Sunday, 14 December 2014

Don't Miss ABC's 20th Anniversary Special Tonight!

If you live in America then make sure you don't miss tonight's special Backstage with Disney on Broadway: Celebrating 20 Years on ABC at 7pm EST.  And to get you in the mood Entertainment Weekly have a special preview of Glee's Darren Criss singing Aladdin's Proud of Your Boy.

Hosted by Jesse Tyler this hour long celebration will take you from 1994's Beauty and the Beast to 2014's Aladdin and feature performances by Elton John, Mary Poppins' Ashley Brown and Aladdin's own Adam Jacobs as well as taking you back stage during the show stopping extravaganza that is Friend Like Me.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Last Chance to See La Jolla's Hunchback of Notre Dame

Just a quick reminder, this weekend is your last chance to see the critically acclaimed US Premiere production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame at the La Jolla Playhouse.  If you like musical theatre and you are in the San Diego area this weekend then you owe it yourself to see this show!

Tickets (the few that are left anyway) are available from the La Jolla's website.

To all the cast and crew, congratulations on a fantastic run, have an amazing last weekend!  Can't wait to see you all at the Paper Mill next year!

Friday, 12 December 2014

Steel Burkhardt is Aladdin's New Kassim

Disney Theatrical announced this week that Steel Burkhardt is to return to Broadway as Aladdin's new Kassim.

Steel is a graduate of Baldwin Wallace and most recently starred in this year's off-Broadway production of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing.  He last appeared on Broadway as Berger in the 2011 revival of Hair (a role he had previously played in London's West End and on the US National Tour) and other stage credits include Murder Ballad, Guys and Dolls, Kiss Me Kate and Jesus Christ Superstar.

Steel will take his first bow as Kassim on Monday December 22nd 2014.

Congratulations Steel, and welcome to the Aladdin family!  I wish you a long and happy run in Aladdin and look forward to seeing you bring Kassim to life when I see the show again next year.

Brandon O'Neill to Take His Final Bow as Kassim

Brandon O'Neill, Brian Gonzales & Jonathan Schwartz as Kassim, Babkak & Omar, Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann

This week Disney Theatrical announced that on Sunday 21st December Brandon O'Neill would take his final bow as Kassim in Aladdin on Broadway.

Brandon has been a part of the Aladdin family since the show's pilot production at The 5th Avenue Theatre in his native Seattle back in 2011.  Already cast as Sky Masterson in 5th Avenue's Guys and Dolls, Brandon was initially unavailable to audition for Aladdin but after being the reader in auditions the casting team liked what they saw and asked Brandon to audition for the show.  Scheduling conflicts were worked out and the rest, as they say, is history.

If you have chance to see Brandon in Aladdin before he leaves then make sure you take it!  December 21st is the last time you will see the complete original Broadway cast of Aladdin and I promise you that it's an experience you'll never forget!

I just want to say a big thank you to Brandon for everything he did for the show, taking the concept of Kassim and, with the creative team and his fellow cast members, turning him into a fully realised character and bringing him to life on stage every night.  On a personal note I also want to say thank you for your support these last few years, it's meant a lot.

Brandon, I hope you enjoy your final nights in Agrabah and wish you all the best for your future career.  Keep making some magic!

Brandon O'Neill with Brian Gonzales, James Monroe Iglehart, Andrew Keenan-Bolger and Adam Jacobs in the 5th Avenue's Pilot Production of Aladdin, Photo by Chris Bennion

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Broadway News Round Up 25

Jonathan Freeman as Jafar, Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann or Deen Van Meer

Welcome to another news round up for Disney's Aladdin on Broadway!  I'm aware that I've not done one of these for a while so there's a lot to catch up on, but first something to get you all in the festive mood since we've reached December!  Here's James Monroe Iglehart putting an Agrabah twist a Christmas classic.  And after Thanksgiving Disney Theatrical certainly have a lot to be thankful for as both Aladdin and The Lion King broke house records again during Broadway's highest-grossing Thanksgiving weekend in historyAladdin pulled in $1,759,955 as it broke the New Amsterdam's house record for the third time (or is it fourth now?  I've honestly lost track!)

On December 14th Disney are celebrating 20 Years on Broadway with an hour long Backstage with Disney on Broadway: Celebrating 20 Years special on ABC.  The event will be hosted by Jesse Tyler Ferguson and feature performances from Elton John, Mary Poppins' Ashley Brown and Aladdin himself, Adam Jacobs.  The special will take you into the rehearsal room with The Lion King, to opening night with Newsies and backstage during Aladdin's "Friend Like Me" so it's definitely a show that you don't want to miss!

