Thursday, 30 June 2011

Am I Sultan or am I Sultan!

Sean G. Griffin spoke briefly with Q13 Arts Around this morning on playing the Sultan in Aladdin: The New Stage Musical.

You can see the video here.

A few years ago I never thought Disney would bring Aladdin to stage, now the show is only 1 WEEK away from opening!  Seriously, if you have the chance to go, make sure you go!  This is a dream cast for the show and if Disney sticks to its original plan, this will be your one chance to see a Disney produced version of the show before they license it out.  Tickets are on sale here and the show opens NEXT WEEK!

I'm expecting the next month to be extremely busy as the show opens and more images, videos and reviews are released, so stay tuned, it's gonna be one fantastic magic carpet ride!

Monday, 27 June 2011

You Would be Most Rewarded to Consider... This

The 5th Avenue Theatre have posted their 3rd preview of Aladdin: The New Stage Musical on their youtube page.

The video gives us a brief glimpse at some of the dances and short interviews with Courtney Reed (Jasmine), James Monroe Iglehart (Genie), Don Darryl Rivera (Iago) and Sean G. Griffin (Sultan).  It's great to see that the cast are all so enthusiastic about this show!

And after confirming a new song for Genie in our interview last week, James now confirms a new duet for Aladdin and Jasmine!!!  I'm so happy about this!  I only hope that they do a video/preview of the new songs so that those who can't make it to Seattle get chance to hear them!

Thursday, 23 June 2011

You are Only Interested in the Exceptionally Rare

Last night Broadway World posted an exclusive interview with writer/lyricist Chad Beguelin on his work on Aladdin: The New Stage Musical.

In the interview he talks about what it's like bringing the movie to the stage, changes to the story, working with Alan Menken, and confirms that he and Alan wrote 3 new songs for the show!

The new songs are "A Million Miles Away", "Somebody's Got Your Back" and "A Royal Wedding".  Wonder which of these is the new Genie song that James mentioned when I interview him earlier this week?!

On top of that he also confirm two more of the previously cut Howard Ashman/Alan Menken songs that have been added back into the story; "Proud of Your Boy" (previously teased by Adam in my interview with him) and "High Adventure".

Words can't describe how happy I am that "Proud of Your Boy" is in the show!  I was over the moon when Adam hinted at the song, and getting confirmation just makes me even happier!  And I'm so glad that "High Adventure" is being used!  After "Proud of Your Boy" it was my favourite of the unused songs in The Music Behind the Magic, sung as Aladdin and his friends raced into battle with Jafar to rescue Jasmine.

The show is less than 2 weeks away now!  If you can go and still haven't got tickets, stop hanging round here and go get them!  Just make sure you stop by and tell me what it's like!

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Good Pals. Blood Brothers.

Just as I was about to call it a night 5th Avenue kindly pointed me in the direction of a new video on their youtube channel!

Brian Gonzales (Babkak), Andrew Keenan-Bolger (Omar), Adam Jacobs (Aladdin) and Brandon O'Neill (Kassim) performed "Babkak, Omar, Aladdin, Kassim" at 5th Avenue's Spotlight Night last week.  Replaced by "One Jump Ahead" in the original animated classic when Aladdin's friends were cut from the script, the song was later released in demo form in The Music Behind the Magic collection.  It's great to hear this song with all the harmonies!

Interesting to note is that whilst the song has gone through a few changes, it still makes reference to Baghdad as the setting.  What this means for Agrabah is currently unclear, but I can't see it being cut from the script completely.  Maybe Baghdad is the capital city in the kingdom of Agrabah?  Then again, I never saw them adding "Call Me a Princess" back into the story, so what do I know!

All You Gotta do is Rub that Lamp!

Tonight, I'm very happy to be able to present an interview with the one and only James Monroe Iglehart!

Gotta admit I was a bit nervous about doing this one as I'd never even dreamed of interviewing anyone before I did the interview with Adam Jacobs earlier this month, and if you've ever watched James' Youtube show you'll know he's something of a natural at interviewing people!  If you haven't, make sure you check out the James Monroe Iglehart Show, it's a fantastic show and after watching it I can see why he was cast as the Genie, he's just a perfect fit for the part.  Anyway, that's enough from me!  Let's hear from James!

