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.
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 regions...one 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 out...so 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 exhilerating...fun 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 them...so 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 performance...as 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 Lady...to 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 collections...one 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