But before that Broadway World is reporting that Adam Jacobs and James Monroe Iglehart will be on The View this Tuesday morning (9th December) so make sure to check it out!

Continuing the 20th anniversary celebrations of Disney Theatrical NY1 News went behind the scenes at Aladdin to speak with Adam Jacobs, Courtney Reed, James Monroe Iglehart and Jonathan Freeman.  They also spent time with the touring cast of Newsies attended the opening night of The Hunchback of Notre Dame in San Diego and spoke with the head of Disney Theatrical, Thomas Schumacher.

On Thursday 11th December James Monroe Iglehart will be joining other Broadway stars at 54 Below for the Don't Quit Your Night Job Holiday Spectacular where Broadway and improve meet... and make out.  Tickets are on sale now so don't miss out!  And that's not all!  James will be back at 54 Below on 19th January as part of song writer Scott Alan's 54 Below debut.

Continuing the tradition of Aladdin cast members supporting good causes, Adam Kaokept recently spent time helping Broadway Serves at the NYC Rescue Mission's Thanksgiving Banquet.  Well done Adam!

James Monroe Iglehart talks to NYC City Guide about Aladdin and picking his targets in the audience!

Joshua Dela Cruz talks with The Jersey Tomato Press about his High Adventures in Aladdin.

Aladdin's Michael James Scott is taking part in King of Glory, the annual Christmas concert of the Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church in Florida on Friday 12th December.

Broadway World has photos of some of Aladdin's cast members at the Broadway Dream's Foundation's Night of Dreams gala.

The Burlington County Times (a New Jersey community newspaper) has a new review of the show. (subscription required)

Broadway World reports that Aladdin's Bud Weber is taking part in an industry reading of Sing Me Home (and also give an email address where you can request complimentary tickets!)

The New Amsterdam Theatre will be host to the 26th annual Gypsy of the Year on Monday 8th December (4:30pm EST) and Tuesday 9th December (2pm EST) which will celebrate the 40th anniversary of The Wiz.  The show will feature special appearances by a number of Broadway stars, including Aladdin's James Monroe Iglehart, and the panel of judges includes Aladdin and Jasmine themselves, Adam Jacobs and Courtney Reed.

Adam Jacobs and James Monroe Iglehart's appearance on Seth Rudetsky's Chatterbox is now on the SethTV website. (subscription required)

Disney Theatrical's Thomas Schumacher talks with Vulture about how Broadway has changed in the last 20 years and the highs and lows of bringing Disney to life on stage.

Last month Adam Jacobs taught a musical theatre workshop with A Class Act NY and Broadway World has the photos.

And speaking of Adam Jacobs, the readers of recently voted Adam into the Top 10 sexiest men alive on Broadway.  Congratulations Adam.

Disney Channel stars Ben Savage and Rowan Blanchard (Girl Meets World) recently went backstage at the New Amsterdam Theatre and met the cast of Aladdin;

The West End rumours keep on coming as the Daily Mail's Baz Bamigboye wrote last month "the Broadway show Aladdin arrives at the London Palladium in early 2016.  The folks at Disney were meeting with Palladium executives this week for another round of discussions that will, eventually, seal a deal."  No sources were quoted, not even the usual anonymous Broadway/West End executives/producers that normally get mentioned in reports like this (as happened in January 2013 when Aladdin was first rumoured for Broadway) but with 2 international productions already announced and more confirmed to be coming it's extremely likely that this report is accurate.  That said, Baz Bamigboye does lose some credibility when he goes on to state that "Rice wrote the lyrics for the animated film version then worked with Director Casey Nicholaw and other writers on numbers for the stage iteration" as Tim Rice was not involved with the Broadway production of Aladdin nor the earlier Seattle Pilot production in 2011.  And when he says "they need to calm it down a bit for London" well, let's just say I respectfully disagree.

And on the subject of international productions the Herald Sun is reporting that, according to a rumour "which is building among the arts industry" Aladdin is set to open in Australia in 2016!  As with the West End rumours this is unofficial until it is confirmed by Disney but if both of these rumours are true then Aladdin is having one of the fastest international roll outs in Disney Theatrical's history!  Not bad for a show that was never meant to go to Broadway!

Not exactly Aladdin related but the Tuacahn (who staged a fantastic production of Aladdin in 2012) has been nominated in several categories of the 2014 Broadway World Salt Lake City Awards for this year's production of The Little Mermaid including a Best Actress nomination for Heidi Anderson for her portrayal of Ursula.  Heidi was Marketing Manager at the Tuacahn during their production of Aladdin and was a big supported of this blog so please take a moment to vote for her and the Tuacahn's production of The Little Mermaid.