How did you originally get into musical theatre, and who (or what) would you say have been your biggest influences?

I got into musicals because my parents introduced me to them. My mom is a music teacher and my father was an actor in the 1970’s so acting and singing was something I just always loved doing and we went to musicals all the time. I would say I got serious about being in musicals in high school, I was in show choir for 2 years and the school musical You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown I played Charlie Brown, that confused some folks, but I had a greatest time. So when I went to college I majored in theatre and have been doing it ever since.

My biggest influences are probably my parents but as far as Musical theatre folks go I really looked up to Ted Ross, Ken Paige and Chuck Cooper they all had amazing voices and unmatched comic timing. Both of which I aspire to every day of my life!

You’re best known for playing the role of "Big Love" Bobby in Memphis and you have a long history with the show. What is it about the role that’s kept you coming back to the show for over 5 years? And will you be going back to Memphis after your turn in Aladdin?

What kept me coming back was that I loved the show very much and it was my first time originating a role so I promised myself I would ride on the Memphis train as long as I could, thankfully the tracks led to Broadway. Yes I will be going back to Memphis after Aladdin. Thankfully the producers of Memphis gave me a leave of absence to be a part of Aladdin and I’m very grateful they did I’m having a best time!

James Monroe Iglehart as Bobby in Memphis

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

Do I remember the Aladdin release, was I a fan? Ha! Heck yes and Heck yes! I was 17 in 1992 when the film came out and I went that first weekend to see it with my mom and I have loved it ever since! I have been a fan of the Genie since that day. I have all the Aladdin movies, watched the television series regularly and saw the Disney California Adventure version of the musical in its first year! So to say I’m a fan is an understatement!

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 became a part of the project just through a regular audition process for the Seattle production. I didn’t even know there had been a reading until after the auditions were going on.

Now I remember seeing the original announcement that the production was being brought to Seattle on I heard that they had been auditioning guys 2 weeks before I got the call to come in and I knew some of the guys that were being seen for Genie. And being such a fan of the movie I was just praying that they would call me in too. But I figured well I guess they don’t know me well enough to call me in but in my heart I was screaming "I hope they call me in!" and thank God they finally did. After that the process was pretty standard, first audition for the director and casting director then a call back 2 weeks later for the whole creative team.

When did you learn you’d been successful and what was your reaction to the news?

I found out 4 hours after the call back that I got the role, I was on 6th avenue in NY getting my contact lenses replaced when my agent called and told me and I screamed right outside the store!

What attracted you to the role of the Genie?

To be honest I love magic and I love Robin Williams, which is funny because I don’t play the Genie like him at all! Yet when I first saw the film I told my mother right after Friend Like Me "I hope I get to be part of something like that someday!" Talk about a prayer being answered!

The role of Genie is so full of silliness and at the same time he really cares for his friends and I act like that all the time. I’m also a big fan of being able to break the 4th Wall so to actually get to be in a show like that is a dream come true!

How are rehearsals going? Andrew Keenan-Bolger tweeted that "Friend Like Me" may be the biggest production number ever staged! Sounds like you’re going to be bringing down the house!

Friend Like Me is something to see and that is all I’m saying but rehearsals are going very well! Casey and our creative team are the best. Our cast is so talented I think folks are going to be shocked and happy!

From everything that’s been said about changing the tone back to the forties jazz-cabaret style originally envisioned by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, it seems to be implied that of all the characters from the film, the Genie is the one who’s changed the most, and the one thing we do know is not to expect a Robin Williams impersonation. How liberating has it been to be able to put your own spin on the role and what can you tell us about the Genie in this production?

It’s the best feeling in the world and a great weight off my shoulders! I love Robin Williams. I have seen all of his concerts and most of his films! He is in my top 10 favorite comedians, the man is one of a kind and no one could replace or copy him so I was very pleased when I was told to put my own spin on this role. I try to stay true to the essence of the character in the film but just doing it through my style!

One of the main reasons for re-working the story has been to include the "lost" Howard Ashman songs. Since both of Howard’s Genie songs survived in the finished film, can we expect some completely new songs for Genie?

