Ah, the bliss of pure and dazzling escapism.
As a parent of young children in the 1990s, I went to Disney movies. My daughter loved them. She had a Belle Halloween costume and a Little Mermaid birthday with a cake I’d made that somewhat resembled Flounder the Fish.
My son went to all the Disney movies, too, although he didn’t require any Beast or Prince Eric costumes. Power Rangers were his thing.
But I have to admit my favorite of all the movies we watched, again and again, once the DVDs were out, was “Aladdin.” The enchanted Arabian Nights. A spunky princess and the likable urchin, a wicked, unscrupulous vizier who falls victim to his own narcissistic ambition, a wise-cracking parrot, and, of course, Robin Williams as the high-octane genie who grants wishes — and cherishes one of his own.
Also, great music, and a flying carpet.
When the Broadway touring company for “Aladdin, the Musical” opened in San Francisco, my daughter, on the edge of 30, agreed to go with me.
The question, of course, not having seen it on Broadway, was: how would they transfer the boundless magic of animation to the stage? Could they?
The short answer is: yes.
Hundreds of fabulous costumes, the shimmering gold Cave of Wonders, and the parade of Prince Ali (the street rat transformed by a genie to win a princess) so magnificent you are fairly sure it had elephants in it. Also, an utterly romantic magic carpet ride through a star-filled night. It’s all there and more in mind-boggling, non-stop, crystal-beaded, rainbow-colored splendor.
I think I liked even better than the movie.
To be sure, I was not just beguiled by the fireworks; there’s a powerhouse of talent in this show, led by Adam Jacobs as the appealing Aladdin, who lives life “one jump ahead of the breadline, one swing ahead of the sword” — stealing only what he can’t afford — which is just about everything. Jacobs, originally from the Bay Area, gets to return home, singing and dancing, in triumph, after creating the role on Broadway. His is an engaging and utterly human hero.
The stage production fleshes out the animated Aladdin, gives him a past, a mother, whose death is made him determined to create a new life, and make her “Proud of Her Boy.”
He also has friends, a comic trio of street-wise pals. Zachary Bencal as Babkak, Philippe Arroyo as Omar, Mike Longo as Kassim all shine in their numbers, new to “Aladdin” as well.
And there’s a genie. Anthony Murphy explodes into this role with all the exuberance of the late Robin Williams, but he makes it his own with his delicious antics as well as his wit and charm.
Jasmine, (Isabelle McCalla), a princess with a mind of her own, inspires spontaneous applause when she stands up to, well, everybody.
Add in a well-meaning king, a scheming vixier with a wicked laugh, and his sidekick, and a supporting cast of fabulous dancers — what’s not to like about two and half hours of sheer fun? As they put it well, enchantment abounds in Agraba.
We told my son, when he comes home for the holidays, we’ll go again. He said he’d do it.
“Aladdin” is at the Orpheum Theater in San Francisco through Jan. 7. For tickets and information, visit www.shnsf.com.