Sunday, July 12, 2009

Aladdin at Navy Pier

I have to admit that I was predisposed to like this show. I have seen several shows at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier and enjoyed them all. The productions are always completely creative and professional. The space is just a joy for a theater enthusiast. No matter where you sit, the view is wonderful. The sound is consistent in every part of the theater. Even empty, the theater is beautiful.

With this as my base, I was excited to learn that Disney's Aladdin was playing at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. This is not the first foray into family theater at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, although it is the first one that seemed to fit our young daughters' interests. Sure, we know the basic story, but there is something much more exciting about seeing it as a live production.

This show has an amazing cast. I think too many people believe that family theater is filled with second-tier actors. Boy, are those people wrong. I would be excited to see these actors in an adult show, let alone a family theater production. Even before I read the playbill, I knew that Larry Yando had played Scar in the Lion King. It was his voice that sent me in that direction. Given that we saw the national touring company in Chicago at two different times, it's a good bet we saw him in that role as well.

What I really liked about the show was the adult humor. I don't mean the raunchy, late night comic-type humor. I mean the references to current events, products and people. It was thrown in as part of the regular dialogue, so the children laughed as well -- but for a different reason. The show referenced Prince, bab ganoush and snuggies. There were also great quotes with a twist such as "Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what you can do for me." Each reference was accompanied by silly stuff for the children, but the parents were laughing like it was an inside joke between the director and the adults.

As with all good family theater, Aladdin had a bit of movement through the audience and an opportunity for the audience to interact with the performers. Even though the show was just a bit more than one hour, the director recognized that children have short attention spans.

A personal bonus was that the Chicago Shakespeare Theater validated our parking so we received a healthy discount. I think it was 40%, but my math isn't always reliable. This made the show a good way to anchor an afternoon on Navy Pier. After the show we walked around enjoying the free dockside entertainment and munching on popcorn.

Our girls sat in the audience mesmerized by the show. They loved the dancing and singing. They stared at the stage until the last song ended. Then they asked if they could see it again. Yes, I think it was a hit for everyone in the family.

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