There is one new song for the Genie.

Silly question time! Is Genie still blue? If so, how long will you have to spend in make-up before the show?

Actually they are still working out the details of that so you will have to wait and see!

You’re no stranger to shows that start out in regional theatre and go on to huge Broadway success, and whilst it’s still early days there is clearly a lot of interest in this show. I know the show was announced as a pilot production with the intention of licensing it out, but given the high level of interest is there any feeling amongst the cast and crew that this show could be destined for bigger things and maybe one day reach Broadway? And, if so, could we see you in blue again?

Well I would love to see there being a future with the show but as of right now if there are plans to move it further they have not told this Genie!

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

Actually I go over all my lines and lyrics every night before the show. You see a few years ago I got cocky and didn’t do that and just blanked on stage in front of a live audience so now I never forget to do it! Even though I have been with Memphis forever I still do it just to keep me humble and on my toes! I also hold a prayer circle every night at 5 min to places for all those that want to participate and I mean anyone!

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

You know not anymore. I’m looking forward to hopefully being in more new shows and creating new roles. I have been blessed to play all of the roles I have loved since I was a child. I wouldn’t mind getting in on writing new material too. But I will say if I ever get the opportunity to play Harold Hill in the Music Man I would jump on it!

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?

Yes many but the ones that jump out first are the first time I saw my name on a Broadway poster that show being 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Then opening Memphis on Broadway and crying after we performed on the Tony’s! And last but not least the day I was able to write on my tax returns under occupation ACTOR was the best day of my career! HA!

James, thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, it’s been a pleasure. All the best for the show!

Thank you so much for this opportunity and again thank you for all your support!

Look at that, Abu!

It's not every day 5th Avenue releases new publicity images!

Many thanks to 5th Avenue for kindly providing the images.  I've got a big post coming up so I'll let the pictures do the talking for this one.

Adam Jacobs as Aladdin, Photo by Mark Kitaoka
Courtney Reed as Jasmine, Photo by Mark Kitaoka
Adam Jacobs as Aladdin and Courtney Reed as Jasmine, Photo by Mark Kitaoka
That last image has to be my favourite release so far!

Be back soon!

Friday, 17 June 2011

Who's he? Why ME!!

Fresh from a successful Spotlight Night, 5th Avenue have posted the video of Jonathan Freeman (Jafar) and Don Darryl Rivera (Iago) performing "Why Me", one of the "lost" Menken/Rice songs, on their youtube page.

Video by The 5th Avenue Theatre

Originally written for when Jafar became master of the lamp, this song was ultimately replaced by "Prince Ali Reprise" in the final film as it was felt it was too late in the film to introduce a completely new song.  Now it's been re-worked to take place much earlier in the story, when Jafar and Iago are searching for the "diamond in the rough".

It's great to hear Jonathan Freeman as Jafar again!  It really makes me feel like a kid again, and I can just tell this is going to be something really special.  And speaking of special, make sure you have a watch of this video from Seattle's King 5 news.  The video contains a nice shot of The 5th Avenue Theatre (complete with all its new Aladdin banners) and talks about the history of the theatre and how, in the last 10 years, 5 new shows that were originally produced at 5th Avenue went on to to be successes on Broadway, including 2 Tony Award winning Best Musicals, one of which was Memphis, which starred Aladdin's Genie; James Monroe Iglehart!

If you can see the show and still haven't got tickets, make sure you stop by and book them as soon as you can!  The Spotlight Night was moved to a bigger venue due to the overwhelming demand for seats, so this run is almost sure to sell out as the event gets closer!  And be sure to keep an eye on both 5th Avenue's youtube page (linked above) for more possible teasers from the Spotlight Night (I hear A Whole New World was performed and I can't wait to see that!!) and this page which hosts full videos of previous Spotlight Nights.  With any luck the full Aladdin: The New Stage Musical event will be viewable in the near future!

Edit: I'm very sorry to say I mistakenly credited this song to Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, it's actually an unused Alan Menken and Tim Rice song.  I've now corrected it.

Monday, 13 June 2011

I Love the Way Your Foul Little Mind Works!

