Originally written as a CBS television special, Aladdin represents Cole Porter’s only major foray into the medium of television and indeed his final musical score. Spurred on by the popular success of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella the previous season, he teamed up with talented screenwriter SJ Perelman to create this very charming adaptation of the classic fairytale.
John Savident (The Magician) in Aladdin at Lilian Baylis Studio, London Photo: Matt Martin Photography
The plot differs only slightly from our own popular pantomime, featuring less magic and a toned-down version of Aladdin’s widowed mother. Porter’s Aladdin, despite mixed reviews when it was originally broadcast, is a much more sophisticated affair brimming with hummable tunes, intelligent lyrics and a strong vein of timeless humour.
John Savident brings a fruity maleficence to role of Sui Generis, the evil magician with plans to dominate the world, while John Rawnsley as the Astrologer makes much of the delightful ballad Trust Your Destiny to the Star. Richard Dempsey and Candy Ma make a sweet couple as Aladdin and the Princess, but at the centre of some of the funniest scenes in the show, it is Vivienne Martin as the garrulous Mother and Stewart Permutt as nosy neighbour Wu Fang who steal the show with exquisite comic timing.
Director Ian Marshall Fisher is extremely passionate about these musicals by Broadway’s great writers that, for some reason or another, have slipped off the radar. Admittedly Aladdin was only ever intended for the small screen but there is no real reason why a production couldn’t survive a commercial outing this Christmas.