Thursday, 26 November 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

Adam Jacobs, Courtney Reed and James Monroe Iglehart as Aladdin, Jasmine and Genie, Photo by Disney
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!

I've said it a few times this year but I just can't believe how quickly this year has gone! We're just 4 weeks away from Christmas (and only 3 weeks away from Star Wars!!)  But anyway, back to Thanksgiving!

We don't celebrate Thanksgiving here in the UK but I've got friends and family in America, and this blog is celebrating an American show, so I decided I'd get in the spirit of the holiday and share what I'm thankful for in the world of Aladdin!

Let's start at the beginning - I'm thankful to Disney Theatrical and Thomas Schumacher, that they saw the potential in Aladdin and weren't content to just license it out for easy money, that they came back to it after 2011's initial pilot production and turned it from a diamond in the rough to the Broadway sensation that it is today.  There's a beautiful feature on the show on the new Diamond Edition Blu-Ray of Aladdin where Thomas Schumacher says that the reason Aladdin is what it is today, the reason it works, "is because nobody quit.  Nobody quit on it, and it was the sheer will of an enormous number of committed people that made the show happen."  I'm thankful to each and everyone of them.

Moving away from Aladdin for a moment, I'm thankful of how supportive Disney Theatrical been to The Hunchback of Notre Dame, allowing the show to go back to the book to tell the story they wanted to tell.  And then, when it became clear the show wasn't going to Broadway, getting the cast back together to produce a cast album so there will always be a record of that incredible production.

Adam Jacobs and Courtney Reed as Aladdin and Jasmine, Photo by Deen Van Meer
Back to Aladdin and the one thing I can never be thankful enough for is this amazing cast!  I've said it before and I will say it again, this cast is incredible!  No only are they phenomenally talented and hard working, putting on the best show on Broadway 8 times a week, but they're also some of the nicest, most generous people you could ever hope to meet!

Backstage with Trevor Dion Nicholas
I'm thankful that I got to see Trevor Dion Nicholas make his show and Broadway debut as Genie, and that I got to see Merwin Foard before he left the show.  But more than anything I'm thankful for the heart warming welcome back we received.  I will never forget standing at the stage door having just seen the show for the first time in over a year and then Jane and I being recognised by both Courtney, who pulled us both into a massive hug, and Adam!

Then it was back stage to see Don Darryl Rivera!  And I just have to say here, I'm thankful for every member of this wonderful cast but I'm extra thankful for Don.  He's treated me as a friend from the beginning and has been incredibly generous with both his time and support.  When it was announced that Brandon was leaving, I'd asked Don if he could get one of the show posters signed for me before he left.  I'd thought I'd ask the others to sign it whilst I was there but Don was one step (or one jump if you will!) ahead of me.  He met us at stage door with a fully signed poster each!

And then he took us back stage and gave us an incredible guided tour, showing us everything from the props to the costumes to the orchestra pit (I have no idea how they move in there, I had no idea how small it was!!).  We also got to meet his wife, Kate, who was just as generous and kind as Don.  When she heard we were going to see The Hunchback of Notre Dame she offered to take us backstage there as well!!  And I have to say, seeing that set that close up was simply amazing.  The set was truly a work of art and the bells were magnificent!

Yes, it's Jafar's staff! Yes, it's awesome!
Don showing off the hidden lamp in Omar's sword!  Look for it in "High Adventure"!
And speaking of The Hunchback of Notre Dame it was amazing to finally meet Samantha Massell in person!  Which brings me to another thing I'm thankful for - this blog!  I never dreamed when I started this that I'd get the chance to interview the cast, I certainly never dreamed I'd get to meet any of them or go back stage at a Disney show!  Heck, I thought this would all be over by the end of 2011!  This blog has been a gift to me.

But even after going back stage at Aladdin and Hunchback, Don wasn't done yet!  When we came back to see the show again before going home he took us to visit the Disney Theatrical offices upstairs at the New Amsterdam Theatre!!  I was in Disney and Theatre geek heaven!  I'm kicking myself at the moment as I can't find the folder with the pictures I took!  The offices are incredible!  There was beautiful prints of show photos on the walls, props from the shows, even the prototype of the magic lamp from Aladdin!  It was a once in a life time experience that I can never thank Don enough for.
Edit - Found the pictures!!!

