Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Broadway Sessions presents "A Night in Agrabah"

It never fails, you have a small news round up then there's a rub of the lamp!  This Thursday Ben Cameron's Broadway Sessions is presenting a one off special event - A Night in Agrabah!

Taking place at The Laurie Beechman Theatre on 42nd Street, Broadway Sessions is a "fun and zany musical theatre variety show" where you can "get up close and personal with Broadway's brightest as the stars bare their souls, interact with the crowd and celebrate all things BROADWAY."

Tickets can be bought on the door ($5 cover, $15 f/b minimum) and Thursday night's A Night in Agrabah will feature the talents of Aladdin's Courtney Reed (Princess Jasmine), Don Darryl Rivera (Iago), Marisha Wallace, Dennis Stowe, Bud Weber, Khori Michelle Petinaud,Stanley Martin, Yurel Echezeretta and Jennifer Rias.

The show starts at 11pm (with open mic at 10pm for anyone brave enough to try it!) so if you're in NYC why not see Aladdin first then head on over to catch some of the incredibly talented cast members in a more intimate setting.

I wish I could be there and I hope everyone taking part has a fun night.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Broadway News Round Up 15

Adam Jacobs as Aladdin, Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann

I hope you all enjoyed the interview with Adam Jacobs last week!  I have to say I was so happy to be able to do that again and once again a massive thank you to Adam and to Disney Theatrical for making it happen.

Ok, on with this week's news round up!

First up this week is a new video from Disney on Broadway's official YouTube channel.  This one is a little different to their previous Aladdin offerings, a fun little lyric video for "Prince Ali";

Now be honest, how many of you were thinking "so that's what the words are!" :-)

Last week also marked the one year anniversary of Courtney Reed officially signing on to play Princess Jasmine on Broadway and she posted a #TBT picture on Instagram to celebrate.  Like I said last week, time really has flown this year!

Bit of a short round up this week so I figured I'd end on a new review posted by a Disney fan who had mixed feelings about seeing the show and ended up "having more appreciation and love for the street rat's story than I ever had during my childhood!"

I Dream of Genie Episode 4

James Monroe Iglehart as Genie, Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann

Here it is!  The fourth episode of James Monroe Iglehart's vlog I Dream of Genie!

In this episode James introduces us to the back stage crew and the front of house staff at the New Amsterdam Theatre to meet the people responsible for bringing Aladdin to life on Broadway.  Then, with backing music once again provided by the multi-talented Jaz Sealey, JMI answers more of your questions about tap dancing, Theatre Works, and finally answers the burning question - who would win in a battle between the Genie and Harry Potter!

I can't believe this fantastic series has already reached its halfway point!  Getting a small glimpse behind the curtain with James is a weekly treat that I just don't want to end.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Proud of Your Boy - An Interview with Adam Jacobs

Adam Jacobs as Aladdin, Photo by Deen Van Meer

One of my favourite memories of the Seattle production of Aladdin was being fortunate enough to interview many of the principal cast members of the show.  When it was announced that Aladdin would be coming to Broadway I always hoped that I'd be able to do that again and tonight I'm extremely happy and honoured to be able to present an interview with Aladdin himself, Adam Jacobs!

Hi Adam!

Thanks for agreeing to do this again, I can't believe it's been over three years since we last did this for the Seattle Pilot!

Last time we did an interview you were in the middle of rehearsing for Seattle, so that seems like a good place to start. What was that production like to be a part of and how did you approach the character of Aladdin?
Looking back now, Seattle seems like a distant memory!  I feel like a LOT has happened since then and the show has grown and changed so much.  That was an exciting time, full of possibilities and experimentation.  Everyone's creative juices were flowing and we all were hyped up and daring to push the limits of what we could do.  My approach to Aladdin was taking what I already knew about him (aversion to authority, rough around the edges but with a heart of gold, witty and insouciant) and tried to delve a little deeper into the "why".  Where did his laissez faire attitude stem from?  How much was his mother an influence in his life? Was there a father figure?  Creating my own backstory helped create and inform the character.
What was your favorite part of the show in that production and is that still your favorite part in this new production?
I loved how the Seattle audiences received us with open arms.  I also loved watching “High Adventure” from the wings (and still do).
Between playing Aladdin in Seattle and returning to the role on Broadway you certainly kept busy, reuniting with Courtney Reed in Once On This Island and starring as Zorro.  What is it that attracted you to these roles and what do you look for in a show?
I tend to be attracted roles that require a bit of athleticism.  I had to learn how to fence in Zorro and working with Terry King, one of the foremost fight choreographers today when it comes to sword-fighting, was super fulfilling.  I love playing characters that have a hero's journey.

