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Aladdin (review): Dancing into Houston's Hearts

The young and young at heart had the chance to experience the American premiere of "Aladdin" at the Houston ballet. The show closes tonight March 2nd and gives audiences one more chance to see this visually amazing show. Ignoring the amazing choreography done by David Bintley, the costuming by Sue Blane and set designs by Dick Bird provide stunning visual stimulation.

Ballet: AladdinChoreographer:David Bintley Dancer(s): Joseph Walsh
Photo: Amitava Sarkar COURTESY OF HOUSTON BALLET

The traditional story comes alive on stage as audiences are taken through the magical story in Arabia. The opening market scene highlights all that can be expected from the show with the colorful sets, beautifully crafted costuming and visually stunning dancing. Audiences get the first glimpse of Aladdin, danced by Connor Walsh, as the inquisitive, skillful, thieving youth as he tries to advert the Palace guards. A Mahgrib, magician of the East, danced by Simon Ball, steps in saving Aladdin and offers tales of riches.

Aladdin doesn't realize the danger that awaits him with this seeming rescue, because the Mahgrib only desires to use the lad. He is swept away to serve the Mahgrib’s purpose of recovering a lamp yet when Aladdin refuses to offer it up, it ends up with him being trapped in the cave. Multiple dance couples and groups are in this cave, with amazing jewels and color specific costumes. The beauty provides a perfect glimpse into the wonder that Aladdin must feel, although audiences might get a bit restless as they watch so many groups transition on stage.

The ballet orchestra pieces skillfully and beautifully guide the production conducted by Ermanno Florio. Each jump, leap and movement is perfectly timed and executed. The story continues and audiences watch Aladdin finally realize what the Mahgrib wanted from a lamp and is transported home. Aladdin comes back home to his mother’s pleasure and Aladdin finally gets to connect with Princess Badr al-Budur danced by Sara Webb. Aladdin again risk all in hopes of getting a moment alone with the Princess and this only serves as another example of how good he is at getting himself in trouble. Magically, he is saved from death and is allowed to marry the Princess.

Beautiful dance numbers are performed by ensemble, duos and solos. Act Two after Aladdin and the Princess are united this creates the biggest audience reaction after the Djinn (Genie) of the lamp, danced by Chistopher Gray and ensemble dance during the scene the royal court. The sets and costuming only continued to improve as we are taken inside the palace. The tender story of Aladdin falling in love creates breathtaking dance moments as the pair dance in harmony with one another.

The Genie steals the spotlight a bit with crowd pleasing dance moves that are beautifully delivered and entertaining. In all honesty, he is a highlight to keep the show entertaining as it feels a bit dragged by the end. Although family and kid friendly, the two and a half hour and two intermissions for the show might be a bit too daunting. A child in front of me during the performance was more than a bit restless and audience members around me broke out in interrupting chatter as the show drew towards its end. The spectacular ending number and rejoining of the cast "happily ever after" sealed the show up and brought the crowd to its feet.

"Aladdin" was one show that any theater or ballet fan would be sorry they missed. If you are unable to make it out to this production before the curtain closes, be sure to check out houstonballet.org for the list of upcoming performances and check out how to get your tickets. The next show the Houston ballet will be performing is "The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra" which opens March 6 and runs through March 16.