Shining, Shimmering, Splendid: A Sensory Review on Disney's Aladdin at Marina Bay Sands
By Remus Zhong
Playing to a full house on Opening Night at the Sands Theatre on 25 July 2019, there is no doubt that Aladdin the musical had much to live up to. With the well-loved original animated movie from 1992, and the critically acclaimed live-action movie earlier this year, the bar had been set high.
As if sensing our uncertainty, the show left us no time to worry as it kicked off into high gear with one of the most beloved characters in the Disney franchise - Genie.
Genie set the mood and tone for the performance - energetic, enthusiastic, and engaging - as he briefly introduced the characters (some of whom are new to us - surprise!) in his ever-so-cheeky way, and flashed his mega-watt grin before disappearing with a promise to be back later.
The sets were superbly designed and maneuvered with such polish that you would be forgiven for imagining you really were in an animated world.
And the songs? Sung beautifully. Along with first-rate choreography, vibrant costumes, and skilful dancers, each melodious piece was a true delight to experience.
Every scene was put together thoughtfully and the performers shone in their roles. Special mentions to the actors who performed as Iago and Genie - these were difficult acts to pull off, but delivered they did. And more.
Genie’s re-appearance was welcomed with cries of delight and rapturous applause. Oh yes, we did miss you, Genie!
“Friend Like Me”, one of the most highly-anticipated musical numbers in the show, was a spectacle of colours, music, and pyrotechnics. When the last verse was sung, the claps and cheers stopped the show for a good 2 to 3 minutes. Well-deserved, Genie!
As the performance flowed on, it was clear that everybody was having a good time - both the audience and the performers. You’d be hard-pressed to find more brilliant smiles.
That said, I did have some initial doubts about watching Aladdin. Not so much because of my nostalgia for the animated film, which, I confess, I still hold, but because of a condition that I have: Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD).
Being hyper-sensitive to external stimuli is often, literally, a pain. It is one of the reasons that I avoid events or performances that I have reason to believe will be overstimulating. I am pleased to say that Aladdin is, overall, tremendously well-managed - with plenty of excitement and, somehow, enough time in between to adjust to and recover from it.
Except for the occasional minor slips, once during a song, when the volume dipped too low, and a couple more when the volumes went a little too high, especially closer to the end of the production, which was understandable, owing to the need to raise and keep the show energy up, the sound crew did a marvellous job of managing the sound quality and volume.
In terms of visual stimulus, there was one particular moment when there was a little too much light going into the audience - when a disco ball descends during “Friend Like Me”. Of course, most people would hardly be affected by it, but I did have to shield my eyes for a bit.
The spotlights, when they went nearly white, also tended to go a little too bright. In the other colours, yellow and red, this was much less of an issue.
There was also, nearly predictably, a large amount of scents in the air from perfumes and colognes worn by audience members. Perhaps a notification could be issued by the venue, as I have seen some major conferences and seminars do, to ask for attendees to be scent-sensitive aware and to help by minimising or avoiding fragrances.
These details may sound like nitpicking to some as they will hardly be noticed by, let alone adversely affect, most people. Somewhat regrettably, I am not ‘neurotypical’ like most people, and these seemingly insignificant things do affect me more than others might think.
I do not apologise for noticing them or bringing them up, because there are others who share my sensitivities, even if they may not be to the same degrees or exist in the same ways, and I certainly am not asking for an overhaul of what is an excellent performance by an excellent cast and crew.
I speak up because not everyone with SPD is able to articulate their sensitivities. And I know that not everyone will understand or care, but those who do will always have the heartfelt gratitude of those of us who have this condition.
If you have SPD, or if you know someone who does, or, actually, if you just want to watch this musical, I can assure you that you will have a whale of a time. It comes highly recommended.
Enjoy the show!
Disclosure: OUS was invited for Media Call and Official Opening Night Show. All opinions belong to the writer.
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