Filichia Features: Aladdin JR. Takes a Giant Leap

Filichia Features: Aladdin JR. Takes a Giant Leap

By Peter Filichia on February 08, 2018

The Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport is bigger than the entire Island of Manhattan. There are 293 ways to make change for a dollar. The script of Bambi has only 938 words. These are a few of my favorite stats. But recently I came across a little item that I immediately added to my list of Most Astonishing Statistics.

Nationwide, there have been more performances of Disney’s Aladdin JR. than the combined Broadway runs of Cats (7,485 performances), The Phantom of the Opera (12,490 and counting), The Lion King (8,420 and counting), and Chicago (8,818 and counting).

That means over 37,200 performances. I’m impressed! Aren’t you?

Disney’s Aladdin JR. was adapted from the 1992 film. Composer Alan Menken and lyricist Howard Ashman began the project, but in 1991 the latter met an untimely death (he was only 40) long before the actual film became a reality.

Tim Rice (Aida) came in to collaborate with Menken. They wound up writing the score’s biggest hit: “A Whole New World” which won a Golden Globe and an Oscar. Rice is also responsible for “One Jump Ahead,” which Aladdin sings as he outwits his would-be captors.

But “Arabian Nights,” “Friend Like Me” and “Prince Ali” all belong to Ashman. How sad that he would never know that Aladdin would become the highest-grossing movie of 1992. That it raked in $504 million is even more impressive when one notes that the second-place finisher The Bodyguard grossed almost $100 million less.

Two decades later, Disney ordered a stage adaptation for Broadway. Chad  Beguelin (Elf the Musical, The Wedding Singer) replaced the screenplay that had come from (gulp!) four scriptwriters and 16 other scribes. While he was at it, Beguelin also provided the lyrics for four new songs. Beguelin also wrote four new songs with Menken.

This Aladdin has ruled The New Amsterdam Theatre since 2014. In a mere six weeks it will enter the list of The Top 40 longest-running musicals on Broadway. Although it’ll soon start its fifth year on Broadway, tickets are still not easy to buy; sellout performances are more the norm than the exception.

Many in the audiences have been middle-schoolers. Plenty of them now listen to Aladdin’s 2014 original cast album rather than the 1992 soundtrack. So they know the songs that have been added, which is why so many have approached their teachers and drama club advisors and said “Can’t we do the Aladdin with the new songs?”

Until now, they couldn’t. But Disney Theatrical Productions and Music Theatre International had Ken Cerniglia work on a new condensed script and Aron Accurso on an adapted score. Now we have a new Aladdin JR. which made its debut at the Junior Theater Festival last month in Atlanta.

Of the four songs that weren’t in the previous Aladdin JR. but are on Broadway, only one is actually new: Menken and Beguelin’s “These Palace Walls” has Princess Jasmine not only lament that she’ll be forced to marry the man her father wants but also that she’s kept inside much like a prisoner. By song’s end, she’s determined to change that.

The other three were written by Menken and Ashman in the early ‘90s, but didn’t make the finished film. Menken believed in them, though, and they survived the Broadway rehearsals and tryouts.

“Babkak, Omar, Aladdin, Kassim” has those four characters change from shirkers to workers of the crowd, whom they genuinely entertain. After Aladdin is unfairly arrested by the authorities, his pals must venture to get him out of jail in “High Adventure” (not that they wind up doing anything of the kind).

The most vital of the additional songs is “Proud of Your Boy,” for this lets us see that Aladdin has ambition and the urge to make more of himself – but mostly to please his mother. (No wonder so many parents take their kids to see Aladdin!)

(The revamped Aladdin JR. wasn’t the only newbie revealed at the festival. Soon there will be JR. editions of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Children of Eden, too. Get that car and ark ready to respectively fly and sail.)

Read more Filichia Features.

You may e-mail Peter at Check out his weekly column each Monday at and Tuesday at His book, The Great Parade: Broadway’s Astonishing, Never-To-Be Forgotten 1963-1964 Season is now available at