Monday, July 13, 2009

Review: Disney's Aladdin at the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre

I hate Navy Pier. If it weren't for Chicago Public Radio, the Chicago Children's Museum and the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, I'd be perfectly happy never venturing to the land of overpriced hot dogs, ice cream, tour boat rides and tourist-trappy theme restaurants/fun houses. And the parking--gah! $24 flat rate parking with no grace period. It's fraking highway robbery.

But still, the CST is a very classy joint. And at the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre right now is Disney's Aladdin, a marvelous stage musical that feels much bigger and more spectacular than an 11-person production has any right to.

The show is based on the 1992 animated movie not one of Z's favorite Disney Princess flicks, but one she's seen a couple of times. So she was excited to see it live "with real people." Her friend S, at 5 1/2 a year older than Z, hadn't seen Aladdin before, but she was an experienced theatre-goer.

The show did a good job of keeping the girls entertained and they were able to follow the plot pretty well. Right around the one hour mark S started asking if it was almost over and were there any snacks for sale. Fortunately the show is a only 75 minutes from start to finish--just about as long as two kindergarteners can sit still and stay (mostly) quiet.

I, on the other hand, probably enjoyed the show even more than Z and S. Yes, I loved it. I admit it. It isn't high art, but features a top-notch cast, beautiful sets and costumes and some great (if not-over-the-top) special effects. Hint: magic carpet ride.

I was a little disappointed that the orchestra was hidden away back stage (I thought at first that they were singing along with prerecorded music). But that's pretty much my only gripe. I can't even complain too much about the parking fees because the Chicago Shakespeare Theater offers patrons a 40 percent discount.

We followed the performance up with $5 strawberry sorbet cones and a little people-watching. Z didn't like the chunks of fruit in hers, so I ate it and bought her a $4 jumbo hot dog, which she enjoyed despite the poppy seed bun. You'd never know our economy was in shambles by the crowds at Navy Pier. It was choked with humanity--thousands of people balancing enormous soft drink cups on strollers filled with sleeping, sunburned toddlers, shouldering Build-A-Bear bags, licking ice cream cones, snarfing cheezy popcorn and cursing at the damned parking garage payment machines.

Disney's Aladdin is at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater through August 30, 2009. Tickets are $18 for children 12 and younger and $23 for adults, but you can save $5 on performances through July 31 when you enter the code BLOG at the CST website.