And finally Disney Theatrical recently announced a new ticket exchange program for their Broadway shows.  Recognising that people these days often have hectic and unpredictable schedules you can now exchange your ticket right up to 2 hours before the performance!  Playbill have all the details.

Next week is the final week of the US premiere production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame at San Diego's La Jolla Playhouse and if the tweets that have been filling my homepage these last 3 weeks are any indication then it's been an absolutely incredible run and Broadway is almost certainly looming on the horizon after the Paper Mill's run next March.

But don't take my word for it!  Here's some more fantastic reviews to tell you just what you're missing if you haven't seen this show! (Big thanks to Alex for sending me a lot of these links!)

Broadway World calls it "a feast for the eyes... and the soul".
Disney Examiner says "it's not an exact replica of Disney's film version, but if you're looking for a complex, alternate look at the story, you have to watch this musical production that brings the tale to an epic, darker level."
Disney Club of UCLA calls it "unforgettable" stating that "Scott Schwartz's masterful presentation at La Jolla Playhouse has greatly exceeded any preconceived expectations."
Neon Tommy calls the show "an absolute triumph" before going on to say "It is tragic, sweet, disturbing, inspiring, and revelatory.  The exciting work that La Jolla Playhouse has done to bring this old and classic tale to the stage may finally bring The Hunchback of Notre Dame to the forefront of American theatre on the Broadway stage, and sets the gold standard for musical theatre adaptations to come."
Entertainment Today says "there is little doubt that this production of Hunchback will have a long run on Broadway"" and advises readers to see it now during it's San Diego run.
Examiner gives the show 5 stars saying it "is both spectacular and a spectacle, and is alive and well."
The Guardian also gives the show 5 stars saying it's the show's "newfound complexity that will put this musical right on track to becoming a Broadway hit."

NY1 took a look at the show and spoken with Alan Menken, Stephen Schwartz and Scott Schwartz about Hunchback.

Chase Brock spoke with Edge Media Network about choreographing The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Disney's D23 fan club reflects on the recent D23 Member Night at The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

And on a lighter note Hunchback's Samantha Massell and Nora Menken have been posting some unique backstage videos as the girls of Hunchback play the kazoo.  Check them out here and here.

Aladdin Nominated for 2015 Grammy Awards!

On Friday the nominations for the 2015 Grammy Awards were announced.  Now being honest I don't normally pay them much attention but this year Playbill had a headline that made me take notice.  Aladdin's Original Broadway Cast Recording has been nominated for Best Musical Theatre Album!!  I didn't even know that was a category!

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder, Hedwig and the Angry Inch and West Side Story have also been nominated in the same category.

Congratulations to all of Aladdin's cast and everyone involved in the production of the cast recording.  And good luck!!

Sunday, 30 November 2014

What Are You Thankful For?

I hope that all of my American readers have had a happy Thanksgiving weekend.  Whilst the holiday of Thanksgiving isn't celebrated here in the UK there is something that I've been meaning to post on this blog for a while now and this weekend feels like a very appropriate time to share it.

When we visited New York earlier this year Jane and I were not only fortunate enough to see Aladdin in it's opening week on Broadway, we were also blessed with the chance to meet many of the cast who bring this amazing show to life every night.

It was Wednesday 19th March and we'd just seen the incredible final preview performance of the show.  It was everything I'd dream it would be and, somehow, even managed to beat my insanely high expectations.  After the show we rushed to the stage door to do what all theatre lovers do - meet the cast and say thank you for an amazing experience (and in my case say thank you for all the support they'd given me over the last 3 years).

If I'm remembering correctly it had been a relatively sunny day, cold certainly but clear.  Whilst we were in the New Amsterdam Theatre the heavens had opened.  It was absolutely pouring down.  As we waited for the cast to come out I heard a lady behind me call my name.  To my absolute surprise and delight it was Tipawan Reed.  Tipawan has been, and continues to be, the biggest supporter of this blog and her words of kindness and encouragement have meant the world to me.  We'd spoken briefly but never met before, Tipawan had come out looking for us and recognised my English accent.  I introduced her to Jane and she introduced us to her husband Porter.

Standing in the crowd at stage door we got chance to meet Adam Jacobs and Brandon O'Neill who, despite the weather, ensured they spent time meeting everyone and signing Playbills.  I'm certain that the rest of the cast did the same but we didn't get chance to meet them that night.  As the rain continued to pour Tipawan very kindly offered to take us inside to meet Courtney!

