11th February 2019
Aladdin devotee Amy Hopkins tries a new accommodation package at Jumeirah Carlton Tower in London’s Knightsbridge, which includes tickets to Aladdin in the West End
Disney’s animated film Aladdin came out in 1992, when I was seven years old and my sister, Lucy, was nine. We were instantly enchanted by the jewel-coloured fictional world of Agrabah and the strange and spunky characters who inhabited it. Of all the Disney videos in our collection (believe me, there were lots) Aladdin was the one we watched again and again, sitting cross-legged on our very own magic carpet – a rug in the sitting room.
Now hear this, fellow Aladdin fans, a hotel in London’s Knightsbridge has launched a package which combines an overnight stay with tickets to Aladdin the West End musical. The Arabian Nights package at Jumeirah Carlton Tower draws on the hotel’s Arabic roots and also includes breakfast and spa access, theatre transfers and Arabian-themed goodies. Naturally I recruited my sister to join me in reviewing it – she’s an Aladdin expert after all. Jumeirah’s vast suites could easily accommodate a family of four, but both our daughters are still far too young for the theatre, so for us, Arabian Nights was a child-free experience.
The show is opened by Genie, played by American Broadway star Trevor Dion Nicholas. A huge man in spangly hareem pants, Nicholas sweats, puffs and cartwheels through a performance that is so energetic, at times I fear for his health. His show-stopping and utterly bonkers version of the song Friend Like Me incorporates everything from a medley of Disney hits to scat-singing, before climaxing in a frenzied tap dancing finale. The shape-shifting genie from the film version, hilariously voiced by Robin Williams, has left impossibly big shoes (curly toed slippers?) to fill, but Nicholas comes close.
From beginning to end the show is a whirlwind of silliness, sparkle and gags. ‘Welcome to Agrabah’, booms Genie in the opening scene, ‘where even our poor people are fabulous. And by the way, everybody sings’. Americans don’t do panto, but it’s as though Aladdin’s creators Chad Beguelin (story), Alan Menken (music) and Howard Ashman and Tim Rice (lyrics) have inadvertently created one and then supercharged it. The choreography and set design are wildly impressive and there are fireworks, streamers and live magic in the mix. Over 350 different costumes are showcased by the relatively small cast, and each is so elaborate that people on the front row will be finding sequins in their clothes for weeks. Aladdin is not about to overthrow The Lion King as the best Disney stage musical, but I have to give it ten out of ten for effort. There’s enough silliness and sparkle to cheer even the most cynical heart.
After the show, my sister and I were driven up the Mall back to the hotel, feeling somewhat like Prince Ali making his grand entrance to Agrabah. In our palatial suite, high on the fifteenth floor, a platter of baklava was waiting for us (along with a teddy bear and a personalised note for my daughter – sweet!). Wrapped in fluffy hotel robes, we nibbled our sweet Arabian treats while looking out over London’s twinkling skyline.
The next morning, breakfast was a relaxed affair in the hotel’s Rib Room restaurant. We were pleased to discover that the Arabian Nights package extends to almost everything on the menu, as well as a tantalizing buffet. We swam in the tranquil glass-ceilinged pool on the ninth floor, high above the city, and spent much longer than we intended lounging in the spacious jacuzzi. Time slipped away from us and it was well after midday when we checked out. The staff, who were attentive and warm at every turn, didn’t bat an eyelid.
Having an extravagant sleepover and watching our favourite childhood film burst into life took my sister and I back to the carefree days when we first fell in love with Aladdin. Our Arabian Night over, we left feeling rejuvenated, and went home to our busy grownup lives and our own little girls.
Where: Jumeirah Carlton Tower hotel, Knightsbridge, London
When: Arabian Nights package is available until the end of July 2019
What’s included: One-night stay, full English breakfast, access to The Peak Health Club & Spa, two tickets to Aladdin, a signed programme, complimentary car transfer and in-room Arabian amenities
Price: From £520 per double room per night, based on two people sharing a Superior room
Or, call +44 (0)20 7235 1234 or email [email protected] for a quote for your chosen date
One more thing Aladdin fans… Look out for Disney’s live-action remake, starring Will Smith as the Genie and British actress Naomi Scott as Princess Jasmine, which is set for release in May 2019.