Monday, 7 November 2011

It's All So Magical

Adam Jacobs as Aladdin, Photo by Chris Bennion
Just a quick update today, as I found this video on youtube and just had to share!  Adam Jacobs talks with Stage Rush about playing Aladdin in Aladdin: The New Stage Musical.

And if you can get to New York make sure to check out The Lion King where Adam is currently starring as Simba!  And TONIGHT (sorry for the late notice) he is performing in PhilDev Celebrates Broadway: Suites by Sondheim alongside the original Princess Jasmine, Lea Salonga!  The event starts at 7:30pm at the Alice Tully Hall at 1941 Broadway (65th street between Broadway and Amsterdam) and tickets are still available here and I'm assuming at the box office as well.  This is a benefit concert with all proceeds going to the Philippine Development Foundation, so if you can get there at such short notice make sure you go, you'll hear some great music performed by very talented artists and help a good cause all at the same time.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Genie! My Second Wish!

Whilst I've been away the second venue staging a production of Aladdin: The New Stage Musical next year has been announced as The Muny in St. Louis.

"The Muny announces its line-up for the 94th season in Forest Park, the first for new Executive Producer Mike Isaacson. The summer 2012 season introduces 4½ musicals new to the Muny stage and includes several re-imagined classics.

The 2012 Season is:
The Muny production of Disney’s ALADDIN
PIRATES! (or, Gilbert & Sullivan Plunder’d)

"I'm excited by my first Muny season," commented Executive Producer Mike Isaacson. "Stylistically and musically there's something for everyone. Each of these shows is terrifically entertaining."
"I'm also thrilled to include 4½ Muny production premieres," he continued. "Disney's Aladdin, Chicago, Dreamgirls and Thoroughly Modern Millie have never been produced by The Muny. And Pirates! is a marvelous new spin on the Gilbert and Sullivan original, The Pirates of Penzance, which The Muny has produced twice before. I'm counting that as half a premiere."

"I am really looking forward to this season," commented President and CEO Denny Reagan. "I've been at The Muny for a long time, and never have I felt such a strong surge of new energy. We are committed to maintaining the wonderful Muny experience our audiences expect, and there are going to be some exciting changes this summer!"

New season tickets will be available beginning Saturday, March 3, 2012 at the Muny Box Office in Forest Park. Single tickets will go on sale Saturday, June 2, 2012."

The Muny's website also goes on to state;

The Muny premiere of Disney's
July 5 - 13
Following upon the fantastic success of the Muny production of Disney's The Little Mermaid, The Muny presents its premiere of Disney's Aladdin. The Muny production will be only the third production of this new stage musical adapted from the beloved animated feature to be produced anywhere in the world. Disney's Aladdin features the favorite movie characters and all of the beloved songs from the film’s Oscar®-winning score, plus never-before heard Menken/Ashman songs restored from early drafts of the film. Variety hailed this new full-length stage version of Aladdin as "fresh, funny and very entertaining."

As with the Tuacahn production it's very unlikely that any of the original Seattle cast will be involved in this production, but stay tuned for more news on this exciting production as we head into next year.

And finally, sorry I've been away for so long!  As long time readers will know, I got married this summer but we delayed our honeymoon until the very end of September as we wanted to be in the Magic Kingdom for their 40th Anniversary celebrations on 1st October.  We had an amazing 3 week honeymoon in Walt Disney World, and on an Aladdin note it was fantastic to see all of the Aladdin characters out in the park for Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party!  We also got an amazing Aladdin sketch from The Art of Disney in EPCOT.  But the most magical Aladdin moment was seeing Aladdin and Jasmine take a little girl on The Flying Carpets of Aladdin ride, I honestly thought that was something Disney only did for promotional videos so it was amazing to see it in real life.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

There's a Rub of the Lamp!

Well that was fast!

Yesterday it was announced that Aladdin: The New Stage Musical will be brought to life once again, this time at the Tuacahn Amphitheatre in Southern Utah!

"The Southern Utah desert will be transformed into an Arabian oasis when Tuacahn presents the stage musical adaptation of the Disney film “Aladdin” as part of the outdoor venue’s 2012 season.

Aladdin” will be performed in repertory with the Broadway musicals “Hairspray” (summer) and “Legally Blonde” (fall). The announcement comes as Tuacahn is experiencing its most successful season to date, featuring Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” and the nostalgic musical “Grease.”

Based on the acclaimed 1992 Disney film, “Aladdin” will be performed each Monday, Wednesday and Friday evening, June 1 - Oct. 18. Tickets are now available at the Tuacahn box office, by calling 652-3300 or online at

The music for “Aladdin” is written by eight-time Academy Award winning composer Alan Menken (“Tangled,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Little Mermaid”); lyrics are by the late Howard Ashman (“Beauty and the Beast,” “The Little Mermaid”), Tim Rice (“The Lion King,” “Jesus Christ Superstar”) and Chad Beguelin (“The Wedding Singer”), who also crafted the new book for the show.

Variety hailed the new full-length stage version of “Aladdin” as “fresh, funny and very entertaining.”

This new stage adaptation premiered at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre in July 2011 and incorporates all of the beloved songs from the film’s Oscar-winning score plus never-before heard Menken/Ashman songs restored from early drafts of the score. It marks a return to the authors’ original vision: a loving homage to the Hope-Crosby road pictures with a score invoking the jazz sound of stars like Cab Calloway and Fats Waller.

Tuacahn will be one of two theaters in the nation to present the show next year.

Released in 1992, the film “Aladdin” received critical acclaim and grossed more than $504 million worldwide becoming the No. 1 film of the year. Adapted from the classic Middle Eastern and Asian folktales in “One Thousand and One Nights,” “Aladdin” tells the story of a quick-witted young street dweller that uses the magic wishes from an omnipotent Genie to pursue the hand of a beautiful princess. The beloved film featured the Oscar-winning song, “A Whole New World” and “Friend Like Me” and was praised for its clever script and show-stopping score.

Scott S. Anderson, Tuacahn’s artistic director, will direct “Aladdin.” Anderson also helmed the Tuacahn premieres of “The Little Mermaid,” “Tarzan” and “Les Miserables” and will assemble an eclectic cast, crew, and creative team of professionals from Utah, California and New York to bring the show to life in Tuacahn’s typical thrilling fashion.

Aladdin” is licensed through a special arrangement with Disney Theatrical Productions and Music Theater International in New York. Tuacahn is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization."

I checked the website and can't see the tickets listed there yet, so if you want to book tickets now your best bet is to call Tuacahn.

I wouldn't expect any of the original Seattle cast to return for this product (though I would love it if they did), so stay tuned for further news as this production gets underway in the new year.

I'm not going to be able to update the blog for the next few weeks, but if any news does come out during that time you can be sure I'll have a summary post up as soon as I can.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

All Your Years of Loyal Service

Earlier this month I interviewed Princess Jasmine, today I'm very honoured to be able to present my second "royal" interview from Aladdin: The New Stage Musical.  Sean G. Griffin has had a long and distinguished career on both stage and screen, and recently he very kindly spent some of his time answering my questions about his work and his time as the Sultan.