As we went back stage I felt like I was in a dream.  As we exited the lift on Courtney's floor she was already in the corridor speaking with another woman.  When Courtney turned to face us she had a slightly star struck look - the woman she'd just been talking with was none other than the original Princess Jasmine - Linda Larkin!!

We then went back to her dressing room (painted pink, perfectly suited to a Disney princess, and filled with Jasmines) and got to spend a few minutes talking with Courtney and her parents.  It was a surreal and amazing experience.  I had never been back stage at a show, never mind on Broadway, and suddenly here we were standing in Jasmine's dressing room!  Courtney was lovely, if you've ever been lucky enough to meet her at stage door then you'll know just how friendly and welcoming she is.

We said our thank yous and our goodbyes.  As we left Courtney went out to brave the rain and meet the fans at stage door.

It was an amazing end to an incredible night.  Jane and I were both on cloud nine.

When we got back to the hotel I turned on the iPad to message Don Darryl Rivera to apologise for missing him at stage door.  I was greeted by messages from Don, James Monroe Iglehart and Khori Petinaud asking if they'd missed me and if I was coming back!  It was an overwhelming moment and I still continue to be surprised and humbled by the level of support that this amazing cast has shown me.  Now, I didn't fly halfway around the world to see a show and only book one set of tickets (yeah Broadway is expensive but flights cost even more and at this point I had no idea when I'd be going back) so I happily replied that we were coming to see the show again on Saturday and couldn't wait to meet them all!

The next day was Opening Night!  Now, I've already covered Aladdin's Purple Carpet event in a earlier post but as we were watching them set up something incredible happened.  James Monroe Iglehart decided to use the front door.  Coming up to the barrier that had been erected and jokingly asking who'd blocked the way into work.  As he passed I took the opportunity to introduce myself and was again humbled as he thanked me for doing the blog and my support.  And then he invited us back stage on Saturday.  Jane said she wished she'd had a camera out as my face was apparently a hilarious mix of shock and joy.  I hope I wasn't so shocked that I at least managed to get out a "thank you"!

The next morning was one of my favourite moments of our holiday as we shared breakfast with Tipawan and Porter Reed.  Tipawan and Porter are two of the nicest people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting and it was an absolute joy to spend time with them.  Yes, we spoke about the show's opening night but we also spoke about family, holidays and life in general.  In many ways it felt like a meal between old friends even though we'd never met.

The rest of Friday and Saturday passed in the same blur most holidays seem to.  Then it was Saturday night and we were seeing Aladdin again and the second time seemed even better than the first.  I think it my head I was subconsciously noting all the changes the first time I saw the show (despite trying really hard not to) and the second time I was able to fully appreciate it without thinking about everything that had come before (if you want to know how much I loved it you can read my review here).

After the show everything went into that surreal dream world again.  Knocking on the stage door and saying I was there to see James Monroe Iglehart was an electrifying moment (and strangely a little nerve wracking too).  Then Jane and I, along with other guests, were taken through the stage door and onto the stage!

Confession time - I may have started singing "Proud of Your Boy" quietly to myself as I stood on the stage.  May have... ;)

After missing him a few nights earlier I finally got to meet Don Darryl Rivera.

Don has been a friend to me and we've kept in touch ever since I got the chance to interview him for the Seattle production so finally getting to meet him was the highlight of our back stage adventure.  He's also one of the nicest guys you could ever hope to meet.  I'd told Brandon O'Neill I'd hopefully see him this evening but he was entertaining guests.  Don thought he'd seen him and even popped his head out of stage door trying to find him for me.  He came back in laughing that the crowd had playfully booed him when he'd come back inside!

We got to see Courtney again and Adam Jacobs (in dryer conditions this time) so it was nice to be able to properly speak with him for a moment and thank him for everything he'd done for me.

I also had the chance to meet Jonathan Schwartz briefly.  He seemed like a great guy and I hope that one day I'll get the chance to interview him for this blog.

Then we got the chance to spend a few minutes with the man who'd made this possible -  James Monroe Iglehart.  I know I've said this about everyone but JMI is one of the nicest guys you could hope to meet.  Warmth just seems to radiate from him.  He introduced us to his wife Dawn and she took our picture.  Then something happened that just made us all burst out laughing;

Don Darryl Rivera - Photobomb King!

We got more pictures with JMI, one where we're all still laughing and one where we actually managed to take a normal photo but this one is my favourite.

Then came the best part of the night.  Don took us on personal back stage tour!  We learnt some amazing things, like the lamps are actually 3D printed and there are hidden Mickey's in the Cave of Wonder's jewels.  But in case you were wondering the flying carpet is pure Disney magic!

These are memories that we will treasure forever and I can never say thank you enough.

Happy Thanksgiving.