Tonight those lucky enough to be in the Seattle area and have tickets will be attending the Aladdin Spotlight Night at the Paramount Theatre.  Hopefully we'll know more about that event, including which new songs were performed by the cast, tomorrow.

The event was originally supposed to be held at The 5th Avenue Theatre, but due to popular demand was moved to the Paramount so they could fit more people in!  In a stroke of genius 5th Avenue created a very special voice mail message to alert people to the change of venue.  The 5th Avenue Theatre have kindly provided me with a copy of that message and I'm extremely happy to be able to make it available hear for those who aren't going to the event!

If you're going tonight, enjoy!

Prince Achmed. You're Not Leaving so Soon, Are You?

Courtney Reed as Princess Jasmine, Photo by Mark Kitaoka

The video of Courtney Reed performing "Call Me a Princess" from Aladdin: The New Stage Musical on New Day Northwest earlier today has finally been posted online by King 5, and it's great to finally hear one of the lost Ashman and Menken songs come to life!

The video includes a short interview with Courtney that gives some context to the song (which I won't repeat here in case anyone is trying to avoid even minor spoilers) and also gives a brief look at some new publicity shots of Courtney as Jasmine, Sean S. Griffin as the Sultan and Adam Jacobs as Aladdin.

I'll admit that I was very surprised and a little nervous (for Jasmine's character) when I heard that this song was being included, but the context it's sung in makes perfect sense and in that context it becomes a really fun number, which is evident in Courtney's performance on the show.

Tomorrow night is Aladdin Spotlight Night, so I hope all those lucky people who are going have a great time, and I can't wait to hear all about it!

Unbelievable Sights, Indescribable Feeling

The teaser commercial is now online at The 5th Avenue Theatre's facebook page!

Sorry for any confusion everyone, I guess things are changing very quickly at the moment.  I was in a rush this morning and only checked my email (which would have been sent before the Tony Awards aired) which did advise that there were currently no plans to put the trailer online, but when I got to work I got a tweet from the 5th advising that the trailer was now online!

Make sure you check it out at the link above, and later today we will see the first public performance from the show when Courtney Reed sings "Call Me a Princess" on New Day Northwest.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Call Me a Princess

Well if you live in the USA I hope you caught the teaser commercial during last night's Tony Awards (though it sounds like it may have been a regional thing as I've been advised by some friends that they watched the entire show and didn't see the teaser).  On the subject of the Tony Awards, congratulations to Casey Nicholaw (and Trey Parker) who won Best Direction of a Musical for The Book of Mormon!

If you missed it, I'm afraid that 5th Avenue have advised that there are currently no plans for the commercial to be available online.  But if you live in the area, make sure you check out New Day Northwest today around 11am PST when Courtney Reed will be performing "Call Me a Princess".  If you don't live in the area, then don't worry as this performance will later be available online.

It wasn't that long ago I said there was no way "Call Me a Princess" would be in the show!  How wrong could I have been!  It'll be interesting to see how much (if at all) the song has changed, and what this means for Jasmine's character arc in the show.

In other news, tomorrow night's Aladdin Spotlight Night is being recorded and 5th Avenue will make selected footage available over the coming weeks in the build up to the show.

I Can Show You the World

If you live in the USA make sure you watch the Tony Awards on CBS tonight and, even more importantly, don't even think about going to get a drink during the commercials as The 5th Avenue Theatre reports that they will be premiering the teaser commercial for Aladdin: The New Stage Musical during the Tony Awards.

Best wishes go out to Casey Nicholaw, the director and choreographer of  Aladdin: The New Stage Musical, who is nominated for Best Direction of a Musical (with Trey Parker) and Best Choreography for The Book of Mormon.  The show itself is nominated for a total of 14 awards, including Best Musical.

And of course I've got my fingers crossed for Alan Menken and Glen Slater who are nominated for Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre for their work on Sister Act.  The show is nominated for a total of 5 awards, including a Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical nomination for Patina Miller.  I saw the show when it was in London and it really is a fantastic show with a genuine feel good factor, and Patina was incredible.