Hi Sean,

Firstly let me say congratulations on winning the role of the Sultan in the Seattle production of Aladdin and thank you for agreeing to this interview!

chris i have finally got some time to answer some of your questions...sorry it taken me so long...please pardon my typos and misspellings and the no caps rule

Now to start off, you’ve been an actor all your life and have starred in so many productions (both on stage and on screen) that I’ve never been able to find a website which actually lists your full resume! So can you please tell us a bit about yourself, your career, and who have been your biggest influences.

i became a professional actor in 1968 when i got out of graduate school...spent a year in the regions and got my union card and headed for new york in 1969...i know i sent you my resume which lists some of my work...i worked in new york on broadway in six plays and many more in the of my biggest influences was colleen dewhurst with whom i acted with on broadway in THE QUEEN AND THE REBELS and was directed by her in NED AND JACK...she was one of the best theatre actresses of her time and became a great friend and mentor...i was married in the seventies for seven years and have a wonderful daughter from that relationship and now two terrific grandkids...i was divorced for twelve years and remarried 20 years ago to my current wife, Bernie who is one of my influences as well as my rock.

Do you remember Aladdin from its original release? Were you a fan of the film before you got the part?

i only watched aladdin with the a couple of years ago so i hadn't seen it before that.

How did you come to be involved with Aladdin? Did you take part in the original reading or did you audition for the Seattle production? What was the process like?

i auditioned for the seattle production at the 5th ave. theatre where i had worked in the past...i also had worked for our director, casey nicholaw, when he choreographed MY FAIR LADY in two different productions...when i heard about aladdin i emailed him and told him i was interested in trying i got the call and it was one of the most enjoyable auditions because of him that i have ever been on because most are difficult (i hate auditions)...he was in the room along with the entire creative team for disney theatricals and made me feel so relaxed because of his positive vibe and encouragement.

What was your reaction when you were told you’d got the part?

a week or so later i got the part of the sultan...i was needless to say overjoyed in getting the role but also in knowing i was going to work for casey and disney.

Sean G Griffin as Sultan, Photo by Mark Kitaoka

What was it that attracted you to Aladdin as a show and the Sultan as a character? And can you please tell us a little about your approach to the role and re-creating the character for the stage.

aladdin is such a wonderful story and the music by alan menken is so touching and moving and such a universal piece that i always in the process knew i wanted to play the sultan...age does enter into it and it was the only role for an old fart that was available...i tried not to let the animated film influence me in any way and just brought my experience as a father of a daughter to the part...always make it your own and it was easy with casey's help to bring some humor to the part as well... so i wasn't "re-creating" a part... i was with casey creating a whole new character based on the book.

As I’m writing this the final changes have been made, the show’s been frozen and you’ve just had your official opening night. Whilst we’re still waiting for the reviews, audience reaction seems to have been overwhelmingly positive over the last few weeks. What’s the whole process been like from your side of the stage?

the entire process has been and scary at the same time.

What is the most rewarding part of the show for you, and which part do you find most challenging?

as you know in a musical the book scenes take a back seat to the songs and choreography in rehearsal so this makes it scary in that we didn't get as much time to prepare but when we started previews then we got the chance to run with them and they turned out pretty good from the audience to i would say the most challenging part of the process is the lack of rehearsal time for the book scenes but we made up for that in previews...the most rewarding part of the entire process was working with casey and his team and the audience response night after night.

Sean G. Griffin as Sultan with Courtney Reed as Jasmine, Photo by Mark Kitaoka

I know the show was only announced as a pilot production for licensing out, but if the show ever makes it to Broadway or a National Tour, could we see you as the Sultan again?

needless to say if the broadway production takes place i would love to be a part of it but as an actor one tries not to think of what might or might not happen...only when we are signing that contract do we know that we have work.

How do you prepare before a show? Do you have any superstitions or routines that you do before you go on stage each night?

in preparing for a show i usually arrive at the theatre an hour and a half or two hours before curtain...i like to relax and go over my script and any notes that may be new for that for superstitions or routines there are some but i'll keep those to myself...i am superstitious about revealing them.

Looking to the future, do you have any dream roles that you would love to do?

dream roles??...james tyrone in Long Days Journey...maybe one of the tramps in Godot...and maybe Lear...and the teacher in Translations.

Sean G. Griffin as Scrooge in A Christmas Carol

Looking back over your career so far, do any moments or performances really stand out as something truly special that you’ll always remember?

performances that i remember and cherish...Michael in Dancing at Lughnasa... Richard in The Seafarer...Da in The Lieutenant of Inishmore...Marat in Marat Sade...Scrooge in A Christmas Carol...Pickering in My Fair name a few...and whatever role i am curently doing.

And finally, I read in an interview that as well as being an actor you’re also an artist. Where can fans find examples of your work and might we see some Aladdin inspired pieces in the future?

i find painting very relaxing and have paintings hanging in Laguna Beach, New York, Seattle, Indianapolis, and many more places but all in private of these days maybe i'll get a website with someones help that know how to do that.

Sean, thank you again for your time, it’s been a pleasure. All the best for the show!

take care...sincerely...sean g. griffin

Sunday, 11 September 2011

A Dazzling Place I Never Knew

Today I'm very happy to present an interview with Princess Jasmine herself, Courtney Reed!  But before we start I just want to say a very special thank you to both Courtney and her mom as they've both been incredibly supportive and offered me a lot of encouragement with this blog.

Hi Courtney,

Thanks again for agreeing to an interview, I really appreciate you giving up your time to do this.

Firstly, I’d just like to say how great you were on New Day Northwest last week. "Call Me a Princess" was probably the last song that I expected to make it back into the show, but the new context you put it in is fantastic and you looked like you were really having fun with it.


Finally!!! My answers are below your questions. I hope this works! ;)

Thanks for the "Call Me a Princess" compliment!!!  I truly appreciate your and the fans' support and encouragement.

When did you first decide you wanted to be in musical theatre, and who (or what) would you say have been your biggest influences?

I always wanted to be like my sister growing up. She took dance class, so I took dance class. She performed in our hometown community theatre shows, so I did the same. I think the moment I knew I wanted to do this forever was when I was cast as Annie (yeah I know...ethnic Annie). The feeling I got after hitting the money note in "Tomorrow," was IT for me. It was over, I knew there was nothing else for me to do. I don't think I have a singular person or people that most influenced it. I have always admired Lea Salonga. Her voice is magic to me!

How did you get your first big break?

This is a funny/long winded story. I will give you the short version. Shorty after graduation from The Theatre Conservatory of the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University (yeah long name right?) my agents (in Chicago) called me in for Mamma Mia! I went to the audition (thinking it was for the tour), and got a callback. Then a few days later my agent called and said "You wanna be on Broadway?" My life changed in an instant! They said, you will be in the ensemble and understudying Ali. You will have to move to NY in two weeks. I had never been to New York or seen a broadway show! The first show I ever say was the show I was going to be in! I STILL can't believe it!

