Fans of the now sadly gone but absolutely brilliant stage show, Disney’s Aladdin – A Musical Spectacular, are still reeling from the loss of what could easily be considered the crown jewel of Disney California Adventure. As we ponder the future of the park without the presence of this joyous and entertaining production, I’d like to share my impressions of one of the last visits I made to see it being performed.
A month before Disney’s Aladdin – A Musical Spectacular was scheduled to close, the Disney Parks official blog invited a limited number of guests (if you signed up quickly enough) to a special private performance of the show at one of their “meetups”. I was fortunate enough to be one of the folks to attend – the only time I’ve managed to get into a meetup as they always fill up within minutes of being announced!
It was very special to me to get into this specific event, however, given my great love of Mousertainment at the Disney Parks and this show in particular.
After having read about the blog meetups where guests have met characters, and were given free hats and shirts, along with food and drinks, I was really looking forward to it. But overall, except for one facet, I was personally pretty disappointed in what I experienced in regards to the event itself. (The Aladdin show, however, was marvelous as always.)
We were told to arrive in the early evening and it all seemed very chaotic and disorganized from the start – as I accidentally jumped part of the line because the cast members didn’t know where it actually ended. But I wound up at the ticket booth and got my ticket to get inside Disney California Adventure (included as part of the meetup, however that ticket would prove basically useless since we entered, went directly to the theater and didn’t leave there until the park had already closed!).
We were given a preprinted composite photo of a scene from the show along with a wristband to prove we were part of the event, then led in a fairly orderly line over to the entrance to the Hyperion Theater. We showed our wristband and then were allowed to queue up in the line outside and we waited. I’ve heard varying totals of invitees, including an estimate of 500 people, but doing a quick visual head count of the audience inside the theater, it seemed closer to 600-700. Still much smaller than the capacity of the theater as the balcony was left empty and few people opted for the mezzanine, with most choosing orchestra seating.
No one from the Parks blog ever showed up to welcome us or tell us about the event. We just stood outside in the queue area as it proceeded to rain on us for several minutes until they finally let us inside the theater just before the performance began. With no introduction, the show simply started. Genie made one shout-out joking reference to the Parks blog event but it was otherwise a “normal” performance.
And then when it ended, we all stayed in our seats waiting for some instruction or greeting. The invitation had said there would be a Q&A with cast and crew, but again there was no one from the blog to tell us what was going on.
The audience shuffled restlessly in their seats as the house lights rose. Eventually, the curtain was lifted revealing some of the backstage area as two techs brought out several directors’ chairs. But again, no explanation was given of what was going on. After a bit, a woman came out onto the stage, but her microphone didn’t work, so she went backstage. She got a new microphone and returned on stage, but never introduced herself, so I have no idea who she was. Two crew members (a creative director and a stage manager) and three of the cast (Genie, Aladdin and Jasmine) arrived to great applause from the crowd.
We proceeded to get a pretty good Q&A with those members of the cast and crew. I’d say it lasted about 20 minutes or so, maybe half an hour. The creative director talked about how inspiring it was to work with Alan Menken when they first decided to translate the film into a stage production and how happy they were to get him to write an original song for the show (“To Be Free”). The stage manager talked a bit about all the people involved in making the show happen multiple times per day. The actors were asked about funny experiences (Aladdin mentioned a wardrobe malfunction), favorite parts of the show (Jasmine talked about the warm response from the audience), and how the Genie constantly came up with new jokes (Genie said he listened extensively to the news and pulled references from anything in pop culture that people were talking a lot about). There were also questions from the crowd (pre-screened from cards people had written on prior to the show) such as how long the Genie makeup took to apply (about an hour). It was a fascinating and unique panel.
After this Q&A ended, the doors to the exits were opened and we left the building.
We were not given any special meet and greet experiences, nor any snacks or gifts other than that photo of the show and a park ticket that was pretty much useless as Disney California Adventure had already closed for the night by that time. The cast members outside told us that since it was a parkhopper ticket, we could go over to Disneyland for an hour or so before it, too, would close and to have a good night. But since it was a rainy evening, I just left at that point and went home.
While I was very glad to have had the chance to peek “behind the curtain” literally and figuratively during the Q&A with the cast and crew – and because I am a Mousertainment fan, that was worth the couple of hours in traffic it had taken me to get there – it was an otherwise very half-hearted and unimpressive event and I was personally very disappointed overall as compared to the offerings showcased at other of their meetups.
Have you been to a Disney Parks Blog Meetup? What did you think of the experience?