According to the New York Times, a stage version of Disney’s Aladdin will be making its way to the New Amsterdam Theater. There’s a lot of reasons why this is a pretty cool thing. Not only is Aladdin a pretty dang good Disney movie, it’s was also the first of Disney’s animated features to include a lead female character of color (although we’d have to wait three years to get one as the lead), second only to the The Jungle Book as the earliest Disney feature animated film where the main character is not of white-European descent. Broadway musicals are already a field of work where starring (and in many shows even secondary) roles for actors of color are thin on the ground.
But a stage musical can also be a chance to escape the usually-around-ninety-minute limit of the animated feature, expand upon secondary characters, introduce original songs or even reintroduce songs that were cut from the original film. Which brings us to the very sad story of Aladdin’s mom and the song “Proud of Your Boy.”
Production on the songs and lyrics of Aladdin began before the story of the film had been completely hammered out, during the production of Beauty and the Beast, which preceded Aladdin in release by a mere year. By the time the serious story work had begun, Howard Ashman and Alan Menken had penned eleven songs and made plans for one more on the theme of a “magic carpet ride” before Ashman’s untimely death at the age of forty due to complications of AIDS. That was eight months before the release of BatB, which garnered him two posthumous Golden Globe nominations and three at the Academy Awards; he won one of each.
Among those eleven songs for Aladdin completed before his death was “Proud of Your Boy,” a song where Aladdin returns home after narrowly escaping the Agrabah police only to face his mother’s shame at having raised a thief. After his mother goes to sleep, Aladdin gathers firewood and sings a solo about how he knows he’s a real jerk to his mom, he’s sorry for it, and though he may not be able to make himself “taller or smarter or handsome or wise,” he’s still determined to make her proud of him. While hammering out the final version of the Aladdin script and storyboards before it went to animation, folks in the production of the movie realized that they couldn’t find time to keep Aladdin’s mother in the script, and that necessarily meant axing “Proud of Your Boy.” You can watch a quick documentary on “Proud of Your Boy” (which includes Alan Menken singing the actual song over an animatic of what the scene would have looked like) right here, where it’s abundantly clear how tough it was for Ashman’s colleagues to take it out of the movie.
Not only would it be a nice nod to Ashman’s work penning some of the greatest Disney songs of the past twenty-odd years to throw the song back into the show (which could easily be done independently of including the character of Aladdin’s mother, as the song would work just as well and maybe be even sadder if he’s singing about a mother he can no longer talk to), it would be great to add a female character back into the story. If The Lion King can add some great character development for Nala and genderswap Rafiki, I think Aladdin’s mom can make it back into the stage version.
(via Entertainment Weekly.)