Entertainment Stage The mysterious secret behind this Broadway musical

The mysterious secret behind this Broadway musical

How do Aladdin and Jasmine fly through the air? Photo: Michele Aboud
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There’s a scene in the stage version of Disney’s beloved Aladdin that has most audience members doing double takes – and baffles even the most seasoned theatre professionals.

The musical – which will head to Melbourne in April 2017 after enjoying a successful run at Sydney’s Capitol Theatre – features plenty of technical tricks, but none so intriguing as its famed Magic Carpet.

The Carpet makes it debut during the iconic song ‘A Whole New World’, as actors Ainsley Melham, who plays Aladdin, and Arielle Jacobs, who plays Jasmine, soar through the night sky.

At a recent Sydney performance, a quick glance at the faces of audience members revealed a mixture of awe and delight. People have been known to cry.

There are entire Reddit threads dedicated to the mechanics of the carpet and how it appears to fly through the air without wires, and photos and video footage of the carpet are impossible to find.

“How do they get the carpet to fly?” one user asked. “The consultant who designed it says there are no wires. He designs magic acts as well. I don’t 100 per cent believe him.”

“Anyone who does know is under an NDA not to tell you,” another user responded.

This much is true – every actor and crew member involved in the production is contractually obligated not to reveal the secret of the carpet, leaving many to speculate wildly.

Theories range from really well-concealed wires, to magnetic force to hydraulics. This writer tried – and failed – to spot the wires.

What’s impossible to miss, however, is the sheer scale and quality of the production’s sets.

Aladdin is one of the largest productions ever mounted in Australia and it shows. The reveal of the gilded Cave of Wonders elicits audible gasps from the audience.

The sheer scale of Aladdin's set is breathtaking. Photo: Deen van Meer
The sheer scale of Aladdin’s set is breathtaking. Photo: Deen van Meer

What the production lacks in fresh plot twists and musical innovation (after all, the story’s been around for 24 years) it more than makes up for in sheer wow factor.

With 500,000 Swarovski crystals, thirty tonnes of flying scenery and a cast of 37 beautiful young things, it’s hard to know where to look.

Michael James Scott is hilarious as Genie. Photo Deen van Meer
Michael James Scott is hilarious as Genie. Photo: Deen van Meer

A particular stand-out is Michael James Scott as Genie – he’s an import from the Broadway production and his hilarious social commentary brings a modern edge to the classic tale.

Melham and Jacobs are charming as the star-crossed lovers dancing their way through the city of Agrabah. As a sweet side note, Jacobs’ brother Adam played Aladdin in the Broadway version.

Watch Arielle Jacobs reveal her Aladdin role to her parents:

The success of Aladdin is an impressive feat at a time when it takes multi-million dollar superhero movies to impress audiences.

It’s a sweet story of a young man making it big – not unlike the backstory of its lead Melham, the Bathurst-born son of a prison guard whose childhood tap-dancing classes led to a career in musical theatre.

Add to that the glistening set (it takes three months to build), the mysterious Magic Carpet and a list of classic songs that will transport you back to your childhood, and you’ve got a hit on your hands.

Aladdin will open at Her Majesty’s Theatre in Melbourne in April 2017. Tickets will be available through Ticketek from 9am, Thursday October 6. Tickers range from $65 to $165.

The Sydney production is on until January 8 2017. Tickets available through Ticketmaster.

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