For those of us who don't live in the USA I'm hoping that The 5th Avenue Theatre will release the trailer online so that we can see it in the next day or so!

What is it that You Want Most?

How about any early preview of the show?

According to The 5th Avenue Theatre's website, there will be a FREE Spotlight Night for Aladdin: The New Stage Musical next Tuesday (14th June);

"Spotlight Nights are entertaining, informative and free. Sponsored by US Bank, this incredibly popular series gives you a behind-the-scenes look at our upcoming shows.

The final Spotlight Night of the 2010–11 season will take you behind the scenes of our world premiere of Aladdin: The New Stage Musical. Hear backstage stories from the creative team about the show’s creation. Then enjoy songs performed by the cast that will hint at the magic to come."

Sorry I missed this earlier, but for anyone in Seattle next Tuesday it would be well worth seeing if there are any tickets left for this event!

Not enough?  Well for those who can't go (or those who can and just want more) here's a promotional photo from the show that's been released by the photographer Mark Kitaoka at his website.

Adam Jacobs as Aladdin and Courtney Reed as Jasmine, Photo by Mark Kitaoka
Don't they look great!  The more I see and hear about this show, the more excited I get!  And I really want the above image as a poster that I can frame on my wall!!

Still not enough?

If you live near the theatre, be sure to run down there and take a look at the new marquee which 5th Avenue have revealed on their facebook page, it gives a better look at Courtney Reed's Jasmine's costume and a first look at Sean S. Griffin as the Sultan;

Adam Jacobs as Aladdin, Courtney Reed as Jasmine and Sean S. Griffin as the Sultan, Image by Mark Kitaoka
And finally a quick shout out to the Agrabah Live Journal where they've found a really nice behind the scenes picture of the show, make sure you check it out!

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

There's So Much More To Me

When Adam Jacobs was first announced as Aladdin in the upcoming Aladdin: The New Stage Musical in Seattle, I contacted him to congratulate him and also to ask if he would be willing to do an interview for this blog.  To my great surprise and delight, he graciously accepted, so now I am honored to be able to present an interview with Adam Jacobs;

Hi Adam,

Firstly just let me say thanks again for agreeing to do this interview, I really appreciate you taking the time to interact with the fans in this way.

Obviously with the show still being in rehearsals, there are a lot of things you can’t talk about yet, so I’ll try and keep the questions from asking for any specific details about the plot and the new songs!

When you agreed to the interview you said that this show is a childhood passion for you, and (if my math is right!) your move from being a young concert pianist to performing in community theatre occurred around the same time as Disney’s musical renaissance period. Did the Disney musicals influence your desire to perform, or was it your passion for musical theatre that attracted you to the classic Disney musicals?

I was always a huge fan of the Disney movies of Aladdin, The Lion King, The Jungle Book, etc.  I also have a sister who is four years younger than me and she just loved The Little Mermaid and Cinderella growing up, so I got a heavy dose of Disney early on.  I'm sure on some deep unconscious level the movies pointed me towards the world of musical theater.  The movies are inherently theatrical anyway, and the animation is so imaginative that they're hard to resist.  

Did you have a favorite Disney film growing up? Has that changed as you got older, or is your childhood favorite still your favorite today? It’s ok, you don’t have to say Aladdin ;)

I remember loving the character of Mowgli in Jungle Book, probably because I was such a scrawny looking kid at that age and he looked like me.  I watched that one over and over. And then when I saw Aladdin, I thought he was the coolest character in all of the Disney films. To this day he has always been my favorite Disney hero.  

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

I did a reading of Aladdin in NYC back in November of last year.  At the time I had no idea it was in the works, and when I heard they specifically wanted to use me for the role of Aladdin, I was very excited and felt honored just to get the call.  So Disney pulled me from the Lion King tour in order to do the week long reading, and then flew me back out to the tour after it was done. They originally told us it was going to be just an informal table read for the people at the Disney office, but it ended up turning into quite a little production complete with body microphones and live musicians.  It was quite nerve wracking seeing Alan Menken and Howard Ashman's family sitting there along with the heads of Disney Theatricals!