Courtney Reed as Princess Jasmine, Photo by Mark Kitaoka
On New Day Northwest you called Jasmine a dream role. Were you a big fan of the Disney classics growing up, and if so did you have a favorite film or character?

Aladdin was definitely one of my favorites! We actually have a room in my basement that was called the "Aladdin room," (toy room) because there is an Aladdin mural with the Genie and Abu on it. The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Sleeping Beauty, and Peter Pan were my other favs! I have to admit, Jasmine was always my favorite character! She was just the coolest! So sassy, sexy and strong! Definitely a force to be reckoned with!

You auditioned for the reading last year, then had to audition again for the Seattle production. What was the audition process like to get the role?

The audition was actually really easy! I already knew the material (hehe), so it didn't take much to re-memorize them. However I did make sure I was 100% prepared. It was super quick and easy and the only new person in the audition room was Casey, and I must say it is not hard auditioning for a room full of happy and supportive people. They are all the best!

When you finally heard that you’d been successful what was your reaction like?

I guess I considered my first paying acting job a success. The only thing I ever wanted from being an actress was to make a living doing what I love. This in itself is a huge success for me! So I guess my reaction to that is HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY!!!

With all the changes to incorporate the "lost" Howard Ashman songs how similar is Jasmine to the animated version? Does she get a bigger character arc or more layers in the show?

I would have to say that Jasmine has a little feature that shows off another side of her that you don't get to really see in the movie. However the show stays pretty close to the animated film in all of the good ways (if that makes any sense).

How much freedom have you been given in (re)creating Jasmine for stage and what are the challenges of originating such a famous character in a new show?

We were sooooo lucky to have lots of freedom from Casey to play, of course within certain limits. The challenge for me was to stay true to the essence of this beloved character but to also make it my own. I guess I feel in any role you play you always have to make it your own, but for this particular character that I love and admired so much I wanted to stay true to the film but put my own self in it (which I feel was not too difficult because Jasmine and I are not very different hehehe).

Apart from "Call Me a Princess" do you get many other new songs? Adam teased that he has at least a line or two in 11 songs, so obviously there’s a lot of new numbers in the show!

Well I got to sing the "Call Me a Princess Reprise," and Adam and I got to sing this gorgeous new duet called, "A Million Miles Away."

Courtney Reed as Princess Jasmine with Adam Jacobs as Aladdin, Photo by Chris Bennion
The show is said to have some spectacular dance numbers. With your extensive dance training, can we expect some big dance numbers for Jasmine?

I must say that I get to actually dance a little bit in "Call Me a Princess." It is by no means a big dance number, but she certainly dances more than in the movie ;)

If you can say, what is the most rewarding part of the show for you, and which part do you find most challenging?

The most rewarding part of the show for me is seeing the audience and hearing them respond. Seeing the little girl's faces at the stage door with their Jasmine costumes on, or watching the audience jump to their feet for the curtain call is the most rewarding part for me. If I can make a contribution in any way to making people happy or job is done. I don't find too much challenging about this show, I love it so much it feels more like a luxury than a challenge ;)

How do you prepare before a show? Do you have any superstitions or routines that you do before you go on stage each night?

I like to warm up to the radio! I either warm up to the radio or to pandora (Beyonce is always a good channel because she uses her whole vocal range in many of her songs). I also like to hit the gym before a show, it warms my body and voice up. It gives me a jolt of energy. I chose the gym over coffee or energy drinks!

Looking to the future, do you have any other dream roles that you would love to do?

Jasmine is pretty much the pinnacle of dream roles for me at the moment. I have always wanted to play Kim in "Miss Saigon" though!

Courtney Reed in In The Heights, Photo by Joan Marcus
And finally, looking back over your career so far, do any moments or performances really stand out as something truly special that you’ll always remember?

Closing night for "In The Heights," was possibly one of the most memorable experiences of my life next to my broadway debut (as far as my career goes). However my Aladdin experience as a whole may have topped those. I had an incredible experience one day in rehearsal when they decided to give "A Whole New World," a face lift (for lack of better words). They decided to make it new and fresh. The next day when our musical director (Michael Kosarin) played through the brand new arrangement for us, I couldn't stop crying. To top the experience off, Alan Menken was there as well and it was just a huge rush of emotions. It sounded like the most beautiful thing I had ever heard. Adam and I really connected that day. My other favorite day was the sitzprobe, hearing these original orchestrations for the very first time with the full piece orchestra, and getting to sing along was electrifying!

Courtney, thank you so much for your time, it’s been a pleasure.  I wish you all the best for the future and look forward to hearing what you're doing next (and hopefully seeing you as Princess Jasmine on Broadway one day...)

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Where they Cut Off Your Ear if they don't Like Your Face

I'm afraid my "review" of the London screening is going to be a little late.  We didn't get home until midnight last night and a trip to the walk in centre this morning (no worries, nothing serious) threw out my planned blogging time as I had prior commitments this afternoon/evening.  So I'll update this post Monday/Tuesday with a proper update.

For now I'll just say it was an amazing, emotional experience, and yes it was the original lyrics for "Arabian Nights"!

Sorry for the delay everyone!  I've still not had chance to put the pictures on my computer so I'll add them soon (hopefully this weekend).

After an early morning start (like 5am early!) Jane and I drove from Manchester to London.  Yeah, I "dragged" my poor wife with me, not that she was complaining, the only thing that upset Jane was that Beauty and the Beast (her favourite Disney Classic) was on the week before and had sold out before we remembered BFI was doing The Disney 50!  We were lucky that the weather was really good so we got to spend a nice morning walking around the city before heading to the cinema to pick up our tickets.

The first thing I saw in the cinema was the old poster which straight away brought back memories.  We collected our tickets, went back outside for an ice cream, then went back in just in time to hear an announcement asking the audience to make their way to their seats as the film was ready to start.  I've not been to the BFI before and I have to say it's a really nice cinema with comfy seats and an intimate atmosphere.  The screen is set back (they still have the old fashioned curtains) and isn't as high as most modern cinemas so you don't have to strain your neck if you're on the front row like we were.

The curtains opened partially and they played the classic black and white short Donald's Crime.  It was a treat as I'd never seen it before and it really did help to take me back to being a kid again when Disney used to play the shorts before the main feature.  It was also gave a good feeling for the atmosphere the screening was going to have.  Going in I'd been expecting a mix of parents taking their children to see the film (maybe they'd seen it themselves growing up or maybe they were a bit older than that and just thought they'd take their kids to a Disney movie) and people who were mid-20s to mid-30s who had grown up with the film like me.  Instead the audience was almost full of people in my age range, there were a few kids but no where near the amount I'd expected.  The atmosphere was fantastic, really relaxed and yet at the same time there was an excitement, an anticipation for seeing an old childhood favourite on the big screen once again.

