Disney’s Aladdin hosts its first autism-friendly performance

Jade Ewen and Dean John-Wilson in Aladdin at the Prince Edward Theatre, London. Picture: Deen van Meer

Jade Ewen and Dean John-Wilson in Aladdin at the Prince Edward Theatre, London. Picture: Deen van Meer

The West End production of Disney’s Aladdin has announced its first dedicated autism-friendly performance on Tuesday 29 August.

With tickets already sold out for a similar performance of the award-winning West End production of Disney’s The Lion King on Sunday 4 June 2017, demand is expected to be high for Aladdin’s first autism-friendly show at London’s Prince Edward Theatre.

Following on from the success of previous ‘relaxed performances’ the production will be re-shaped to make the hit show more accessible for those affected by autism.

Working closely with the National Autistic Society, the UK’s leading charity for autistic people and their families, the dedicated autism-friendly performances include modifications to the booking process, performance and the theatre environment.

The theatre’s foyer will include designated quiet and activity areas staffed by experts in autism throughout the performance should anyone need to leave their seats.

Slight adjustments will be made to the performance itself, including the reduction of jarring sounds or strobe lighting.

The cast and the theatre box office and front of house staff have been given training to understand the needs of an audience made up of adults and children who are autistic.

Announcing the performance Nancy Shakerley, development and education manager for Disney Theatrical Group, said: “We understand that autism-friendly performances can make theatregoing a more accessible and relaxed experience for people with autism as well as their family and friends.

“Building on the success of the last three autism-friendly performances at The Lion King, we are thrilled to continue our partnership with the National Autistic Society in holding our first autism-friendly performance at Aladdin this summer, just one year after opening in the West End.”

Daniel Cadey, autism access development manager at the National Autistic Society, said: “We were delighted to be offered the opportunity to work with Disney Theatrical Productions and the Prince Edward Theatre on this hugely successful show.

“There are around 700,000 autistic people in the UK, and many struggle to cope with unfamiliar places and everyday sights and sounds which others are able to filter out, such as artificial lighting, background music or traffic noise.

“Autistic people and their families tell us that they would love to visit the theatre, but because of sensory issues and anxiety in unfamiliar surroundings, they are prevented from doing so. Aladdin’s production team have taken great care in adapting the show, including having a ‘visual story’ online which can help autistic people prepare for their visit in advance. This means that for some of the audience on 29 August, this will be the very first time that they are able to experience the thrill of a live performance.”

A specific website, www.aladdinthemusical.co.uk/autismfriendly has been set up for this performance linking to a dedicated booking page. The site includes a downloadable ‘visual story’ to help people with autism understand the process of a visit to the theatre to help reduce anxiety and aid their comprehension of the experience.

Based on the 1992 animated film, Disney Theatrical Productions’ Aladdin features songs from the movie, along with new music written by Tony, Olivier and eight-time Academy award winner Alan Menken. The show also features lyrics from multi award-winners Howard Ashman, Tim Rice and Chad Beguelin who also provides the book. Aladdin is directed and choreographed by Tony and Olivier Award winner Casey Nicholaw.

Featuring Britain’s Got Talent semi-finalist Dean John-Wilson in the title role alongside former Sugababe and Eurovision contestant Jade Ewen as Jasmine, Aladdin features Broadway cast member Trevor Dion Nicholas in his London stage debut as Genie.

The West End cast also includes Don Gallagher as Jafar, Peter Howe as Iago, Irvine Iqbal as the Sultan, Nathan Amzi as Babkak, Stephen Rahman-Hughes as Kassim and Rachid Sabitri as Omar.

The creative team also includes scenic designer Bob Crowley, lighting designer Natasha Katz, costume designer Gregg Barnes and sound designer Ken Travis. Casting is by Jill Green.

The production team also includes illusion designer Jim Steinmeyer, hair designer Josh Marquette and make-up designer Milagros Medina-Cerdeira. The music team is headed by music supervisor and music director Michael Kosarin, who also created the vocal and incidental music arrangements, joined by orchestrator Danny Troob and dance music arranger Glen Kelly.

Now in its third year at the New Amsterdam Theatre on Broadway where it has been seen by more than 1.5 million people, Aladdin opened in Tokyo in May 2015 ahead of its European premiere in Hamburg in December last year. The show debuted in Sydney last August, and will move to Melbourne next month.

Angela Thomas

Readers may also be interested in:

The Lion King – the autism-friendly way – Blog

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