Adam Jacobs as Zorro, Photo by Grey Mooney

When did you first learn that Aladdin might be heading to Broadway, how did you come to be involved with the production, and what was it like to get that call saying you'd got the part?

I actually found out I'd be playing Aladdin on Broadway while I was rehearsing for Zorro.  Getting that call straight from the Disney producers was incredible to the say the least.  My wife happened to be in town that week in Atlanta and we were jumping for joy in the hotel room.
Having been with the show since the early workshops and pilot production, how did it feel to finally get to bring the show to Broadway and to do so with many of your Seattle cast mates?
Having been with the show from the very beginning makes our arrival here even that much more fulfilling. Stepping into the New Amsterdam Theatre and seeing them load our set in was electrifying.  We felt like all the hard work and all the revisions and rewrites and the blood sweat and tears were worth it.
Having played the part before, did this inform how you approached the role or did you try to approach it as if you’d not played the character before when you started rehearsing for Toronto?
When I started rehearsals again for Toronto, it was like putting on a familiar coat, or riding a bike.  Aladdin was still within me and it didn't take much coaxing to bring that character back to life.

Adam Jacobs as Aladdin, Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann
The show went through some big changes between Toronto and Broadway (arguably even bigger than the changes between Seattle and Toronto) but the final show is much stronger for it.  What were those final rehearsals like in the run up to your Broadway opening?
Honestly it was a little chaotic.  We were still making script changes the day before opening and I was a little sad when it actually became "frozen".  Even though I was excited to have the show set, I always go through a little bit of mourning when the creative process ends.
Looking back over all the versions of show, from early workshops to Broadway’s opening night, is there anything that you miss/were sorry to see go from those earlier versions and what’s been your favorite addition/change to the show?
Well, sure there were jokes here and there that I loved and was sad to see go, but all the trims and cuts helped streamline the story and it was the right thing to do.  I miss Babkak's "It's the vamp" line, and I miss parts of "Call Me A Princess".  But I also love some of the new lines like "I think the chosen people are a few hundred miles to the west..."
The cast album is incredible.  What was it like in the recording studio?
A bit nerve-wracking.  Knowing it's forever made me a bit jittery.  Having Alan Menken there didn't help either :). But I'm super pleased with how it came out.

Adam Jacobs in the recording studio with Alan Menken

In our previous interview, you spoke about your pre-show routine for playing Simba (in The Lion King), what’s your pre-show routine like for Aladdin?
It's actually not too different.  I still do some of the same exercises and warm ups, but now I just add some juggling and a little tap-dancing.
What’s the best part about being Aladdin on Broadway?
Greeting the fans at the stage door is the best.  Seeing people of all types and ages excited and happy from watching us fills me up every time.  Even if I feel like I didn't have the best show, hearing people say how much they loved it makes it all worth it.
If you weren't playing Aladdin, which role would you want to play in the show?
I'd love to take a crack at Kassim just to do “High Adventure.”  I just love that number.

"High Adventure", Photo by Adam Jacobs

And finally, what's your favorite show and why?
I don't have a definite favorite, but one of my favorite shows is West Side Story.  I love that score and the choreography.  I remember watching the guys dance "Cool" in the film and being entranced by how much the dance was telling the story.  Those love songs are pretty incomparable too :)

Adam, once again, thank you so much for doing this interview.  It was incredible getting to see you bring Aladdin to life earlier this year, I wish you all the best.

In addition to Adam Jacobs, I just want to say a big thank you to Disney Theatrical for arranging this interview for me.

Adam Jacobs is currently playing the title role in Disney's Aladdin at the New Amsterdam Theatre, New York.  Tickets are currently on sale through to January 2015 and can be purchased from the show's official website.  If you want to know more about Adam make sure you check out his website.

Challenge Accepted

On Saturday the cast of Broadway's Aladdin took the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and nominated Thomas Schumacher, head of Disney Theatrical, and their award winning composer Alan Menken.

