A whole new world on stage

Graeme Isaako will play Aladdin and Shubshri Kandiah will play Jasmine in the musical based on the Disney film.
Graeme Isaako will play Aladdin and Shubshri Kandiah will play Jasmine in the musical based on the Disney film.PHOTO: JAMES GREEN

The story of Aladdin will come alive on stage in a musical at Marina Bay Sands next year

When the orchestra strikes up for the second act of Aladdin the musical, the crew gets ready for some choreographed mayhem backstage.

Nineteen actors change costumes 78 times during the opening 31/2-minute number.

And the actor playing Aladdin has about 40 seconds to transform from a poor street urchin into the dazzling Prince Ali.

In a telephone interview from Sydney, costume supervisor Janet Hine says: "The choreography backstage is more complicated than the choreography on stage."

What the audience will experience, though, is a show with an elaborate set, hundreds of glittering costumes and plenty of special effects.

The Asian premiere of the English version of the hit Broadway musical comes to Singapore in July next year and is produced by Disney Theatrical Productions, Australia.

 

"What you see on Broadway is what you will see in Singapore," says technical director Mark Henstridge, ahead of the musical which will run from July 21 to Aug 11 at Marina Bay Sands.

Aladdin is adapted from the popular 1992 Disney film of the same name, as well as from folk tales such as One Thousand And One Nights.

It made its world premiere at Broadway's New Amsterdam Theatre in 2014. Nearly 10 million people have seen it so far.

The story unfolds in the fictional Arabian city of Agrabah. Street urchin Aladdin is granted three wishes by a genie in a lamp and with the genie's help, he woos Jasmine, the Sultan's daughter, and thwarts the evil Grand Vizier.

The show promises to be a spectacle. Hundreds of silk costumes originally designed by Gregg Barnes are made from more than a thousand fabrics, about 700 styles of beads and nearly 500,000 Swarovski crystals. Some of the beading was done in India, while Jasmine's wig - made of real hair measuring nearly a metre - comes from Russia. The Sultan's crown and outfits were embroidered and beaded in Qatar.

The costume-making is a huge logistical challenge, Ms Hine says, and so is getting the clothes organised.

"During the first rehearsal when we go to a new city, it's crazy," she says. "There are hats going everywhere, turbans going everywhere."

It is also a challenge to create costumes that are not only nice to look at, but also strong enough and able to accommodate the actors' movements, she adds. During the musical number Friend Like Me, the ensemble cast performs acrobatic dance moves while dressed in silk brocade garments that are each studded with 6,000 crystals and beads.

"In any other show, they would be wearing Lycra," says Ms Hine.

Aladdin features music by Alan Menken, the award-winning composer behind the scores of The Little Mermaid and Beauty And The Beast. The lyrics are by Howard Ashman, Tim Rice and Chad Beguelin. It was originally directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw, known for his work on the musical The Book Of Mormon.

The Australian production coming to Singapore next year - the same year a live action movie adaptation of the Disney classic will be released - stars Gareth Jacobs as the Genie, Graeme Isaako as Aladdin and Shubshri Kandiah as Jasmine. It is presented by Base Entertainment Asia.

About 40 tonnes of exotic flying scenery and 60 tonnes of automation and staging will have to be transferred to Singapore in more than 30 sea containers. The entire show involves about 200 tonnes of gear, Mr Henstridge says.

There is one scene that amazes the audience every time.

During the duet A Whole New World - one of five songs from the 1992 movie's Academy Award-winning soundtrack - Jasmine joins Aladdin on a magic carpet ride.

How do they make the magic carpet fly on stage? Ask Mr Henstridge all you like, but his lips are sealed.

" It's theatre magic," the technical director says.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 25, 2018, with the headline 'A whole new world on stage'. Print Edition | Subscribe