Once the short had finished the lights came up briefly as they let a few stragglers take their seats, then the lights went down again, the curtains opened fully, and the old Buena Vista International logo came on the screen, followed by the classic Disney Castle logo.  Now, I love the new castle logo and I think the castle looks beautiful, but seeing the old logo on the big screen with the classic music behind it almost teared me up, maybe it's an emotional connection to the past but it just has a quality that no CG image can match.

Honestly, I'd been expecting them to use the re-mastered DVD version of the film but from the slight grainy quality to the logo it was apparent that they were using one of the original film prints.  The real surprise came when the Narrator started to sing "where they cut off your ear if they don't like your face, it's barbaric but hey it's home".  I think I missed the next line just picking my jaw up off the floor in surprise!  I'd never seen the original film before (Aladdin only came out in 1993 in the UK so the lyric changes had already been made).  As far as I was aware this was the first time this version had been shown in the UK, though I later found out there was a London screening last year that also used an original US print of the film, not sure how I missed that!

As much as I love seeing the fully re-mastered vibrant colours of the DVD, I have to admit there was something refreshing to watching the original with the grain, its more muted colours and slightly less fluid animation.  I'd love it if Disney actually included the unrestored original versions on their DVD/Blu-Ray releases as bonuses, but sadly I don't think that'll happen any time soon.  Though I do have to admit digital has one major advantage over traditional film reels - this particular print of Aladdin had obviously been repaired at somepoint and lost a second or two of footage as Iago now says "I'm embarrassed, I'm blush-" before the film quickly cuts to the next scene!

The atmosphere, as I said earlier, was absolutely amazing.  You could tell from the laughter that everyone was having a great time and still loved an old childhood favourite (and now got all the jokes they probably missed when they were younger!) and it was refreshing to see it with an audience of people who probably haven't watched the film almost constantly for the last 20 years.  When you've seen the film so much that you can quote the next 5 lines without even trying, it can sometimes become a little mechanical.  You still love it, but you know where your favourite parts are, you know all the strengths and weaknesses, you know where to laugh.  To see it again with people who probably haven't seen it since the DVD came out, or maybe even earlier, lets you see it through new eyes.  I found myself laughing at parts I haven't laughed at in a long time and enjoying the film on another level.

What really got me more than anything else was the applause at the end of the film.  I'm not sure if it's a big deal in the US, but in the UK it almost never happens unless it's at a fan event (like midnight openings for Star Wars).  I was a little emotional anyway just seeing it on the big screen again, but the clapping really touched me and yeah I'll admit it made me cry a bit as well, and for that moment I felt a connection with everyone in the room.  And everyone stayed till the end of the credits.

Whilst Aladdin fanbase is strong and full of amazing people, we alone are not enough to keep a Broadway show open.  But sat in that cinema last weekend (and next weekend) were the people who can.  The casual fans who enjoyed the film in their childhood, who still love it and probably own the DVD, but don't visit fansites or message boards or blogs.  I don't live in London but as far as I'm aware there's been little to no advertising for the BFI's Disney 50 event, but Aladdin, like Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King sold out.  A 20 year old animated movie, easily available on DVD (Aladdin was re-released as a Musical Masterpiece after the Platinum Edition went back in the vault so unlike the other 2 it's never been off the shelves over here) sold out.  And it didn't sell out to families with young children, it sold out to adults who loved the film as kids and who still love it as adults.  The same audience who I'm sure, along with their friends and families, helped to fill 5th Avenue every night in Seattle for most of July. The audience is there for Aladdin: The New Stage Musical, if Disney just reached out and asked for it.

Oh, and we decided to visit the new M&M's World in Leicester Square and it's actually bigger than the one in Times' Square!  And they have human sized M&M's that dance The Macarena!  It has to been seen to be believed!

Friday, 2 September 2011

Keep Your Hands and Arms Inside the Carpet!

Still no updates on the future of Aladdin: The New Stage Musical but I am expecting at least two more cast interviews in the (hopefully) near future.

In the mean time I'm off to London tomorrow to see Aladdin on the big screen for the first time since I was a kid!  I won't review the film (I'm way too biased and let's face it, if you're reading this you really don't need a review of the film!) but I will post something later this weekend about the trip and what it was like seeing it on the big screen again.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

It's a Combination which Works Me Up to Fever Pitch!

Hey everyone!  Sorry it's been so long since my last post, it's been a busy week!  Whilst there's nothing new to report about the show's future, there's still some news to be reported from the show's Seattle run.  On that note, check out this interview Inside the Magic conducted with Jonathan Freeman at the end of last month;

Credit for the find goes to Princess of Agrabah from Aladdin Central.  The interview starts around the 17 minute mark and contains some new images of Jonathan Freeman as Jafar in the show!

Also, make sure you check out Adam Jacobs' website which he's now updated with photos from Aladdin: The New Stage Musical.  We've seen most of them before, but there are a few nice new photos including this beautiful shot of Adam and Courtney as Aladdin and Jasmine;

Adam Jacobs and Courtney Reed as Aladdin and Jasmine, Photo by 5th Avenue
And if you want a fan's review of the show make sure you check out the Agrabah LiveJournal (well technically the review's on Rosanna's LiveJournal, but it's all good)!  But be warned there are lots of spoilers as this review covers the show from start to finish, telling you EVERYTHING you want to know about the story, the changes, the characters, etc.

I think that's just about it this time around!  Remember, if you're in New York you can catch Jonathan Freeman and Andrew Keenan-Bolger in Mary Poppins (but be quick, AKB will be taking another "break" next month to star in the World Premiere Production of Newsies!), James Monroe Iglehart in Memphis and from next month Adam Jacobs will be taking on the lead role of Simba in The Lion King.  Tickets for all are available via the links, but if you're in New York then do yourself a favour and go to the theatre box office, you can use the money you save on fees to get something nice from the show merchandise stand.  If I find out what the rest of the cast are doing I'll be sure to post it here!

Oh, and one last thing!  Can't believe I almost forgot this!  If you live in the UK and can get to London on either 3rd or 10th September then make sure you book tickets to see Aladdin on the big screen at BFI Southbank as part of their "The Disney 50" Season!  I think this might be the first time Aladdin's been on the big screen in the UK since it's original release here back in 1993, so make sure not to miss this fantastic event!

Friday, 5 August 2011

Ok Supporters!

Ok, so last night I said don't expect anything soon and this morning I wake up to find an email from AKB in my inbox!  Just goes to show how wrong I can be!

Kindly arranged by 5th Avenue, Andrew Keenan-Bolger generously gave up his time to answer some questions about his run in Aladdin: The New Stage Musical and bringing Omar to life!

Hi Andrew,

Firstly just let me say congratulations on winning the role of Omar in Aladdin and thank you for agreeing to do this interview! I really appreciate you taking the time to interact with the fans in this way.

