There’s just nothing like a classic Disney tale brought to life in the form of a musical. The attention to detail, the quality of the production, the sheer sense of overwhelming nostalgia which quickly overtakes you. All that and so much more can experienced during the Aladdin musical, that made Edinburgh Playhouse its home between October 24 and November 18.
The production is based on the 1992 Disney film Aladdin which most millennials grew up with, featuring a “whole new world” of colours, phenomenal costumes and a noteworthy cast and production team. The UK and Ireland tour of Disney’s Aladdin musical stars Yeukayi Ushe as Genie and introduces Gavin Adams as Aladdin. What is more, Desmonda Cathabel plays Jasmine from when the show kicked off in Edinburgh.
Secret Edinburgh got the chance to come see the set and backstage up close and personal, as well as talk to the cast and the production team. The sheer amount of work that went into the musical is monumental, with a single costume piece taking hundreds of hours of beading by hand.
The backstage choreography
Firstly, we spoke to Head of Wardrobe Abigail Morgan, who is in charge of looking after the spectacular costumes. And when we say spectacular, we’re not exaggerating in the slightest, by the way! “The Aladdin jacket must have taken over 200 hours for beading. […] It’s a lot of work that goes into something like this. You’ve got a lot of different crystals, a lot of different beads going on here.”
Abigail also described what the backstage looks like during the show, as it gets busy with the quick costume changes. Calling it backstage choreography, she said: “There are some sections where the characters run off quite fast, so you know to stay out the way, so everyone else knows, at that point in the music you stay away.
Same with the props coming off, you have to know your backstage choreography, because some of the marketplace trucks, or, you know, a huge golden pillow, or a giant throne, you need to be out of the way.”
A chat with “Genie” himself
What is more, we got a chance to sit down with Yeukayi Ushe, the Genie himself of the Aladdin musical. Yeukayi told us about how he got into acting, what’s it like playing Genie and some surprising moments.
Tell us the “why” behind choosing acting as part of your life purpose?
“It’s a much longer journey than this, but, basically, I went to […] this musical for the first time. I got really, really uncomfortable watching it. And I was like, ‘What is this feeling about that I can’t shake?’ Like I was really enjoying the show and, oh my God, it’s jealousy. I’m jealous of the people who are on stage.” Only once Yeukayi was at uni doing musicals as an extracurricular activity did he realise what the jealous feeling was really about, where he still gets to act, dance and sing all at once, as well as learning new skills to fulfil life curiosity.
What is more, Yeukayi spoke of the importance of staying humble, for every person we meet in life can teach us something new. Ah, what a profound man, indeed!
Genie is such a fascinating character. Compared to watching Aladdin growing up voiced by Robin Williams vs. now, actually embodying the character, did it shine a new light on Genie? Were there any surprising discoveries since you started the rehearsal process?
As millennials, watching Robin Williams in the 1992 film growing up brought up so much wonder and magic. Speaking of embodying the role, Yeukayi expressed: Looking at one of my all-time favourite actors, and being, like, I have to inhabit the space where he stood. […] It makes me go, ‘When he must have read this, how did he feel?'”
Genie is a timeless character based on the Harlem Renaissance, even with influences from jazz musicians. As a multifaceted role with so many influences, making it come to life is no easy task. Yeukayi even plays around with classical music bits, and even improvises on stage to keep things fresh. “I understand how Robin Williams must have felt when he read it and went, ‘Oh my gosh! I can this this there, and here, and take this there.’
“I can do so much with so many of the bits and the moments. […] Gavin and I have had a few moments already where he’s just gone wide-eyed because I’ve just done something completely different to what I did the day before.” So, no show is the same with Yeukayi as Genie, keeping things alive over the long tour taking place until 2025.
“It’s fun, it’s joy, it’s escapism, I have to leave a lot off the stage and go to like fun, like anarchy kind of fun.”
How has Edinburgh welcomed Aladdin so far?
“With the biggest response I think I’ve ever experienced. 3,000 people roaring before I’ve even gotten the chance to say a single word. […] They’re just in it and they’re on board with it from the word go. […] I’ve opened three shows in this auditorium, and some of the most heartwarming responses I’ve gotten was from this auditorium.”
So, here you have it folks, Edinburgh is officially the best audience in the UK, according to Aladdin musical ‘s very own Genie. There’s still time to book to go see Aladdin, and you can do so here.