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Kaena Kekoa performs as Jasmine. Photo by Deen van Meer.

“Aladdin” at the Hippodrome: pushing beyond childhood nostalgia

“How can someone love me when in fact, they don’t know me?” Kaenaonālani Kekoa as Jasmine proudly took the stage at the Hippodrome Theatre in Baltimore, Maryland and spoke a very relevant truth. How can she expect a suitor to fall in love with her when all they know about her is that she is wealthy, beautiful and powerful? Disney’s animated “Aladdin” from 1992 presented Jasmine as a princess who was primarily seeking love, with vague and infrequent mentions of the desire to also make her own choices.

However, Jasmine on stage presents herself as a much more in-depth and independent woman. Not only does she demand that she be permitted to marry for love, but she also presents herself as a modern feminist. Kekoa is a perfect fit for this role, speaking Jasmine’s truth with a fire that resonates from within her very soul. The audience was filled with young children dressed as Princess Jasmine, and they were certainly pleased with their choice of role model.

In the role of Aladdin, Jonah Ho’okano commanded the audience’s attention; first during “One Jump Ahead” as he leaped across the continuously moving set with flawless breath support. Aladdin is also much more than Disney made him seem, and these character differences turn him from a cocky kid that wants to be someone into a guy that just wants to make his parents proud and prove that he is worth more than he seems.

Ho’okano commented, “[Aladdin’s] this average, normal guy with a heart of gold. But he doesn’t really have a lot of self-confidence. He always wants to better himself, [and] he doesn’t think he’s good enough, and I relate to that. It’s not hard to put myself in those shoes because I know exactly what that feels like. I get to prove and rediscover every night that [we are both] good enough.” This is one of the most important messages audiences walk away with because everyone has doubted their worth before. Leave it to Aladdin to emphasize such important themes from a movie that had just brushed the surface.

Though the set design for the Cave of Wonders scene was particularly extravagant and incredible, nothing could compare to the breathtaking sight of the magic carpet ride and “A Whole New World” performed on what looked like nothing less than an actual flying carpet soaring through a diamond sky, which quite literally had audience members gasping in awe in their seats.

Be sure to witness this magic in person before the show moves to the next leg of its tour. The cast of “Aladdin” will continue to perform at The Hippodrome until December 1. In the words of Korie Lee Blossey, “come see for yourselves why you don’t need a genie.”