It used to be that when Disney Theatrical mounted a show on Broadway, a deluxe hardcover making-of book would soon follow to give audiences a look behind the scenes. This all stopped in 2009 after Tarzan and The Little Mermaid experienced short theatrical runs and no tour to boost book sales. This is likely the reason why it's taken this long for Aladdin to get the deluxe book treatment, but with a tour launching in Chicago this week, Disney Editions is finally willing and able to give fans a peak behind the curtain.
I was lucky enough to see Aladdin on Broadway back in 2014 and it has stayed with me. The amazing performances, brilliant sets, gorgeous costumes, and the expanded Alan Menken score harmoniously blend together to create one of the finest theatergoing experiences possible. When I listen to the soundtrack, it's as if I just saw it yesterday. That's how memorable this show is, and now that it's about to hit the road, I highly recommend checking it out if it's heading to a city near you.
Author Michael Lassell is no stranger to writing about Disney's Broadway shows, having written the books that accompanied the Broadway runs of Elton John & Tim Rice's Aida, plus Disney's Tarzan and The Little Mermaid. This book is mostly made up of interviews with the creative team and cast, with some expanded sections about the music, pre-Broadway engagements, and the international versions.
The content is great and the behind-the-scenes stories are fascinating, but I'm not in love with the way it is all presented. After a forward by Tom Schumacker, President of Disney Theatrical, the first section jumps right into interviews with the production's designers. You pick up bits and pieces about how it all came together, but it isn't until much later that it is all put into proper context for readers. I would have preferred to begin with a breakdown of how the production came to be, and details about it's unusual path to Broadway, before narrowing down to such specific theatrical disciplines and details. It's as if the book begins with you standing on stage looking at details close up, then moves into the house and keeps backing up until you're in the last row seeing the full picture.
That being said, one of the best things about this release is that it gives you a much better appreciation for how tough it is to bring a show like Aladdin to life, and a much deeper appreciation for all of the disciplines. Things like set and costume design are obvious, but you rarely think about the lighting or sound challenges and I found those sections to be equally as interesting. And while it doesn't reveal any of the stage secrets (how does the magic carpet fly???), it does talk about the challenges of staging those moments, and how hard it is to take them on tour.
Disney's Aladdin: A Whole New World - The Road to Broadway and Beyond has one of the longest titles possible, and it isn't even on the cover of this gorgeous cloth book. The pages feature gold edges and this book holds lots of pictures, from the various performances around the world and the pre-Broadway engagements, including some behind-the-scenes rehearsal shots. It's very honest about Disney's original intentions to take the show directly to licensing, and Alan Menken's sections are particularly interesting for any fans of Howard Ashman. There are a lot of amazing stories to be told about this production, and they're all waiting for you right here.
If you've seen Disney's Aladdin on Broadway, or are planning to catch it on tour, I highly recommend reading Disney's Aladdin: A Whole New World - The Road to Broadway and Beyond. It will enhance your appreciation for the stage musical and allows you to relive the magic of the show through all of it's pictures and backstage stories. If you've ever wondered what it takes to make a big Broadway spectacular, your wish has now been granted.