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

I had to fly back in again from the LK tour to audition for the Seattle production mainly because Casey Nicholaw had not seen the reading and as the director, he needed to sign off on me.  Luckily he liked my audition and I was given the role.

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

I was ecstatic when my agent gave me the news.  It was one of those things where you want it so bad that you have to work really hard to put it out of your mind.  (I purposely try to forget about auditions once they're over as sort of a coping mechanism in case I don't get it.  Once it's out of my hands, I like to move on to the next thing)  So even though I was trying to concentrate on doing my job back on the road as Simba, I was still hoping that it would work out with Aladdin.  So upon hearing the news, it was a combination of excitement and relief that I wouldn't have to feel the extreme disappointment of not getting it!

Adam Jacobs as Aladdin, Photo by Mark Kitaoka
How are the rehearsals going? The first official picture of you as Aladdin has been released (and I have to say the costume looks fantastic), so are you doing dress rehearsals now?

Yeah doesn't the costume look cool?  I just love the new patch work on the vest.  We still have a month of rehearsals.  We're through the first act and hope to run through it tomorrow.  Rehearsals are going very well.  It's going to be tough to have Casey gone for a bunch of days next week for the Tony Awards (which I think he'll win for Book of Mormon!) but we'll survive somehow :)

The cast is made up of people with a wide variety of backgrounds, from an original film cast member to Seattle stage regulars and Broadway stars, what’s it like working with such a diverse group of talented performers?

I feel very lucky to be a part of this cast.  Hearing Jonathan Freeman's voice still gives me chills during rehearsals.  I saw Brandon O'Neill, who's playing Kassim, rock it out last week as Sky Masterson in 5th Ave's Guys and Dolls. The ensemble in this show is especially strong and they are dancing their butts off!  Get ready for some spectacular dance numbers!

Ok, complete fan question now! What’s it like to work with Alan Menken, given that he’s something of a living Disney legend?

Alan, like Casey, is full of energy and just fun to be around.  They both make the creative process feel like play time.  I was really nervous at first, but I think I've gotten a hold of it now.

What’s it like hearing the previously unreleased Howard Ashman songs brought to life, and how does to feel to be responsible for bringing them to life?
(I know you can’t comment but this is the part where I have to say I really hope Proud of Your Boy is in the show!)  

Without giving too much away, I'm "proud" to say that I get to sing some pretty great songs in the show...  I'm actually a part of 11 different numbers (with only a line or two in about half of them).  Good luck trying to figure that one out!  

There’s been a lot of talk about this show going back to Howard Ashman and Alan Menken’s original vision of Aladdin being a like a Hope and Crosby road movie with a jazz-cabaret tone. How much of a difference is there between the original classic and this production? Are the overall character arcs and motivations the same, or are we in for some surprises next month?

You are correct in that the character arcs and motivations are the same, with a few extra layers in my case.  The surprises will come in the form, function and overall tone.  I can't really say too much more on this, but I think the audience will be in for a treat.

With the changes, how much freedom have you been given in creating the character of Aladdin for stage?

Because it's a new show, I've been given a lot of freedom.  Lines, bits and blocking are changing all the time, and we're still making discoveries as we go.  It's very gratifying to have all the creatives there and the feeling of working together to find what works best.

Adam Jacobs as Simba, Photo by Joan Marcus
How does the experience of originating a role differ from taking over an established role, such as Simba in The Lion King?

Like I said above, it's extremely gratifying to be in a production from the ground up.  You're attributed a lot of freedom to create and really make something your own.   If something isn't working, there's a good chance it can be changed. 

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

Each routine for a show is different for me.  With Simba, I had 30 minutes in the make up chair during Act I to sort of meditate and get into character, followed by a set warm up routine which I had to tailor to that particular show.  Once we open this show, I'll discover what I need to do get ready for it.  I'm not terribly superstitious, but I don't like to press my luck either. You won't find me whistling backstage or anything like that.  Nobody wants to tempt fate to drop a sandbag on your head, right?

 Ok, total long shot but worth asking; do you know if there’s any chance of Disney/5th Avenue releasing a Cast Recording of this production?

