While “Aladdin” ultimately may not quite have the extreme couture and emotion of its Broadway predecessor “The Lion King,” it nonetheless displays that undeniable brand of Disney magic.


REVIEW

Aladdin
Presented by SHN
Where: Orpheum Theatre, 1192 Market St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. most Tuesdays, Thursdays-Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. most Wednesday and Saturdays, 1 p.m. Sundays; closes Jan. 7
Tickets: $45 to $169
Contact: (888) 746-1799, www.shnsf.com

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