How did you come to be involved in the initial readings/workshops and what did they involve?

I’ve been fortunate to have worked with Disney on a number of productions so when it came to cast the ALADDIN reading, I guess the team was familiar enough with my work to offer the role to me. Originally when my agent called and said I got offered the ALADDIN reading, my response was, “No way! Please tell me I get to play the monkey!”

Having already played the role in the workshop, what was the audition process like for the Seattle production?

Although I had done the reading, there were a number of people involved with the production who were new to the project including our brilliant director, Casey Nicholaw. I auditioned like everybody else and went through a callback process before getting cast.

How did you learn that you had got the part and what was your reaction?

Haha, funny story. I actually found out I booked the job from my dressing room mate in MARY POPPINS, the incredible Jonathan Freeman (Jafar in the 5th Avenue producction). I came into work one day and he had this big grin on his face and asked, “How long did you think you could keep a secret from me?! Why didn’t you tell me we’re going to Seattle together?” I was totally confused. I guess news travels quickly. I heard from my agent shortly after.

How much has the show changed from that original reading through to last night’s official opening?

Quite a bit actually. There were 3 or 4 songs that were cut from the reading by the time we got to Seattle and a number of new songs took their place. There was a big overhaul of the second act as well. Up until our opening night there were changes going into the show on a nightly basis. The trio of guys (Babkak, Omar and Kassim) got a reprise of “High Adventure” put in just days before we opened.

What’s it like creating a totally "new" character in such a well loved story?

It was totally rewarding. Recreating a role like Aladdin or The Genie is difficult from the get go because the audience already has such a strong idea in their heads of what to expect. Luckily our actors tackled it brilliantly, but I loved being able to start from scratch. Also, having the writers in the process from beginning to end, they were able to develop the roles of the trio based on what the three of us brought to the table. Brian Gonzales (Babkak) brought such a dry, throw-away sense of humor, so his character started being written more in that vein. Brandon O’Neill (Kassim) emerged as such a natural leader so his part became more the fearless, guy in charge. And for me, well I was really scared of all the sword fighting in the stage combat sections, so it came as no surprise when my rewrites highlighted Omar’s scaredy-cat qualities, hehe.

Andrew Keenan-Bolger as Omar (centre), Photo by Chris Bennion

For those of us who can’t make it to Seattle, can you please tell us a bit about Omar, your approach to the character and his role in the show.

Babkak, Omar and Kassim are Aladdin’s best friends and members in his street band. They were originally conceived by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman for the film. They were later cut but got to see a new light in the stage production. I adore the character of Omar. He’s the youngest member of the band, an ultimate optimist and a hopeless romantic.  I found the more time I spent with Omar, the more I realized he was not at all that different from myself.  I tried to think of what I’d do in the situations that Omar found himself in. (Example. When Omar cuts his finger in the sword fight, I thought, oh, he would totally faint. Personally, I can’t stand the sight of blood, especially my own!)

What’s it like working with Alan Menken and bringing to life the lost Howard Ashman songs?

It was incredible working with Alan! Not gonna lie, we were all a little intimidated at first. I mean, this guy is an absolute legend! But he couldn’t have been a sweeter, more positive human being. He was always asking us for our input which was both surprising and amazing. Even after 8 Oscars he still wanted to make it a collaborative process and that speaks a lot about his character. Being able to give life to Howard & Alan’s original vision was such an honor. Alan stressed how proud Howard would have been to see their concept onstage. That in and of itself was worth all the hard work.

How do you prepare before a show? Do you have any superstitions or routines that you do before you go on stage each night?

The trio actually had a theme song that we would blast every night in our dressing room. It was Steely Dan’s “The Fez” and we HAD to dance to it before we went onstage or it wouldn’t be a good show. We never missed it, and I like to think every performance pretty much nailed it!

What is the most rewarding part of the show for you, and which part do you find most challenging?

The most rewarding part of working on the show was getting to create our roles with Brian and Brandon. Casey gave us the freedom during rehearsal to come up with a lot of our own bits and adlibs. The most challenging was the fact that a lot of it bombed. Getting the opportunity to fall on your face and know that no one was judging you was the best possible scenario. We ended up coming up with a lot of hilarious stuff. I already miss my boys and hope we get a chance to work together again.

Your 4th July video was fantastic, is there any chance you’ll post more Aladdin videos on your blog? There has to be a wrap party on 31st right ;)

Thanks! 4th of July in Seattle was one of my favorite experiences of the year. I’m so glad we got to document it. I made a music video with our cast for Casey for closing but it’s a little bit irreverent so I think it will be kept on private :)

Looking to the future, do you have any dream roles that you would love to do?

I’m actually about to start work on a show that I’ve dreamed about being turned into a musical since I was a little kid, NEWSIES. To say that I’ve been obsessed with the film would be an understatement. I’m playing the role of Crutchie who I always joked about wanting to play if they ever did a stage version. Getting to play him in the premiere production is truly a dream and getting to reunite with a lot of the brilliant people who worked on ALADDIN is doubly exciting.

And finally, looking back over your career so far, do any moments or performances really stand out as something truly special that you’ll always remember?

When I was twelve I got to play The Little Boy in RAGTIME on tour. Even at that age, I realized I was working on something truly special. Getting to be downstage, center for that opening number with just a wall of sound hitting your back from the forty-plus member cast is forever a defining moment in my decision to do theatre as a living. That musical was so brilliant and getting to be a part of it at such a young age is an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything.

Andrew, thank you so much for your time, it's been a pleasure.  All the best for Newsies!

If you want to know more about AKB then make sure you check out his website and his blog (where he frequently posts videos like the amazing 4th July video mentioned above)!  And if you can get to New Jersey between 15th September and 16th October, make sure you go and see the Premiere Production of Newsies! The Musical at the Paper Mill Playhouse and support Andrew in person!  Tickets are available here.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Till Another Arabian Night!

Well the show might be over but that doesn't mean I'm calling it quits just yet!  Even if Disney don't take the show to Broadway or do an official National Tour, there's still plenty left from the Seattle run for me to cover!

Whilst the show was running I submitted interviews to 5th Avenue for all of the main cast and some of the creative team. Whilst nothing is guaranteed, The 5th have advised that they were all passed on and have kindly said that they will return the answers to me as they receive them.  Again, I have to stress that nothing is guaranteed, the cast and crew have all moved on to their next projects (and I wish them all every success) so this might take some time.

In the mean time, here's some new pictures (again kindly provided by 5th Avenue) for you all to enjoy!

James Monroe Iglehart as Genie, Photo by Chris Bennion

Adam Jacobs as Aladdin and James Monroe Iglehart as Genie, Photo by Chris Bennion

Sunday, 31 July 2011

So it goes Short and Sweet...

Adam Jacobs as Aladdin and Courtney Reed as Jasmine, Photo by Chris Bennion

Well today the final curtain will fall on Disney Theatrical/5th Avenue's premier production of Aladdin: The New Stage Musical.  It's been an amazing run and audience reactions have been phenomenal.

