One of the main reasons we went to New York City was to see Disney's newest Broadway play, Aladdin. The last time we were in the city, we saw The Lion King and Mary Poppins. I know what Disney can do with a stage so I was very excited to see what they would do to the Aladdin movie. Aladdin

For those of you that haven't seen the movie, Aladdin is the story of a poor street rat who rubs a magic lamp and becomes a master to a genie. He uses the genie's powers to help him win the heart of the kingdom's princess. Meanwhile, the Sultan's royal vizier is trying to get rid of Aladdin and the princess so he can take over Agrabah.

When the movie was first scripted, there were more characters. Aladdin had a couple of friends and his mother had recently died. Due to time constraints, those characters were cut. Aladdin's only friend (before Genie) was a pet monkey named Abu. The musical does cut out Abu (and Raja, for obvious reasons) but brings back the three friends and the parental storyline. With these changes came the reinsertion of a couple of songs that were cut from the movie. If you had the 1994 CD release The Music Behind The Magic, you will recognize the new songs.

The musical is absolutely amazing. Despite having a fairly small cast, they are able to bring so many different characters to life. (Let's put it this way: The 21-member ensemble actually brings the entire parade into the castle during "Prince Ali." So. Many. Quick. Costume. Changes. It is mind-boggling.) Adam Jacobs, who plays Aladdin, is adorable. Not only does he bring the non-threatening wittiness of the character to life, he also has a wonderful singing voice. He did not disappoint with "Proud of Your Boy." Courtney Reed also did a good job with Jasmine. Unfortunately, she isn't really the highlight of the show. She is very pretty and has a lovely voice but it seems like she doesn't spend a whole lot of time on stage. The evil Jafar is played by Jonathan Freeman, who also voiced the character in the animated movie. Much like Jasmine, he was good and it was awesome to hear the voice we all know coming out of Jafar's face but he still seemed lacking somehow.

I think the reason everyone else seemed so small is that the Genie has such a huge stage presence. James Monroe Iglehart plays our beloved Genie and he is amazing. He is somehow able to bring Robin William's manicness into reality. During "Friend Like Me," he slips in a few verses from "Beauty and the Beast," "Under The Sea," "Colors of The Wind," and a few more. I was just stunned how easily he moved between all of the songs. He has been nominated for a Tony, which he richly deserves to win.

If you can get to New York City to see the show, please do. You will not be disappointed. You will be awed, you will laugh your pants off, and you will be left wondering how the magic carpet actually flew. But you will definitely not be disappointed.

Play: The Addams Family

About a month ago, when I was in New York City, we managed to get half price tickets to catch the matinee for The Addams Family. My daughter enjoys the old television series and I love watching both Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth. It would be a good time for everyone.

The play advances the lives of the family slightly. Wednesday has grown from the delightfully morbid little girl we knew into a young woman in love. Unfortunately, she has fallen in love with Lucas Beineke, a "normal" young man. In an attempt to break the news of their impending wedding to their families, Wednesday decides to invite the Beinekes to dinner at the Addams mansion. Both teenagers beg their parents for one "normal" night, but can anything ever be normal in the Addams house?

I went into the play not knowing the storyline. Needless to say, I was a bit surprised that the characters had been aged a few years. Luckily, everything came together amazingly to produce this fantastic production. Not only is the story well-written, but both the acting and the stage effects gives it even more oomph. (Yes, they even have Uncle Fester lighting a bulb in his mouth onstage.)

Krysta Rodriguez plays Wednesday. I was absolutely floored every time she opened her mouth to sing. If Kristin Chenoweth is a modern example of a Broadway actress 'making it big,' I predict that Krysta will be closely following in her footsteps. I am definitely looking forward to seeing bigger things for her in the future.

As I said earlier, I am a fan of both Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth. Unfortunately, Nathan Lane was not in the production we saw. (Which is probably why the tickets were half price.) However, we were lucky enough to have Merwin Foard in the role of Gomez. Once again, an amazingly talented actor was cast in a difficult role. Everyone in my group agreed that he was the perfect actor for the role. None of us can even imagine Nathan Lane doing as good a job. As for Bebe Neuwirth, I was a little hesitant to like her as Morticia at first. With a bit of time though, she grew on me. I enjoyed her performance, even if she doesn't seem to be a perfect fit.

I definitely fell in love with this show. As a matter of fact, I'm trying to figure out a way to get my husband to New York so he can see it as well. If you have the chance to see it, even if you need to buy the half price tickets, GO. You will not be sorry!

