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In our increasingly global society, it is becoming more and more important that our children receive an education that embraces diversity and creative thinking. With that in mind, DISNEY'S ALADDIN DUAL-LANGUAGE EDITION was created to enhance the educational aspect of musical theater by providing an opportunity for students to perform in both English and Spanish.

In musicals, language is everything.  A line of lyric or a character's word choice can convey volumes, and the way an actor delivers a single line can completely alter the audience's view of the show.  When a show features more than one language, the use of language becomes even more significant.  In DISNEY'S ALADDIN DUAL-LANGUAGE EDITION, language is firmly intertwined in issues of identity.  Whether determining behavior based on class or revealing who the characters really are, language is a fundamental element of the musical.

Language and Identity

Language in ALADDIN DUAL-LANGUAGE EDITION tells characters who they are based on their position in society.  The bilingual nature of the show makes class differences glaringly obvious, as those in the palace speak Spanish and those in the streets and the marketplace speak English.  Due to Jafar's wish, these two groups--previously bilingual--can no longer understand each other.  Consequently, the Sultan and his guards are oblivious to what life is like for the average citizen in Agrabah.  When the Royal Translators ask Aladdin if he has anything to say, he complains, "I'm hungry, I'm miserable, and my life is like one bad dream," but the Translators cut him off, not wanting to report bad news.  The Sultan himself makes no effort to communicate with his own people.  "But we should!" Princess Jazmin insists in Spanish when her father tells her that they don't "consort with the common people."  "You should!  How else are you going to know what's going on?  Did you know that your 'common people' are hungry?"  With each social class speaking a different language, the gap between the rich and the poor becomes a ravine.

The bilingual characters in the show, however, are outside this class structure in various ways.  Jafar's parrot, Iago, Aladdin's monkey, Abu, and Jazmin's tiger, Rajah are animals and therefore don't belong to any social class.  While they do serve as bridges of communication by translating for the audience as well as (in Abu and Rajah's case) Aladdin and Jazmin, they aren't in a position to bring the powerful and powerless closer together.  This is also true of the Genie.  A supernatural being bound to the holder of his lamp, the Genie's ability to speak and understand two languages is more a mark of his non-human status and powers than anything else.  Jafar's fluency in English and Spanish also sets him apart.  He's the only bilingual human because he caused the language barrier in the first place, so he uses that ability to ensure the social classes move further apart-thereby establishing him as the most powerful person in Agrabah.

AladdinDLEALADDIN DUAL-LANGUAGE EDITION also uses language to reveal who the characters really are.  While many of the characters pretend to be what they're not, they're often honest in song.  Aladdin believes his only chance to be with Jazmin is to pretend that he's Prince Ali Ababwa, so everything about him is a fabrication.  It's only when he takes Jazmin on a magic carpet ride that he's able to be who he really is.  In their duet, "A Whole New World," Aladdin expresses his desire for freedom and his love for Jazmin without worrying about maintaining his princely façade.  Similarly, Jafar plays the part of the loyal advisor to the Sultan, but his numbers-"Why Me?," in which he bemoans his lack of respect, and "Prince Ali Reprise," where he reveals Aladdin's true identity-convey his power-hungry nature.  Aladdin in particular reveals himself linguistically throughout the show.  Jazmin first suspects there's a connection between him and the boy she met in the marketplace when he uses phrases the boy used, such as "Do you trust me?" and "servants of servants."  Even after the Genie makes Aladdin bilingual in his guise as Prince Ali, Aladdin still has trouble sticking to Spanish.  He uses the wrong words, such as when he tells the Sultan that he "journeyed from a hand to seek your daughter's far," and often lapses into English, much to Jazmin's confusion.  The Genie can transform Aladdin's appearance, but even he can't prevent Aladdin's speech from revealing his true self.

In ALADDIN DUAL-LANGUAGE EDITION, language plays a critical role in the characters' identity.  The language they speak--English, Spanish, or both--identifies them primarily by class, and the songs and phrases they use inevitably exposes who they truly are, regardless of the lengths they may take to hide it.  When Aladdin tricks Jafar into becoming a genie, thereby trapping him in a lamp of his own, he restores the power of bilingualism to Agrabah.  With language no longer a method of class distinction--and with Aladdin finally able to marry Jazmin as himself, not as the invented Prince Ali--the relationship between language and identity becomes something new.
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For more on DISNEY'S ALADDIN DUAL-LANGUAGE EDITION, check out this article on the development of the show from the MTI blog.


To license the show, visit the MTI Show Page.

Videos and More

For a special video about an early production of the show, check out the ALADDIN DUAL-LANGUAGE EDITION page on MTI ShowSpace.