I just want to wish the cast, crew and everyone at 5th Avenue the very best of luck for today's final shows, to say thank you for all the help and support you've given me, and most importantly of all to say thank you for bringing my favourite childhood film to life on stage.  My very best to you all for the future (a future that I sincerely hope includes a Broadway run for this show).

Edit - I just wanted to quickly update this post with some of the comments made by the cast on Twitter on their final day;

"Happy closing to the cast and crew of Aladdin! This has been an amazing experience and
you are some of the greatest folks we've had the pleasure to work with!" - 5th Avenue

"Congratulations on a fantastic run you guys! We will miss you all so much!" - 5th Avenue

"I have had so much fun in this show! The cast, the crew, the musicians Wow! Thank you for making this Disney Nerd's Dream come true!" - James Monroe Iglehart

"I have had a great time! We're gonna rock this place tonight!" - James Monroe Iglehart

"Closing day... And the audience is clapping along to "Friend Like Me" at the matinee!" - Courtney Reed

"The audience was clapping with me during Friend Like Me! Albeit off beat but hey its the thought that counts! Besides I got them back on!" - James Monroe Iglehart

"Final show... It hasn't even started and I'm already crying! I just love a happy ending! Thank you to all my dear Aladdin friends!" - Courtney Reed

"Final performance of ALADDIN in Seattle! I'm not ready to say goodbye to this wonderful cast or this town!" - Andrew Keenan-Bolger

"Closing night is always so bittersweet. Congratulations again to everybody on a fantastic run!" - 5th Avenue

"Going to miss Seattle & Aladdin but its hard to complain when I go back to my Broadway show on Tuesday! But Damn I'm gonna miss this!" - James Monroe Iglehart

"Gbye my Seattle home. Gbye M&D. And Gbye my Aladdin family. Thank you for my magic carpet ride! Alaska here I come!" - Courtney Reed

The Cast of Aladdin, Photo by 5th Avenue

Friday, 29 July 2011

This is High Adventure!

Aladdin: The New Stage Musical may be ending it's incredible premiere run in Seattle this weekend, but the cast are still finding time for a few high adventures of their own.  Like when they visited the SANCA School of Flight for some trapeze lessons!  Here's another video blog from Andrew Keenan-Bolger (Omar) of his time in the air.

In an article related to Aladdin, Seattle Weekly talks with Paul Hansen (5th Avenue's percussionist) about his work and his amazing set up for the show (seriously, 35 percussion instruments!)

And thanks to Don Darryl Rivera (Iago) we finally get a better look at some of the absolutely fantastic this show has!  In an article for Playbill he guides us through a 2 show day with 23 great photos and some hilarious captions.  You simply have to check out the article, but you can find the main costume pictures below.

Sean G Griffin as Sultan, Don Darryl Rivera as Iago and Jonathan Freeman as Jafar, Photo by Don Darryl Rivera
Adam Jacobs as Aladdin, Don Darryl Rivera as Iago and James Monroe Iglehart as Genie, Photo by Don Darryl Rivera
I can't believe that in just a few days this production will have finished!  If you're lucky enough to be able to get to Seattle tonight or this weekend, make sure you go and see this show!  There's only 5 shows left and in the words of the Sultan "you've only got 3 more days" so make sure you check it out whilst you still can!  Tickets are available here!

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Would they see a Poor Boy? No Siree

Opinion post?  I've not done one of these in ages!  There's just been too much news to report to get round to doing this, not to mention the "week off" I had to get married and not seeing the show certainly doesn't make it any easier!

I've got two goals with this post.  The first is to look objectively at the criticisms in the reviews, see where they agreed, where they disagreed and look at the criticisims from the point of view of a fan.  The second thing is asking for your help, but I'll come to that shortly.

Firstly, let's get one thing straight.  The show did not get bad reviews.  It didn't get absolutely glowing reviews and universal praise, but almost everyone agreed that it is a very good show, it just has room for improvement.  In fact it's interesting to note that the most critical are the more professional reviewers, whilst "ordinary" people who have posted reviews have been almost universal in their praise which is telling of the quality of the show.

And the cast (this amazing cast that I absolutely love) got very good reviews.  Sure there are a few reviews where one reviewer or another didn't like a certain actor or actress, but for every review that said "this actor didn't suit that role/could be better" there were more reviews that said the same actor "was fantastic and perfect for the role".  That's always going to be the case, especially in long running shows or productions like Aladdin where people already have very strong ideas in their head about what the character should be like.

Comparing the Show to the Film
Whilst this isn't an issue for most reviews, I thought I'd mention it here as one reviewer did spend most of their time comparing the show (especially the characters) to the film and more importantly a lot of people who went to see the show or are going to see the show this week (or would go to see the show if Disney did a tour of took it to Broadway) will likely do so expecting to see a more traditional adaptation along the lines of Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid.

The reason for the change was because Alan Menken wanted to go back to the original vision he and Howard Ashman had for Aladdin so that Howard's "lost" songs could be worked back into the story (if you're reading this you probably already knew that).  But whilst the story has been expanded with these new characters and songs, from all the reports coming out of Seattle it's clear this is still the original story at heart, it's just had new layers added to it (Sarah Ashman Gillespie actually says in her review they didn't go back to Howard's original story line).  The biggest change is therefore one of tone, going back to the original idea of a homage to the Hope-Crosby road movies.

This leads into one of the main criticisms that seems to be directed at the show; the breaking of the 4th wall.  It gets broken.  A lot.  Whilst on the one hand I can understand why some reviewers feel that this should be reserved for the Genie, it's important to remember than as well as being Aladdin's friends, Babkak, Omar and Kassim are also the Narrators of the story.  And what did the Narrator do in Aladdin?  He broke the 4th wall before we'd even seen the Genie's lamp.  This isn't something new for the stage show, it's just been extended along with the role of the Narrators, and it all goes back to the original vision of Aladdin as a Hope-Crosby buddy movie (it's interesting to note here that the 3 Howard Ashman songs that remain in the animated classic are all sung by characters who break the 4th wall, it's a coincidence brought about by the changes to the story, but still something to think about).

Most reviews (and more importantly comments from regular audience members) have praised the new characters, the new tone and the changes to the story that came with them, even though most of them more than likely went in expecting to see the film on stage.  If Disney does change anything from this production based on the reviews I sincerely hope that they stay true to the original vision of Howard Ashman and Alan Menken that was revived for this production.

Call Me a Princess
I'm not going to comment on the cast (for one thing I'm way too biased and casts will always change over time no matter how good they are), but I thought Jasmine's character was worth mentioning here due to some of the comments in the reviews.

Seattle Times says;

"Aladdin's spunky love interest, is introduced with the off-putting "Call Me a Princess," a Menken-Ashman tune cut from the film, in which she fends off suitors by being screechingly obnoxious. (Reed's much more appealing in her sweet duets with Jacobs, starting with a pretty new Menken-Beguelin ballad, "A Million Miles Away")."