I would love it, but I find it highly doubtful.  I had Cameron Mackintosh tell me once after opening night of Les Miserables on Broadway when I presented him with the same question that,  "cast albums and recordings just don't make the money they used to."   If Aladdin ever goes to Broadway then I think they would do it (and I hope I get to do it!)

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?

On my website bio (shameless plug- I talk about a show that greatly impacted me as a young adult.  I had the privilege of playing "Young Harvey" in San Francisco's documentary opera of Harvey Milk when I was 17.  I was shown how theater not only has the power to entertain and bring joy, but also to make you question and give you a different perspective on life.  That show in particular made me want to continue to work in the theater.    And of course, getting my Broadway debut in Les Miserables, and feeling that excitement coursing through my veins at the downbeat of the overture, will always be an experience I will never forget.  

Adam, thank you again for your time, it’s been a pleasure.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Oh, Ye People of Agrabah

Ok, I know it's not a direct film quote like all the other titles, but it is from the "lost" lyrics of "Prince Ali" and this article is about the new cast who are going to be bringing many of those "lost" lyrics back to life in Seattle in just a few short weeks, so it felt appropriate.

Yesterday Disney/The 5th Avenue Theatre announced the full cast for Aladdin: The New Stage Musical, I wasn't able to do a full post this morning, so this post is going to look at the cast's credits and contain photos that I missed earlier.

Adam Jacobs is Aladdin

Adam Jacobs as Aladdin, Photo by Mark Kitaoka
Adam comes to the role of Aladdin fresh from portraying another Disney favorite, Simba, in the National Tour of The Lion King (a role he will reprise on Broadway in August).  Adam first performed in a musical when he was 13, and played the role of the 13th apostle (or "wanna-be apostle" as his website biography says) in a local production of Jesus Christ Superstar.  Since then he has trained extensively and gone on to star in the National Tour and Broadway Revival of Les Miserables (as Marius), the National Tour of Mamma Mia (as Sky), and a wide variety of regional productions including his Equit debut as Nanki-Poo in Hot Mikado and the title role in Jospeh and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

Courtney Reed is Princess Jasmine

 Courtney recently finished a successful run as Carla in the Broadway production of Into the Heights (where she has also played the role of Vanessa and understudied as Nina), before which she appeared in Broadway's Mamma Mia  where she understudied as both Ali and Lisa.  Courtney has also appeared in several regional productions and has an extensive background in a variety of dance styles.

James Monroe Iglehart is Genie

James has been performing ever since he joined his high school show choir.  He originated the role of "Big Love" Bobby in Memphis the Musical back in 2004, and the show has stuck with him!  Whilst he has played other roles on and off Broadway, including Mitch Mahoney in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and the Lion in The Wiz, Memphis keeps calling him home.  He returned to the role of Bobby for short pre-Broadway runs in both San Diego and Seattle, and finally took the show to Broadway in 2009.

Jonathan Freeman is Jafar

Best known as the voice of the villainous Jafar in Disney's animated classic Aladdin, Jonathan Freeman is an extremely versatile and accomplished actor.  Though he has extensive film and television credits, outside of Aladdin, Jonathan is best know for his work on stage in musical theatre, where he has played an incredible range of roles both on and off Broadway, and in regional theatre, including his Tony Award nominated performance in She Loves Me.  Since voicing Jafar in Aladdin (as well as in the sequel The Return of Jafar and many other cartoon and video game appearances), Jonathan has appeared in several Disney Theatrical productions; Beauty and the Beast (as Cogsworth), Mary Poppins (as Admiral Boom and the Bank Chairman) and he originated the role of Grimsby in The Little Mermaid.

Don Darryl Rivera is Iago

An native of Seattle Don Darryl has been performing since he was 9 years old and entered an all city karaoke contest.  His performance led to him becoming the youngest member of an "all-star" karaoke team that toured Washington state.  He discovered his love of musical theatre when he performed in the spring musical at Bishop Blanchet High School.  He went on to attain his Bachelor of the Arts Degree from the Cornish College of the Arts in 2006 and began his internship with the Seattle Shakespeare Company in same year.  He has been performing ever since and has a wide variety of regional theatre credits ranging from Much Ado About Nothing (Verges) and A Midsummer Night's Dream (Francis Flute) to Disney's High School Musical (Ryan Evans) and The Wizard of Oz (Mayor of Munchkinland).

