PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, March 15-21: Aladdin Flies Onto Broadway and Vampires Will Dance Again

By Robert Simonson
March 21, 2014

Disney turned its luck on Broadway around with Newsies, its most recent Times Square opening, collecting the reviews needed to give long-running The Lion King a fellow hit to keep it company.



This week, the entertainment Goliath hoped for a hat trick, unveiling its stage version of the 1992 Disney animated tales of genies and flying carpets, Aladdin, at the New Amsterdam Theatre. The Alan Menken-Howard Ashman show had already opened in Canada earlier this year to mixed notices.

The critic from the all-powerful New York Times admitted to entering the theatre predisposed to dislike the show, but found himself won over: "The prospect of Aladdin, promising another weary night in the presence of a spunky youngster and wisecracking animals, didn't exactly set my heart racing. But this latest musical adapted from one of Disney's popular movies, which opened on Thursday night at the New Amsterdam Theater, defied my dour expectations. As directed and choreographed (and choreographed, and choreographed) by Casey Nicholaw, and adapted by the book writer Chad Beguelin, Aladdin has an infectious and only mildly syrupy spirit. Not to mention enough baubles, bangles and beading to keep a whole season of 'RuPaul's Drag Race' contestants in runway attire."

(I'd like to see "Only Mildly Syrupy" in big letters above the New Amsterdam marquee.)

The Hollywood Reporter, too, offered a bad news/good news review, saying, "it's perhaps the most old-school of the company's screen-to-stage adaptations since Beauty and the Beast. But that shouldn't deter audiences from making this splashy Arabian Nights wish-fulfillment fantasy into a family-friendly hit. Directed and choreographed by musical comedy specialist Casey Nicholaw with loads of retro showmanship, an unapologetic embrace of casbah kitsch and a heavy accent on shtick, this is sweet, silly fun."

Nicholaw, in fact, won praise from almost every corner. Newsday saluted "Casey Nicholaw's big, cheerful production — an enjoyable throwback to old-time musical comedy." And New York Magazine perhaps summed up the general attitude of the critical corps when it said, basically, "Let Disney be Disney": "For Aladdin, Disney's team builds on the take-no-chances, take-no-prisoners lessons of its six Broadway predecessors to all but guarantee a quality hit: if not a Lion King, at least not a Tarzan. They wrote the book on this sort of thing, and now, Walt be praised, they're going to heave it at you. This is not as unpleasant an experience as it sounds; if you're up for a meaningless fling, it might as well be with a pro."

Enough good ink to fuel a hit? I should think so.

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Nicholas Hytner
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

The Tony Awards Administration Committee met March 20 for the third time this season to determine the eligibility of five Broadway productions for the 68th Annual Tony Awards.

The five productions discussed include Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, Machinal, Outside Mullingar, Bronx Bombers and The Bridges of Madison County.

No big surprises emerged. Jessie Mueller will be considered eligible in the Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical category for her performance in Beautiful. And Debra Messing and Brian F. O'Byrne will be considered eligible in the Best Performance by an Actress/Actor in a Leading Role in a Play categories, respectively, for their performances in Outside Mullingar.

The 2014 Tony Awards will be broadcast live from Radio City Music Hall June 8 at 8 PM ET on CBS. Tony winner Hugh Jackman will again host.

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Nicholas Hytner is on his last season of his all-in-all pretty triumphant reign as artistic director of London's National Theater. And this week, it was announced what he will be up to during that home stretch.

Not the least of his activities will the opening in September of the Dorfman (previously the Cottesloe) as part of the theatre's current 80-million-pound NT refurbishment. It will re-open with a British premiere that is yet to be named. There will also be new plays by such up-and-coming names as David Hare and Tom Stoppard.

The Hare will be directed by Hytner's successor, Rufus Norris, while the Stoppard (as yet untitled) will go to Hytner himself. There will also be a new, still untitled, play by Richard Bean, to be staged in the Lyttelton in the summer.

An additional press conference will be held shortly after all the playwrights figure out what to name their plays.

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Roman Polanksi needs money. Either that, or he really likes Dance of the Vampires, the Broadway musical bomb that features a score by Meatloaf muse Jim Steinman — enough so that he has decided to helm a new Paris production of the show in October. (Being a charitable-minded sort, I prefer to think the former.)

Actually, Polanski has quite a long history with the material. He directed and appeared in the 1967 film "The Fearless Vampire Killers," which was later adapted by Steinman and book writer Michael Kunze for the 1997 German-language musical production, Tanz der Vampire, whose Vienna world premiere he directed.

David Ives was later brought on for the 2002 Broadway production, which starred Michael Crawford in his first and only Broadway appearance following The Phantom of the Opera. Following a chilly critical reception, the $12 million musical shuttered after 61 previews and 56 regular performances.