Now maybe I'm mis-reading the review, but isn't the point of "Call Me a Princess" to be off-putting?  As the review says she's trying to deter unwanted suitors.  Surely the fact that she's off-putting in "Call Me a Princess" and appealing in "A Million Miles Away" is simply in character!

Another review says we don't see the character change throughout the show, but again there isn't meant to be character arc from spoilt brat to the Jasmine we know and love from the film as the spoilt brat from "Call Me a Princess" is just an act put on by the character for that one scene.

Emotion Vs Comedy
Variety's review claims that the show has very few earnest moments (such as "Proud of Your Boy") and because of that they feel out of place next to the comedy which is the main focus of the show.  Now I've not seen the show so I can't speak from personal opinion, but none of the other reviews mention this and just looking at the song list shows that whilst there is a lot of comedy there are plenty of earnest moments as well.  Chad Beguelin even said way back before the show opened that the Aladdin and Jasmine romance was being kept true to the film and it's been said by others that most of the comedy comes from Genie, Iago and the trio which allows Aladdin and Jasmine to remain more earnest characters.

A Whole New World
The big one.  This scene seems to cause the biggest divide amongst all the reviewers.  Some find it beautiful in its simplicity (and the pictures do look gorgeous), others feel that it fall flat in its staging.  Now I can appreciate that you'll never please everyone, but a scene this important shouldn't be so divisive.  If Disney do decide to bring Aladdin: The New Stage Musical to Broadway then this may be the one bit of staging that could use another look.

Which brings me (finally) to the second part of this post.  Myself and others at Aladdin Central have been discussing the show and the reviews and have come to the conclusion that we need to let both 5th Avenue and Disney Theatrical know what the fans think of Aladdin: The New Stage Musical and our desire to see it come to Broadway (or at least an official National Tour by Disney before they license it out).  Whilst ticket sales are obviously the most important indicator of success, the reviews are very important in determining the future of the show (you can bet if the show had fantastic reviews and sold out all performances then Disney would be thinking very seriously about a Broadway run).  Therefore we need to make our voices heard.  Whilst 5th Avenue's facebook page is full of praise for the show, the best way to do this is the old fashioned way - by mail.  Write to them, tell them you support the show, if you've seen it say what you loved, offer constructive criticism if you have any, if you disagree with the reviews (as above) then tell them why you think they're wrong in their criticism, even if you've not seen the show (which is probably most of you) please write to them and tell them how much you support the show and want to see it on Broadway and/or a National Tour.  But please remember to be polite and constructive!

Here's the addresses you need;

David Armstrong
Artistic Director/Executive Producer
5th Avenue Theatre
1308 5th Avenue
WA 98101

Thomas Schumacher
Disney Theatrical Group
214 W. 42nd Street
New York, NY 10036

5th Avenue want the show to do well, it's in their interest for the show to go to Broadway as they will get a share of the profits as they helped develop the show, but Disney have to be convinced the show is worth taking to Broadway.  This is in no way saying that Disney are against the show, it's only thanks to Disney that we have the show in the first place, but Disney have been burned a lot on Broadway in  recent years with both Tarzan and The Little Mermaid closing early (though The Little Mermaid was at least in part due to high operating costs in a poor economy) so they're not going to take the risk unless they think it's worth it, especially when they can make money from licensing the show out without taking on any of the risks of producing it themselves.  Aladdin: The New Stage Musical has in it's favour the fact that it's been designed and produced on a budget, so if it should go to Broadway the risks are much lower as the operating costs are (apparently) very low compared to most major Broadway shows, plus it has had an extraordinarily high level of public and media interest when you consider that this is (officially) a pilot production of a licensable show and not a pre-Broadway run, and more importantly audience reaction at 5th Avenue has been nothing short of amazing and if they can transport that to Broadway they're looking at a winner.

Friday, 22 July 2011

A New FANTASTIC Point of View

Adam Jacobs as Aladdin and Courtney Reed as Jasmine, Photo by Chris Bennion

Maybe I'm being a bit premature with the title of this post (no reviews have come out yet), but pretty much everything said about this show so far has been positive, so I'm certain the reviews will be the same.

I'll update this post as the reviews come in, but before that make sure you check out the new video posted by King 5 where Adam Jacobs (Aladdin), Courtney Reed (Jasmine) and James Monroe Iglehart (Genie) talk about the show and we're treated to some amazing footage which includes "Friend Like Me" and "High Adventure"!  I can't put into words how awesome this show looks and how much I wish I was in Seattle right now!  So stop reading this and go watch it!!!!!

1st Update - Still no reviews but a very short interview with none other than Alan Menken has been posted by Talkin' Broadway, so make sure you check that out as the Disney Legend talks about Aladdin: The New Stage Musical and what he has planned for the future (including one show that should make Don Darryl Rivera very happy!)

2nd Update - No reviews yet (time difference sucks!) but Seattle Times have posted a beautiful article about Alan Menken's visit to Seattle Children's Hospital and 5th Avenue have posted another edition of The JMI Show on their youtube page where our favourite Genie interviews Andrew Keenan-Bolger, Brandon O'Neill and his old friend Brian Gonzales!

3rd Update - Well the first reviews are in and they run the full range from positive to negative, which is pretty standard for a Disney production!  Most seem to agree that the show is good, but has areas where improvements could be made.  It seems Aladdin: The New Stage Musical is, like its title character, a diamond in the rough (at least in the eyes of the critics).

Seattle Times - World Premiere Aladdin Lands at Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre
Variety - Disney's Aladdin: The New Stage Musical
Broadway World - Disney's Aladdin at 5th Avenue Theatre - Very Disney Park
The Broadway Critic - Aladdin @ 5th Avenue Theatre (note this review is from 10th July preview, whilst changes were still being made to the show)
Examiner - Aladdin Stage Show Offers "Unbelievable Sights" and "Indescribable Feelings" (note this review is from 16th July preview whilst changes were still being made to the show)

It's midnight now, so I'm off to bed!  Maybe there will be more reviews in the morning.

I'm really not worried by the reviews, pretty much every Disney show (bar maybe The Lion King) received mixed reviews and most of them went on to long and successful runs.  Beauty and the Beast ran for 13 years on Broadway and still tours around the US and the world, Tarzan may not have been the success Disney hoped for on Broadway but with some re-working it went on to huge success in Europe (and recently started regional productions in the US I believe!), Mary Poppins is still going strong on Broadway and whilst The Little Mermaid closed way before it should have (that show was criminally under rated) it's now being re-worked (like Tarzan) for a European release and will hopefully start it's long promised US Tour in the near future.  And it's important to keep in mind that Aladdin: The New Stage Musical had only a fraction of the budget of those shows!

4th Update - Two more reviews, both of which are largely positive!