You can now watch their response on Alan Menken's official Facebook page.

Guess it's over to Casey Nicholaw now!

Monday, 25 August 2014

Broadway News Round Up 14

Jonathan Freeman and Don Darryl Rivera as Jafar and Iago, Photo by Deen Van Meer

Time is just flying this year!  Sorry I missed last week's news round up, I was away for a family birthday.  So, without further ado it's catch up time!

First a quick announcement - James Monroe Iglehart will be performing in Speechless at Joe's Pub TONIGHT!!  Tickets can be purchased here and you can read more information at Broadway World.  If you can make it be sure to check it out as it sounds like it should be a hilarious night.

Aladdin continues to make box office magic on Broadway as Variety is reporting that the show has broken the weekly house record for the New Amsterdam Theatre (no easy feat given that an earlier occupant of the New Amsterdam was Disney's own megahit The Lion King) and continues to play to sold out audiences.  Huge congratulations to the cast and crew of Aladdin and everyone at the New Amsterdam Theatre.

NBC New York offers up a rare treat this week as they talk to Jonathan Freeman about playing Jafar for over 20 years and share some brief clips from the show featuring Jonathan and Don Darryl Rivera's Iago.

The other half of Aladdin's villainous duo spoke with Broadway.com about moving to New York and living his Broadway dreams in Aladdin and then took Playbill on a photo walk through of a two show day which is well worth checking out as Don literally takes you from waking up to going to sleep with 2 shows and some great behind the scenes photos along the way.

Of course it wasn't just the villains getting in on the fun as Courtney Reed took part in Broadway.com's latest Character Study video, discussing her character and why Jasmine is her favourite Disney princess.  As you watch you can see the magic of theatre as Courtney is transformed into Jasmine right before your eyes.

You're probably all aware of the Ice Bucket Challenge that has taken the internet by storm in recent weeks to raise awareness of ALS.  Given the amount of charities and good causes that the cast of Aladdin have supported it should come as no surprise that the whole cast this week took the challenge and posted the video on Facebook to prove it.  They also challenged the head of Disney Theatrical Thomas Schumacher, Aladdin's composer Alan Menken, Aladdin's book writer and lyricist Chad Beguelin and Disney CEO Bob Iger (again!)

Also over the last few weeks the cast of Aladdin have been posting photos on Twitter and Instagram using #IHeartTheArts to show their support for The Actors Fund.  You can see them all on Twitter and Instagram but here's a small preview;

Don Darryl Rivera as Iago Hearts the Arts, Photo by Don Darryl Rivera

Of course, the last two weeks also saw the sad death of Robin Williams.  I already shared my own thoughts and the cast's heartfelt tribute the other week but there have been a few other pieces that I wanted to share with you.  When writing my thoughts I deliberately avoided the issue of Robin Williams' depression.  I wanted to focus on what he meant to me and also respect his family's wishes that he be remembered for the joy and laughter that he gave the world.  However, when Patrick Page (The Lion King's Scar and soon to be The Hunchback of Notre Dame's Frollo) shared the deeply personal story of his own battle with depression with Broadway World I felt compelled to share it.  It's not easy to read but I'm glad I did.  It offers a deeper, intimate, understanding of what many people struggle with everyday.  Anyone who's ever even thought "what did he have to be depressed about" needs to read it.  My heartfelt thanks go out to Patrick, this can't have been easy for him to share.

Alan Menken, who worked with Robin Williams, also posted a moving tribute to him on his Facebook page, recalling meeting Robin Williams in LA, the recording sessions in which Robin sang his songs in their original intended style before being let loose to do his thing, the magic that followed and later scoring for Robin's character Charlie Boyd in Noel.

And I just want to end with this.  Many of you will probably already have seen it but I still wanted to post it here.  A fitting farewell from Genie's Supervising Animator Eric Goldberg.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

I Dream of Genie Episode 3

James Monroe Iglehart as Genie, Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann

Sorry I'm a little late with this.  Earlier this week Broadway.com posted the third episode of James Monroe Iglehart's vlog I Dream of Genie.

In this episode James takes us behind the scenes at a pick up rehearsal and answers the first batch of your questions (you did submit a question on Twitter, right?).  This week is also a little extra special as it has backing music provided by the talented Jaz Sealey.