Disney’s Aladdin, The Real Black Swann, and Every Brilliant Thing

Jasmine and Aladdin (Sensel Ahmady and Adi Roy) fall in love after taking a magic carpet ride while imagining “A Whole New World” for themselves in Disney’s ALADDIN. (Photo credit: Deenvan Meer Disney)

Disney Theatrical Productions, under the direction of Thomas Schumacher, and Broadway in Hollywood are presenting Disney’s ALADDIN, adapted from the animated Disney film and centuries-old folktales including “One Thousand and One Nights,” which sweeps audiences into an exciting world of daring adventure, classic comedy, and timeless romance, featuring a full score, including the five cherished songs from the Academy Award-winning soundtrack and more written especially for the stage, performed by an incredible 10-piece orchestra conducted by James Dodgson. But it is the talented and energetic cast that transforms the spectacle into a perfect musical for family members of all ages. 

The story centers around the beloved princess Jasmine (Senzel Ahmady) who decides to rebel against her father the Sultan (Sorab Wadia) who wants her marry a prince of his choosing despite her dislike for all suitors he has brought to her. Deciding to escape the palace in disguise, Jasmine meets a “street rat” named Aladdin (Adi Roy) who is being pursued for stealing a loaf of bread. But before he can be arrested, Jasmine reveals herself and orders the palace guards to let him go free. Thus begins the love story at the heart of the story, even though it seems unlikely the pair will ever get together, given the power-hungry Jafar (Amand Nagraj) who is planning to marry Jasmine and assume the throne once her father dies. Aaron Choi portrays Jafar’s attention-grabbing, comical assistant Iago.

Bemoaning his plight after being set free, Aladdin stumbles upon a magic lamp and his fate is sealed when rubbing it releases a Genie (Marcus M. Martin, the ringleader of all the fun this musical has to offer), who grants Aladdin three wishes. Of course, the first is to be a Prince so he can marry Jasmine. Thus, the stage is set for much merriment as things fall into place, beginning with their enchanted magic carpet ride imagining “A Whole New World,” along with Aladdin’s street buddies Babkak (Jake Letts), Omar (Ben Chavez) and Kassim (Colt Prattes) and Jasmine’s attendants (Alyssa Anani, Lizzy Marie Legregin, and Sonia Monroy) looking out for them, leading to a lavish wedding as the very happy ending to the production, with Jasmine earning the right to make her own decisions.

This large-scale family-friendly powerhouse musical features music by Tony Award and eight-time Oscar winner Alan Menken, lyrics by two-time Oscar winner Howard Ashman, three-time Tony Award and three-time Oscar winner Tim Rice, and six-time Tony Award nominee Chad Beguelin, with a book by Beguelin, and astounding technical wizardry thanks to illusion designers Jim Steinmeyer and Rob Lake, movable scenic design by Bob Crowley, sparkly costume design by Gregg Barnes, and colorful lighting design by Natasha Katz. 

Aladdin performances continue through Saturday, September 23 at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre as part of the current national tour, directed and choreographed to perfection by Tony Award winner Casey Nicholaw. Tickets and more info at https://www.broadwayinhollywood.com/events/detail/disneysaladdin-1 or for the national tour, including a stop at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa from May 7-12, 2024, visit https://aladdinthemusical.com/tour/ 

In THE REAL BLACK SWANN, Les Kurkendaal-Barrett assumes the identity of William Dorsey Swann, the first Queen of Drag and queer activist on record in the United States. (Photo credit: Zev Rose Woolley)

Celebration Theatre, under the artistic direction of Brittney S. Wheeler, and the Los Angeles LGBT Center, under the artistic direction of Jonathan Muñoz-Proulx, are presenting the Los Angeles premiere of the award-winning THE REAL BLACK SWANN: Confessions of America’s First Black Drag Queen, written and performed by Los Angeles based writer/actor Les Kurkendaal-Barrett, directed by Tom Trudgeon with cultural consultation by Brittney S. Wheeler. 

We are first introduced to a Black gay artist named Les who, under anesthetic euphoria, is visited by the effervescent spirit of William Dorsey Swann, aka The Queen who shares how she survived antebellum enslavement to rise from the ashes of racial oppression to become the first Queen of Drag and queer activist on record. During their journey, Swann guides a complacent Les through time, popping his Glinda-esque pink bubble of self-preservation, provoking him to challenge all too familiar modern-day racial injustice monsters. 

In the middle of his drug-induced dream, Les is guided to don Swann’s first dress, all frilly pink to match his ever-present fan, with a flower-laden hat to match as well as shoes (with reasonable heels), an ensemble that allows Les to truly embody Swann’s world thanks to costume designer Wendell C. Carmichael. Throughout his stellar performance, we get to fully know both men from their own time frames, showing how far we have come since Swann’s day when gay men gathered at private parties and never in public to Les’ time where it seems to Swann that anything goes. 

But of course, in our modern world there are people all over this country who are trying to force drag performers back into hiding, judging their lifestyle as one not fit for their children to be exposed to in any way. But this play allows you to see more than just a man in a dress, offering a clear understanding that enjoying cross-dressing is an artistic expression of personal freedom and nothing to fear. Just think about all the famous actors over the years who have portrayed women to great acclaim, including Robin Williams, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon.

The Real Black Swann: Confessions of America’s First Black Drag Queen performs through Sunday, September 24 at the intimate Davidson/Valentini Theatre at the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Lily Tomlin/Jane Wagner Cultural Arts Center, 1125 N. McCadden Place in Los Angeles. Performances are Fridays, Saturdays, and Monday at 8pm and Sundays at 7pm (Sunday, September 24 performance will begin at 3pm). Reserved seat tickets are $25 – $35, available at the door (space permitting) or in advance at www.celebrationtheatre.org where a complete schedule and more information can be found.

Audience members participate with actor Daniel K. Isaac in EVERY BRILLIANT THING in the intimate Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater at the Geffen Playhouse. (Photo credit: Isaak Berliner)

“Ice cream.” “Water fights.” “Peeing in the sea and nobody knows.” A boy’s handwritten list to cheer up his despondent mom becomes a surprisingly funny and poignant ode to humanity as Daniel K. Isaac takes audiences on a transcendent and tender coming-of-age journey that reminds us to pay attention to life’s smallest joys in EVERY BRILLIANT THING, written by Duncan Macmillan with Jonny Donahoe and directed by Colm Summers.

This is such a fun show with several audience members called upon to play a part or read from numbered messages handed to them by performer Daniel K. Isaac before the show begins. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would be called upon to remove a shoe and sock during a show, but I did for good reason during this one! Other roles you might be called upon to play include a veterinarian, a father, a school counselor, a college lecturer, or a girlfriend/boyfriend. Just be ready to play along as there is no script for you to follow, ensuring that each performance will be unique from any other one! Special kudos to Daniel K. Isaac for always being ready to play along with nary a clue as to what may take place, making it a fun and engaging experience for everyone!

Performances continue through October 15 in the Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater at Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Avenue, Los Angeles 90024. Run time is approximately 70 minutes with no intermission. Tickets run $30 – $129, available by phone at 310.208.2028 or online at www.geffenplayhouse.org. Rush tickets for each show at $35 General/$15 Student are made available to the general public one hour before showtime at the box office. 

Please note: All Geffen Playhouse productions are intended for an adult audience; children under ten years of age will not be admitted. This production contains discussions of depression and suicide, and is recommended for ages 16+. If you or someone you know is in crisis or thinking about self-harm or suicide, there is help available via call or text to 988 for the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.