Seattle's Child - A Parent's Review: Aladdin
MiceChat - MiceChatter Igrules visists Disney's Aladdin Show in Seattle (note this review is from 9th July preview, whilst changes were still being made to the show)

5th Update - Four more reviews which are all positive, including one from someone who says they hadn't seen the film before going to the show (which gives a nice new point of view) and a heartfelt post by Howard Ashman's sister Sarah from her site Part of His World.

Good Life Northwest - Aladdin Makes Magic at Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre
My Life and Times - They're Playing Music While We're Fighting...
Unlikely Places - Aladdin at 5th Avenue Theatre
Part of His World - Proud of Your Boy

I can't think of a better review to end on.

6th Update - Hold on to your turbans folks because we're not done yet!  One last review just for good measure;

just sayin'... - Don't You Dare Close Your Eyes

A nice positive review to end on!  But if any more appear then I'll be sure to do another update!

Thursday, 21 July 2011

I'm Your Master Now!

So Genie, Jafar and Iago were all sat around the table chatting about the show... must be another episode of The JMI Show!!

With opening curtain just a few hours away, 5th Avenue have released another edition of The James Monroe Iglehart Show where James talks with his co-stars Jonathan Freeman and Don Darryl Rivera.

It's late, so I'll probably edit this post in the morning, so all I'm gonna say tonight is just watch the video!

And of course, best wishes to all the cast and crew, and everyone at 5th Avenue, for tonight's official opening!

Edit: And here's the video!

On a Scale of 1 to 10, You are an 11!!

As a special opening day treat, I'm honored to be able to present an interview with Don Darryl Rivera!!

The 5th Avenue kindly arranged this for me a while ago and the answers arrived back  literally the day before I got married!!  So sorry for the wait, and without any further delay here's the man bringing Iago to life!

Firstly let me say congratulations on landing the role of Iago in the Seattle production of Aladdin and thank you for agreeing to this interview!

Thanks! I'm so excited that you wanted to interview me! I've been following the blog :-)

When did you first decide you wanted to be on stage, how did you get into the business, and who (or what) would you say have been your biggest influences?

I decided I wanted to making acting my profession in high school when I played the Leading Player in "Pippin." The magic of theatricality in that show totally drew me in to wanting to be a professional actor. The stars were totally in alignment when I started my career. Coming out of Cornish College of the Arts here in Seattle, I had an internship lined up with Seattle Shakespeare Company in "Much Ado..." directed by the Artistic Associate of Seattle Children's Theatre. From that production I had made so many connections at Seattle Shakes and Seattle Children's that I had work lined up for a year in advance. Really I haven't stopped working since graduating. Two of the most influential theatre artists in my life are Linda Hartzell, Artistic Director of Seattle Children's Theatre and Rita Giomi, Artistic Associate of Seattle Children's Theatre. They've given me so many beautiful opportunities and challenges and have really played a pivotal role in shaping me as a theatre artist.

You’ve played an incredibly wide range of roles, from Shakespeare to musicals to children’s theatre. Which type of role do you find challenges you the most as a performer and which do you enjoy playing the most?

I am a big believer of the work that Seattle Children’s Theatre produces. For me it is rewarding and artistically challenging to perform for kids, they are the most honest audience you will ever have.

Don Darryl as Roger in I Was A Rat, Photo by Chris Bennion

Do you remember Aladdin from its original release? Were you a fan of the film before you got the part?

I was a huge fan of the movie! If I remember correctly, I had the cassette tape of the original, original soundtrack before they changed that one lyric in "Arabian Nights."

How did you come to be involved in the Seattle production and what was the audition process like?

I was called in to audition for Aladdin, but not for any role in specific. My first audition was for a few people. My callback was for a room full of people, I sang a couple songs and Casey looked at me and asked me to learn one of the Iago sides. I was so nervous that I had forgotten which one he told me to learn, so I learned all three! I went back in to the audition room and it was the most fun audition I've ever had to date, I think.

What was your reaction when you were told you’d got the part?

I still can't believe it.

With all the changes from film to stage (including the apparent removal of Abu and Rajah) there’s been some speculation that Iago might not even be a parrot in this production! Can you please confirm (if you’re allowed) whether or not Iago is still a parrot?

I'm pretty sure I can say that I'm not a parrot in the show. Although there are a few homages to Iago's feathered past thanks to Chad Beguelin our amazing book writer/lyricist and Greg Barnes our fabulous costume designer.  

As I’ve got older Iago has become one of my favourite characters in the movie (and especially in the series that followed). Has Iago’s character gone through any changes for this production? And what can you tell us about your approach to the role?

Iago is a little more even tempered in our production - he's definitely got a little funny bone in him but at the same time there is a real sense of danger about him. I've brought something new to Iago, but the essence of Iago that everyone knows and loves is still rooting around in there too.

Don Darryl as Iago with the cast of Aladdin, Photo by 5th Avenue

What’s it like working opposite Jonathan Freeman’s Jafar? You two looked like you worked really well together in the Spotlight Night "Why Me?" preview.

Jonathan is simply amazing. He's the sweetest person and a very generous scene partner - there's a certain comfort and ease that makes the stage feel comfortable, almost like home. I love working with him and I hope I get to do it again in the future!

Iago didn’t really get a singing role in the animated classic (he had to wait until The Return of Jafar), is "Why Me?" your only number, or can we expect Iago to do more singing in this show?

Iago is featured in "Why Me" and at this point, that's the only song.

I believe you started tech rehearsals this weekend, how’s everything going and (if you can say) what’s the set like?

Things are going well. It's a BIIIG show. The orchestra is amazing and the set, oh the set - it is really a beautiful sight to behold and the lights! Oh gosh... Natasha Katz our lighting designer is awesome. Disney and the 5th Ave have really pulled the best of the best on this show... It's gonna be spectacular.

How do you prepare before a show? Do you have any superstitions or routines that you do before you go on stage each night?

I don't really have a strict way to prepare although I do like to get very zen when I put on my makeup. I also like to make my dressing room as comfortable as possible because it helps keep me relaxed and focused. I am a very superstitious person... I actually used to have a wooden clothespin that I would wear under my costumes for years. I lost it a few years ago and was certain that I would have bad luck on stage for the rest of my life - suffice it to say, I've had a pretty lucky streak in my career.

Looking to the future, do you have any dream roles that you would love to do?

If Disney ever does an English version of Der Glockner... I would love to play Quasimodo. I've already played Sancho Panza in Man of La Mancha but would love, love, love to do it again!

And finally, looking back over your career so far, do any moments or performances really stand out as something truly special that you’ll always remember?

This show. It is a wish come true to be a part of the original cast of Aladdin.
Don Darryl, thank you so much for your time, it’s been a pleasure. All the best for the show!


I don't normally comment at the end of interviews, but I just have to say I would love to see Disney bring Der Glockner Von Notre Dame to Broadway and give Don Darryl his dream role!  I still think it's amazing how everyone on this cast was a fan of the film growing up, and if you want to learn more about Don Darryl then make sure you check out his website!