In preparation for Aladdin at Manchester’s Palace Theatre, I set myself the task of watching the 1992 Disney Aladdin animation followed by the 2019 live action remake.

This was the plan I’d hatched but the reality was my eyes started drooping during Prince Ali and, with cartoon paraphernalia in full force, I fell asleep with the lyrics “Prince Ali, handsome is he, Ali Ababwa/That physique! How can I speak? Weak at my knees!” washing around my brain.

So, after poor preparation I arrived at the venue with no time to scran. The two chocolate coins I received on arrival would have to suffice as starter and main. A glass of house red would be pudding at the interval.

Photo by Henry Liston

The sign outside says ‘Magic Awaits’. Would it deliver? 

Well, the ensemble carried the show and each cast member came into their own through certain songs. There are too many to name individually but one actor, Zac Frieze, was the epitome of ‘is his Grandma watching tonight?’ He well and truly went for it. Meanwhile, the staging and choreography were superb, especially as we entered the sand dune cave through the musical number Diamond In The Rough towards the end of act one. It was a proper wow moment. And I must give kudos to musical director Dave Rose who conducted this epic production. He had unreal energy, bopping about from beneath the action, channelling his joyous vigour onto the stage.

“Come for the hummus, stay for the floor show” was just one of the many brilliant lines delivered by Yeukayi Ushe, the ultimate puppet master as the genie. How can you not love this portrayal of the blue protagonist? Flirtatious and brilliant, with the audience in the palm of their hand. It takes a lot to carry this role and deliver, but Ushe did it with style, culminating in a mash-up of Disney classic songs during the song Friend Like Me.

Henry Liston at Aladdin. Photo by Henry Liston.

There were nice nods to the original but some notable omissions. It might sound daft, and I understand there are restrictions in a theatre production, but I wanted to see the animals. Abu the monkey, Rajah the tiger, and even the magic carpet with its animalistic characteristics were all missed.

If you’ve read this far into a theatre review, I thank you. I also plead with you to stop rustling if you go along to watch this show. At times, it was excruciating to concentrate above the heady hum of snacks and cans being opened and cracked. My advice is to open your snacks before the show starts and then pick your moments to grab a handful. Also, never ever clap along to songs. No one does it in time and it’s embarrassing.

This performance of Aladdin was tight and the jokes were funny in all the right places. Certain scenes blew me away thanks to the choreography and sheer stage excellence. But until the audience members among us start aligning to a better theatre etiquette, I’m more inclined to watch the original on Disney+.

By Henry Liston

Photos by Henry Liston, except for main image publicity shot for Aladdin


Aladdin is at the Palace Theatre, Manchester until July 7, 2024. For more information, click here.