The critically acclaimed Broadway and West End musical Aladdin opened at Sunderland Empire on Thursday, February 15. Reporter Darcie Rawlings - a self-proclaimed ‘mega-fan’ of the Disney film - was transported back to her childhood.

Based on the hit 1992 animated film and centuries-old folktales including “One Thousand and One Nights”, this smash-hit musical is brought to life to dazzle the North East.

With new songs by Tony, Olivier, Grammy, Emmy and eight-time academy award winner Alan Menken, Disney Theatrical Productions, under the direction of Thomas Schumacher visited Sunderland on their first ever UK and Ireland tour of Disney’s Aladdin.

This big budget production remains faithful to the plot of the Disney film set in Agrabah where we meet the warm-hearted but sticky-fingered Aladdin and watch as he falls in love with the strong-willed Princess Jasmine. Fate aligns as Aladdin finds a Genie in a lamp who can make his wishes of being with the princess come true, but not before the power-hungry Jafar tries to weave his way between their fairy-tale.

The musical begins in the bustling markets of Agrabah, despite the much-appreciated air conditioning blasting through the theatre the warm oranges and purple sunsets radiated Arabian nights and made me feel like I was immersed in the sunshine of the fictional land.

The soundtrack includes many of the cherished songs from the film including 'Arabian Nights', 'Friend like me' and 'Prince Ali', as well as many new songs such as ‘’ played by the flawless live orchestra conducted by Dave Rose.

With clean cut and effective staging the most impressive set design was easily the cave of wonders drenched in gold and stacked pillars of jewels and luxury inside the echo of the cave, were eye popping. Combined with the faultless performance “Friend Like Me” high energy, quick costume changes and immaculate choreography – this was one of the best musical numbers I have ever seen live.

In Act 2 as the magic carpet takes flight during ‘ A Whole New World’, I was six-years-old again, in my living room hearing the song for the first time and wanting to be a Disney princess- that’s the kind of magic this show brought to Sunderland.

Gavin Adams made his debut as Aladdin and brought youthful charm and cunning to the role and performed solos ‘One Jump Ahead’ and ‘Proud of Your Boy’ with gusto and ease all at the same time, he was certainly a perfect Aladdin.

The Northern Echo: Gavin Adams is making his debut as AladdinGavin Adams is making his debut as Aladdin (Image: SUNDERLAND EMPIRE)

Yeukayi Ushe was glowing and glittering as Genie with a phenomenal voice that belted through the theatre.

He really stole the show with hilarious narration full of pop culture references that had the audience howling. Living up to the legend Robin Willliams Ushe’s performance was a pleasure to witness.

The Northern Echo: Yeukayi Ushe stole the show as Genie n the production of Aladdin at the Sunderland EmpireYeukayi Ushe stole the show as Genie n the production of Aladdin at the Sunderland Empire (Image: SUNDERLAND UNIVERSITY)

Desmonda Cathabel as Princess Jasmine had all the sass and disobedience that has inspired young girls and women since the film’s release in 1992.

Cathabel provided young audience members with a beautiful and realistic image of a princess to aspire to.

The Northern Echo: Desmonda Cathabel made an authntic Princess JasmineDesmonda Cathabel made an authntic Princess Jasmine (Image: SUNDER;AND EMPIRE)

With chiselled cheek bones and expressive eyebrows Sunderland’s own Adam Strong as Jafar provided plenty of villainous laughs and almost felt like he was directly pulled from the original animation.

Aladdin’s motley crew Kassim, Babkak and Omar played by Nay-Nay, Nelson Bettencourt and Adam Taylor brought comic relief and some fantastically choreographed sword fight scenes that pulled the action back into the musical.

Dressed in some of the most intricate costumes I have ever seen in the theatre, the ensemble cast worked tirelessly in every scene combined with the tight choreography delivered an astoundingly powerful musical.

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With the overarching message that it’s what inside that counts Disney's Aladdin the musical is a beautiful and extraordinary evening at Sunderland Empire.

It’s no wonder this musical has been put together by multi- tony award winners - this production was pure quality and an exhilarating spectacle.

Closing with a standing ovation from the audience at Sunderland Empire it’s safe to say Aladdin was a hit on its opening night and the magical escapism that the musical offers is the perfect stage show for all.

Disney’s Aladdin is at Sunderland Empire from Friday, February 16 until Sunday, March 10, 2024. For more information visit

The Northern Echo: Scenes from Aladdin at Sunderland EmpireScenes from Aladdin at Sunderland Empire (Image: SUNDERLAND EMPIRE)The Northern Echo: Scenes from Aladdin at Sunderland EmpireScenes from Aladdin at Sunderland Empire (Image: SUNDERLAND EMPIRE)The Northern Echo: Scenes from Aladdin at Sunderland EmpireScenes from Aladdin at Sunderland Empire (Image: SUNDERLAND EMPIRE)