I'm also thankful for fun holiday memories.  Like the time I gave a one man standing ovation for "Friend Like Me"!  It was a great performance ("Friend Like Me" always is) so I leapt to my feet as you do and then slowly realised I was on my own.  Even my wife wisely gave me that "you're on your own" look before giggling at my predicament.  We were on the front row so I was probably blocking the view of the rows behind me and in full view of the cast on stage!  But I would totally do it again!  The bows that night were amazing, with Don giving us a thumbs up and Courtney waving to us as the curtain came down.  The feeling is something I can't put into words, I'm just so grateful to everyone for it.
Back stage afterwards it was great to see everyone again to say goodbye.  Adam gave me a hug and a "thanks for trying" for the standing ovation and Courtney gave us a lovely card before we left.
I had another "pinch me I'm dreaming" moment when Don introduced us to Jonathan Freeman!!  It was so surreal stood talking about Aladdin and the various productions in had on the way to Broadway with the original Jafar!!  Of course me being an idiot I didn't ask to get a picture!  But it was an incredible moment for this lifelong Disney fan!
After how fantastic everyone was to Jane and I last year, we made sure this year we went bearing gifts!  Schmackary's for everyone and then some special gifts for a few people who have always gone the extra mile for me.  The only reason I'm mentioning this is because I want to share a picture of Don's gift with you now, simply because it's a brand new piece of Iago art by Iago's supervising animator Will Finn!!

Big thanks to Don for this picture with him in costume!
And, of course, I'm thankful that Aladdin is coming to the UK next year!  I hope they bring these with them!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  I hope you have a wonderful time filled with friends, family, love and laughter.
Stage selfie for the finish!!

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Catching Up with #CourtneyChat

I can't believe I didn't post the second half of this amazing series yet!!  I'm so sorry for not posting this weeks ago like I should have!

To make up for it, here's the entire series of #CourtneyChat for you to watch and enjoy all at once!  Coming direct from her dressing room at the New Amsterdam Theatre, here's Courtney and her very special guests, Kara Lindsay (Newsies), Laura Osnes (Cinderella) and Sierra Boggess (The Little Mermaid)!

But that's not all!  Saving the best for last, episode 5 was a very special blooper edition of #CourtneyChat!

I've loved this series.  Courtney's great!  An amazing actress and one of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet.  I just hope we get more episodes of #CourtneyChat in the future!

Disney Sessions by the Cast of Broadway's Aladdin

Last month I posted a special Disney Sessions video for Halloween with Aladdin's Jonathan Freeman performing a fantastic Disney Villains medley.  Well, if you've been following @Aladdin on Twitter or Facebook then you'll know there's more where that came from!

So here's the complete Disney Sessions series from the cast of Broadway's Aladdin featuring Adam Jacobs, Courtney Reed, James Monroe Iglehart and Jonathan Freeman with support from Kathryn Allison and Ariel Reid.

And yes, James wrote the rap lyrics himself!

I hope there's more in the future!  Especially the medleys!  I'm a sucker for a good Disney medley!

Monday, 23 November 2015

Cast Announced for London's Aladdin

Dean John-Wilson and Jade Ewen, Photo by Helen Maybanks
Big news!!  Disney Theatrical last night officially announced the cast for the West End premiere of Aladdin!!

Trevor Dion Nicholas as Genie, Photo by Disney

 Already announced is Trevor Dion Nicholas (Aladdin, Big River, The Wiz) as Genie!  Trevor made his Broadway debut earlier this year in Aladdin where he's currently making magic as Stand By for both Genie and Babkak, next year he'll be making the role his own as he makes his West End debut!  When he's not making magic on stage Trevor is making music with his indie soul band Neighborhood Goliath (and you can read more about them right here).

Joining him are;

Dean John-Wilson in the title role as Aladdin!  Dean got his break in 2008 when he reached the semi finals of Britain's Got Talent.  Since then he has starred in Tim Rice's From Here to Eternity, the critically acclaimed Here Lies Love and in the UK national tour of Alan Menken's Sister Act.

Joining Dean on the magic carpet is Jade Ewen as Princess Jasmine.  Jade is definitely no stranger to Disney having made her West End debut as Young Nala in The Lion King.  Best known for representing the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest, performing Andrew Lloyd Webber's "It's My Time", and as a member of the pop group Sugababes, Jade has returned to the West End in recent years and starred in several productions including In The Heights, Porgy and Bess and Whistle Down the Wind.

A hero is only as good as his villain and bringing Jafar to life will be Don Gallagher.  Don's extensive West End credits include Priscilla Queen of the Desert, The Producers, Sweeney Todd and Les Miserables as well as a large body of work with the Royal Shakespeare Company, including Henry IV Parts 1 & 2, Painter of Dishonour, Richard III and The Winter's Tale.  In addition to his stage credits Don has appeared on screen in the film adaptation of London Road and in various television dramas.

Supporting Jafar in his villainous deeds will be Peter Howe as Iago.  Peter has previously originated the roles of Michael Wormwood in the Olivier Award winning musical, Matilda, and Sam Gamgee in The Lord of the Rings.  His other theatre credits include The Captain of Kopenick, Holes and Hansel and Gretel.