Sean G. Griffin as the Sultan

A veteran of the Seattle Stage, Sean was born in Ireland and moved to America with his parents in 1956.  He studied at the University of Notre Dame and has now been an actor for more than four decades, appearing on film, television, Broadway (Dancing at Lughnasa, The Queen and the Rebels, Ned and Jack, and The National Health) and most prominently in regional theatres.  His Seattle credits alone include works as varied as The Taming Shrew, The Devil and Daniel Webster, The Secret Garden, Yankee Doodle Dandy, My Fair Lady, and many more!  He is also a painter.

Andrew Keenan-Bolger as Omar

Andrew has recently appeared as Robertson Ay both on Broadway and in the National Tour of Mary Poppins.  Proving he is no stranger to Disney musicals, he has also starred as Chip in Beauty and the Beast, provided the singing voice of Chip in the animated movie Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas, and read the role of Crutchy in the Newsies workshop.  He also read the role of Omar at the original workshop for Aladdin: The New Stage Musical last year.  His other credits include Jojo in Seussical on Broadway, The Little Boy in the National Tour of Ragtime, and Torchy in the regional production of It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's Superman! at the Dallas Theatre Centre.

Brian Gonzales as Babkak

Brian recently appeared on Broadway and in the National Tour of Shrek: The Musical in a variety of roles and as the understudy Shrek.  He also appeared in the Broadway production and National Tour of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee in the roles of Barfee, Panch and Coneybear.  He has performed in many regional productions, including Lyric Stage's Fiorello!, Water Tower Theatre's Laughter on the 23rd Floor, and in Plano's PFamily Arts production of I Do!  I Do!

Brandon O'Neill as Kassim

Brandon O'Neill is a regular at the 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle, where his numerous credits include Guys and Dolls (Sky Masterson), Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (Asher), Cabaret (Helmut), Buddy (Ritchie Valens) and Miss Saigon (Thuy).  He has also appeared in several other regional productions and on film, including 2011's The Hit List.

That completes the core cast, but just as important are the ensemble of Tia Altinay, Kristin Culp, Nick DeSantis, Ronald Duncan, C.J. Eldred, Daisy Hobbs, David Janett, Kenway Hon Wai K. Kua, Nikki Long, Stanley Martin, Creighton Oliver, Shanna Marie Palmer, Bobby Pestka, Connor Russell, Manuel Santos, Allysa Shorte, Daniel J. Watts and Matt Wolfe, without whom this production would not be possible.  I'm sure many of them will go on to leading roles themselves in the near future.

Music is by the legendary Alan Menken, with lyrics by the late Howard Ashman and Tim Rice.  Additional lyrics are by Alan Menken and Chad Beguelin.

Aladdin: The New Stage Musical is directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw from a book by Chad Beguelin.  Production designers include  designer Anna Louizos, costume designer Greg Barnes, lighting designer Natasha Katz and musical supervisor Michael Kosarin.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Welcome to Agrabah!

The cast of Aladdin: The New Stage Musical has finally been announced at Playbill.  Head on over for the full article.

The cast includes the previously announced Adam Jacobs as Aladdin, James Monroe Iglehart as Genie and Jonathan Freeman as Jafar.  Courtney Reed is finally confirmed as Princess Jasmine.

Rounding out the cast is Don Darryl Rivera as Iago, Sean G. Griffin as the Sultan, Andrew Keenan-Bolger as Omar, Brian Gonzales as Babkak and Brandon O'Neill as Kassim.

The ensemble features Tia Altinay, Kristin Culp, Nick DeSantis, Ronald Duncan, C.J. Eldred, Daisy Hobbs, David Janett, Kenway Hon Wai K. Kua, Nikki Long, Stanley Martin, Creighton Oliver, Shanna Marie Palmer, Bobby Pestka, Connor Russell, Manuel Santos, Allysa Shorte, Daniel J. Watts and Matt Wolfe.

Sorry this is so brief (I've got to get ready for work), but I'll be back tonight with more details and pictures of the cast.