Play: The Lion King

One of the most popular Disney musicals on Broadway is The Lion King. Most Disney fans know the story by heart. Simba, a lion cub destined to be king of his pride, is tricked by his evil uncle, Scar, into thinking he killed his father, Mufasa. Fearing the wrath of the other lions, Simba runs away. Luckily, he comes upon Pumbaa the warthog and Timon the meerkat. The three best friends live a carefree life until Simba's childhood friend, Nala, tries to eat Pumbaa. Nala convinces Simba to return to Pride Rock and retake his rightful place as king.

There has been a lot of hype around the musical, mostly due to the amazing costumes the actors wear. I will admit that they are absolutely breathtaking. However, that is the best part of the play. If you are already familiar with the animated movie, this show is just a live rehashing of the story. There is nothing new, beyond a few songs. It is pretty much word-for-word a re-enactment of the movie. As such, it's pretty easy to tune out entire scenes. This is unfortunate since the actors, especially the children, are so amazingly talented. I'd like to recommend The Lion King to people but I just can't. Yes, the costumes are great but I think you should get a little more for your money. Though, if you manage to get discounted tickets, snatch them up and be stunned by the beauty of the show.

Play: Mary Poppins

I took a trip to New York City over the weekend. The goal was to take my daughter to see some Broadway plays. First up, Mary Poppins.

Most people are familiar with the movie version of the magical nanny. In the original book, the character was a bit more strict with the children and vain. Somewhere in between the two lies the stage version. Mary is definitely vain and fairly strict but she is also rather cheerful and more mysterious. Thankfully, she's not the only character that has been altered slightly. The children are slightly naughtier and the affection between Bert and Mary is more apparent. Story-wise, I found that these changes brought a breath of fresh air to the story so everyone, even those that have watched the movie a hundred times, could enjoy the musical.

It wasn't until today, while I was doing a bit of research for this review, that I realized how extraordinarily lucky we were to see this particular cast. Mary is played by Laura Michelle Kelly, who starred in the original London cast in 2004. Bert is played by Gavin Lee, also the original actor for Bert in the London cast. The two of them were absolutely amazing in their roles. (I was a bit partial to Bert though. He's hysterical.) If you get a chance to see these two perform, don't hesitate a single minute!

For the most part, Mary Poppins gets passed by for The Lion King. (I'll be talking about that one later!) In my opinion, this is a huge mistake. The show not only mixes both the book and movie very well but it also adds its own little flairs as well. One of these is the song "Practically Perfect" performed by Mary and the children. It showcases all of their talent while staying catchy at the same time. I really think that any fan of Mary would enjoy this show. I know I did!

Review: Talk Like Singing

Title: Talk Like Singing Cast: Shingo Katori: Tarlow Jay Kabira: Dyson Keiko Horiuchi: Nimoy Shinya Niiro: Brother, Dyson's assistant

Plot: From his earliest days, Tarlow could only sing. People around him tried to get him to talk, but to no avail. Tarlow didn't realize he was different from other people. He thought that he was speaking just like everyone else. For a time, he became a celebrity. One unfortunate day, he sang about a terrible typhoon and society shunned him. Psychiatrist Dr. Dyson and Linguist Dr. Nimoy try to find the reason for Tarlow's singing so they can cure him.

Review: When I went into the play, I was under the impression that it would be completely in Japanese. The play ended up being half in Japanese and half in English. A majority of Dr. Dyon's lines are in English and whenever there was an important scene, it was either performed twice (once in Japanese and once in English) or there were creative subtitles for the conversation. This really did help us in understanding the plot better. It also added a bit of humor to the show.

All of the performances from the actors were excellent. Jay Kabira brilliantly brought the fabulously egotistical Dyson to life and stole almost every scene he was in. Meanwhile, Shingo Katori's singing was spot-on, which amazed me since the show ran for just about 2 hours straight without an intermission. I think this proves what a talent he is. And adding to the mix, Shinya Niiro, who played a couple of very different characters, held his own despite his characters not having a lot of lines. Many of his characters relied totally on body language, which can be extremely difficult in live theater. I will definitely be keeping an eye open for him in the future! Finally, Keiko Horiuchi. She did well in the Japanese sections, but she seemed to struggle just a little in the English parts. Luckily, she still managed to bring across the complete emotional change that Nimoy goes through. Despite not knowing any of these actors personally, I felt very proud of their performances.

Unfortunately, the show has ended it's US run. I believe there will be a short run in Japan, but I do not have any information on that. If you are lucky enough to be able to see Talk Like Singing, please do. I think you will be extremely pleased.

Website of the Week:

Most people don't know that I was a Theatre Arts major in college. While I haven't been active in the theatre community in a really long time, I do enjoy watching performances. The Theatre Alliance of Greater Philadelphia is a wonderful site for anyone interested in the stage. Besides listing all of the current and upcoming performances in the Philadelphia area, the site also maintains a list of open theatrical jobs. Whether you enjoy performing on-stage, backstage or just watching from the audience, this really is a great resource.