I knew we were going to be late even before we caught our bus to Times Square. My family and I had tickets for Aladdin, the Broadway adaptation, and I couldn’t stop thinking about how I was going to be late for the only Broadway show I’ll get to see in the next five years, at least.
My sisters and I took one cab, my parents, another. We got off on 42nd Street and the theatre glared at us from a distance. A fairly large billboard, purple and yellow, read ‘Aladdin’, followed by ‘Pure Genie-us!’ in a smaller font. We hurried in without waiting for our parents, tickets in hand, ready to throw at whoever needed to let us in.
The first room was dark, with people waiting by a heavy-looking door on the opposite end of the room. There, they checked our tickets and led us into another room. This room was darker still, and a woman — I noticed her green fez before I noticed her — stood by another heavy looking door and told us to wait.
“This is a live recording of the show”, she pointed towards a TV that I hadn’t noticed till then. On that TV, I saw Genie for the first time.
Aladdin happened by chance, and I didn’t question it when my father placed the tickets in my hand when I was shopping with my mother. This was on our last day in New York.
On the previous day, my family and I watched the Blue Man Group, which involved three men playing with neon paint in black light. They glowed, and everything else in that little theatre glowed. The Blue Man Group is a famous group of artists who play with light. Their performance is characterized by a comic seriousness that is sometimes cringe-worthy. This show was an hour and a half long, and I spent the entire time making sure that no one in the audience noticed that my father was dozing off.
But the next day we watched Aladdin, and New Amsterdam Theatre was only a block away from our hotel. It seemed only fitting that we ended our trip to New York in a haze of colours, singing, and Disney.
Aladdin began with James Monroe Iglehart’s own rendition of Arabian Nights. I walked into the audi, fumbling in the dark, just as Genie was thanking the audience for applauding. He welcomed everyone to Agrabah (where the story takes place) and left the stage. The first thing I noticed was his glistening baldhead, made shinier by the spotlights. His costume, the one he wore for the entire show, was what I can only describe as royal, with patterns of shiny purple and gold.
After Genie’s baldhead, I noticed Aladdin’s dimples. He took over the stage in his red and gold fez and a similar coloured vest.
Our seats were in the corner. They were partial view seats but allowed me to see Jacobs’ deep dimples every time he smiled between dialogues, sometimes even during.
Genie and Aladdin shared the stage almost equally. James Monroe Iglehart and Adam Jacobs both had bright enough smiles that made everyone in the audience swoon a little bit.
Jasmine came only a few scenes later, surrounded by friends who were assigned one colour each. Jasmine, herself, was wearing her blue off-shoulder outfit and her friends wore yellow, peach, orange and pink. Courtney Reed made a quiet Jasmine with a sharp voice that somehow complimented Adam Jacobs’ deeper one. Abu, the monkey, was replaced by three friends, one of whom needed food before participating in any kind of human interaction. Iago was a stout man with a squeaky voice and an uncanny ability to annoy Jafar (more than Aladdin, even).
During the interval, I looked around. The hall looked like it belonged to an American black and white movie, marked by the occasional line of static. The balcony seats were bordered with an intricate pattern that I couldn’t see. There was a floor full of people above me, and the staff members looked like they stepped out of Agrabah, with their green and gold costumes topped with matching fezzes; the same fez I noticed when I entered.
After the interval, the actors broke into A Whole New World and the stage transformed into a black canvas dotted with stars. I looked up in awe, and everything in front of me seemed larger than it was before the interval. Aladdin swooped in with his magic carpet, and I didn’t have the will to make myself look for a rope that held the carpet up (there is no visible rope, and I will swear that the carpet moved magically).
There was the absence of a fourth wall throughout the play that made it seem all the more effortless. The show ended with Genie, in his booming voice, wishing the audience, “A very happy mothers day to all the mothers!” And after One Act Finale, when the audience didn’t stop clapping, he stopped for a second, blushed a little bit and threw out a hasty thanks in our direction before concluding his performance.
After it was over, everyone in the theatre rushed out while I stayed back with my sisters. Their dazed smiles only intensified the Disney magic that I was feeling. That’s when I realized that I was able to fulfill the only promise I made to myself before visiting America: watch a Broadway show.