Pure Joy: U2 & Disney’s Aladdin

One of my favorite things about living in NYC is being able to experience the world’s best entertainment. My dear friend Sara and I recently enjoyed two memorable nights of music and theater.

We joined a sold-out crowd at Madison Square Garden for one of U2’s eight shows there. The beloved Irish rockers delivered on the Innocence + Experience theme of their current tour, taking the audience on a powerful journey during their 2.5 hour set.


U2 rocked Madison Square Garden

U2 played on two stages and a suspended cage that served as both another stage and projector. Throughout the show, a series of images flashed–from a rendering of teenage Bono writing a song for his future wife to family photos and shooting stars in “Iris,” a moving tribute to his late mom. The setlist covered tracks from their current album Songs of Innocence alongside classic hits including “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” “Desire,” “Pride (In the Name of Love)” and “Beautiful Day.”

Sprinkled throughout were messages of social activism, filtered through the lens of the heartfelt reflection that comes with getting older. Bono spoke with gratitude for fan support of U2’s Red campaign against AIDS, also expressing thanks for the band’s longevity.

For the encore, they ended with “Where The Streets Have No Name” and a version of “One” that had everyone happily obliging Bono’s request to–

“Sing yourselves home.”

No doubt about it—U2 is still one of the greatest rock bands of our time.

Just a few days after being wowed by U2, Sara and I headed to the New Amsterdam Theater to see Aladdin. The stage version of Disney’s beloved 1994 animated film delivers plenty of laughs, heart and romance.

Dazzling choreography, colorful sets and rapid fire costume changes (337 costumes in total!) vividly bring the classic story to life. Aladdin features new songs penned for the show in addition to iconic numbers from the movie. Aladdin and Jasmin’s magic carpet ride to “A Whole New World” is spectacularly recreated.


James Monroe Iglehart dazzles as the genie (Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann/AladdinTheMusical.com)

Adam Jacobs is easy to like as Aladdin, Courtney Reed less so—her portrayal of Jasmine comes off as more bratty than spunky. Jonathan Freeman, who voiced villainous Jafar in the movie, reprises his role with panache. He’s almost upstaged by Don Darryl Rivera, a fireball of wicked energy as snarky sidekick Iago. But Aladdin’s biggest star is Tony Award winner James Monroe Iglehart. With his infectiously charming portrayal of the genie, Iglehart brings down the house, truly making this iconic role his own.

Aladdin is pure joy – an Arabian Night that’s enjoyable from start to final curtain call.

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