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it's time to play the music

Aladdin Might Be On Its Way to Broadway, I Hope They Bring His Mom

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.)

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  • Jenn V

    That was hands down my favorite Aladdin song ever. (I got the Ashman/Menken boxed set in the 90s that had all the outtakes and demos.) That song is included on many more playlists in my collection than any other Aladdin song.

  • Phil Gonzales

    I love “The Music Behind the Magic” and have loaned it out to many friends over the years. I still believe the “Bing Crosby/Bob Hope Road Movie” version of Aladdin would have been awesome.

  • Anonymous

    Adding a parental figure to Aladdin for Aladdin would take away a considerable amount of the appeal of his character. It’d be great for them to add the song back in, possibly in a different context, but adding a female character for the sake of adding a female character is just as bad as omitting a female character because they’re female. Him being completely on his own with no one to back him makes the appeal of moving up all that more interesting. It would be far more appealing and significantly more moving to have him sing that in homage to his mother who’s no longer around and present.

  • aladdinsane22

    They already did a trial run of this in Seattle. It seems like the song is included, but the mother is not.

    I’m not from there, so I didn’t get to see it and can’t really say for sure.

  • Nikki Lincoln

    True – I like the idea of singing to a posthumous mother and they could always have someone as a ghost/memory type figure that he’s thinking of while singing.

  • Anonymous

    That I would be okay with. At least that would simply flesh him out a bit more rather than adding an entirely new character that would need to be worked into the story some how.

  • Nikki Lincoln

    I hope they do this! I love the new songs in the Beauty and the Beast and Lion King musicals – Home, If She Loves Me, and They Live in You are all probably the best songs in those musicals.

  • Nikki Lincoln

    Yea, it would definitely complicate the rest of it.

  • Quiana Kirkland

    I was at the trial run. The song is included– and lovely. His mother wasn’t shown, if I recall correctly.

    They definitely had a few kinks to work out, but I really enjoyed it. On a bigger stage it would have quite the wow-factor.

  • Lauren Seals

    I saw it!! it was extremely enjoyable (and I LOVED that the Jafar from the movie reprised his role— would be a must-have for the b’way version). This song was one of the best moments, along with Jafar’s evil villain duet with Iago.

  • Anonymous

    Is there any word on the casting? With a few exceptions, Broadway is fairly notorious for having white actors playing characters of color. Things like the Lion King and A Raisin In The Sun are sadly quite the rarity.

  • Terence Ng

    I was under the impression anyway that Aladdin was singing about making his mother proud even though she was clearly out of the picture. I probably missed the indication that she could have been alive (just like the original tale), but I felt that it gave the song more gravitas.

    I guess the carpet was personified as male, but generally gender-neutral. But yeah, aside from Jasmine, it’d be a male-dominated main cast as is. Raja?

  • Skullcrusher Maggie

    I was at the Seattle trial, and “Proud of Your Boy” is sung to his dead mother. That plus the fact that Howard Ashman used to sing it for his mother made me seriously emotional. They made several significant changes, which I expected to hate but actually worked very well in a stage context. All the animal sidekicks were taken out except for Iago, who became a human toadie. Jasmine actively works at (and takes delight in – there’s a song!) driving her unwanted suitors away. Aladdin has three friends who act as narrators between scenes. And yes, getting the original voice actor back to play Jafar was awesome!

  • Anonymous
  • malkavian

    Les Mis? I’ve seen a black actress play Mme. Thernardier and one of the best-known Eponines is asian Lea Solanga.

  • Magic Xylophone

    Yeah, I was wondering what she would be doing for the rest of the movie.