Nathan Amzi

Stephen Rahman-Hughes

Rachid Sabitri
In new roles created for the musical Nathan Amzi, Stephen Rahman-Hughes and Rachid Sabitri will be helping our hero as Aladdin's friends Babkak, Kassim and Omar.  Nathan's recent theatre credits include In The Heights, Urinetown, Rock of Ages, The Rocky Horror Show (UK tour) and Miss Saigon (UK tour).  He also appeared on the third season of BBC's The Voice.  Stephen's recent theatre credits include the lead role in Andrew Lloyd Webber's Bombay DreamsPuteri Gunung Ledang and the UK tour of West Side Story.  On TV he has appeared in several shows, including a leading role on Dream Team, and he is a founding member of the vocal group TEATRO and the concert show West End Men.  Rounding out the trio, Rachid's recent theatre credits include I Call My Brothers, Romeo and Juliet, Rafta Rafta, Beyond Midnight, Beautiful Thing and Bloodtide and Tangier Tattoo but his television credits include roles on shows including Criminal Minds, Doctor Who, Homeland, Madame Secretary and Casualty.
Bringing the Sultan to life is Irvine Iqbal.  Irvine recently starred in Bend it Like Beckham and his previous stage credits include Bombay Dreams, Wuthering Heights, The Mahabharata and The Far Pavilions.  In addition to his stage credits, Irvine has appeared on screen in the films The Cook, The Pinocchio Effect and Infinite Justice as well as in various UK television series.
Completing the cast in what will arguably be the hardest working ensemble in the West End are Arran Anzani-Jones, Miles Barrow, Albey Brookes, Lauren Chia, Bianca Cordice, Leon Craig, Daniel de Bourg, Seng Henk Goh, Melanie Elizabeth, Kade Ferraiolo, Michelle Chantelle Hopewell, Fred Johanson, Mitch Leow, Oliver Lidert, Thierry Picaut, Alex Pinder, Briony Scarlett, Kyle Seeley, Sadie-Jean Shirley, Ricardo Spriggs, Katie Singh, Dawnita Smith, Marsha Songcome, Kayleigh Thadani and Jermaine Woods.

I just want to say a massive congratulations to everyone cast!  I can't wait to see you all next year!!!

Speaking about the cast, Disney Theatrical's Thomas Schumacher said "As we cast this exceptional company, I was impressed again - as I have been many times in the last two decades - by the vast, deep pool of musical theatre talent in London and throughout Britain.  And how gratifying that talent is a microcosm of the country in all its diversity and distinction.  I'm so proud this beautiful cast reflects that."

Behind the scenes Aladdin will be brought to life by the same creative dream team that brought the show to Broadway.  The music by Tony, Olivier and Academy Award winner Alan Menken expands on the Oscar winning score of Disney's animated classic.  Aladdin features all the classic songs from the film, featuring lyrics by Olivier and Academy Award winner Howard Ashman and Tony, Olivier and Academy Award winner Tim Rice, and restores several of the lost Ashman/Menken songs along with new songs featuring lyrics by four-time Tony nominee Chad Beguelin, who also provides the book for the show, and Tony Award winner Casey Nicholaw returns as Director and Choreographer for this new production.

Scenic Design is provided by Tony Award winner Bob Crowley with lighting design from Tony Award winner Natasha Katz and illusions by Jim Steinmeyer.  Aladdin's beautiful costumes are created by Tony Award winner Gregg Barnes with hair designs by Josh Marquette and makeup by Milagros Medina-Cerdeira.  Sound Design is by Ken Travis, and Michael Kosarin heads up the music team as music supervisor and director along with orchestrator Danny Troob and dance music arranger Glen Kelly.

Aladdin is cast in the UK by Jill Green CDG.

Tickets for Aladdin are now on sale!  Aladdin begins previews at London's Prince Edward Theatre on Friday 27th May 2016 with an official Opening Night set for Wednesday 15th June 2016.  Tickets are currently booking through to 1st October 2016 so grab yours today to make sure you don't miss out on this magical adventure!

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Aladdin London is On Sale Today!!

Next summer Disney's Aladdin is finally coming to London's West End and tickets for this incredible show will go on sale at 8am today!!

If you didn't get tickets during the pre-sale make sure to grab yours now as this will certainly be one of the hottest tickets in town next summer!  So head on over to to secure yours today!

And if you want a sneak peak at what's in store...

Aladdin begins previews at London's Prince Edward Theatre on 27th May 2016 and officially opens on 15th June.  Get your tickets today and prepare to experience a whole new world in a whole new way!

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Happy Birthday Trevor Dion Nicholas!

Trevor Dion Nicholas as Genie, Photo by Disney
Happy birthday to Trevor Dion Nicholas!
Trevor, I hope you have magical day!  I look forward to seeing you making magic in the West End next year!

Saturday, 31 October 2015

The Villains Come Out to Sing for Halloween

Jonathan Freeman as Jafar, Photo by Disney
Happy Halloween everyone!

To get you in the spirit here's Jonathan Freeman's Disney Sessions medley!  Watch as Jafar himself brings some of Disney's greatest villains songs to life!

I could listen to this all day!
Have a fantastic Halloween everyone!