Tuesday, 31 May 2011

You've Never Had a Friend Like Me!

James Monroe Iglehart is to play the Genie in Aladdin: The New Stage Musical.  Whilst I've been unable to find any "official" confirmation, there have been several messages on the official Memphis the Musical facebook page wishing James luck in his new role, so I'm pretty confident that the reports of his casting are correct.

I've been unable to find any other official confirmations for the casting rumours but Courtney Reed's website has some nice pictures from the workshop reading, which identify Ben Thompson as a possible Kassim and Ben Jeffrey as a possible Babkak.

After the last few weeks of silence I'm expecting news to start flowing pretty quickly from now until the show opens in just over a month!  Stay tuned, hopefully more news will follow before the end of the week!  That's it for tonight, my best wishes and congratulations go to Adam and James on their casting, and to all those who have not yet been confirmed!

Tonight the Part of Al will be Played By...

Adam Jacobs!

Fresh from The Lion King National Tour where he starred as Simba (a role he'll reprise on Broadway in August), Adam Jacobs will play the title role of Aladdin in Aladdin: The New Stage Musical!

Announced on his website yesterday;

"Adam is currently rehearsing for the world premiere of Aladdin as the title character at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theater! Show runs 7/7 through 7/31."

More casting news will hopefully follow shortly.  I've read on Broadway World's message boards that Courtney Reed will play Princess Jasmine, James Monroe Iglehart will play the Genie and Andrew Kennan-Bolger is said to be involved as well, he is reported as having read for Omar in the 2010 workshops.

I'll keep searching for confirmations and hope to post more later.  But right now, we have our star!

Sunday, 15 May 2011

A Diamond in the Rough

Welcome back! This post is going to look at all of the (released) unused musical material that could be premiering on the Seattle stage in less than two months! Most of these songs come from the fantastic collection The Music Behind the Magic, but there’s also an entry from the theme park stage show Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular (which Chad also wrote!) and the amazing Howard Sings Ashman (again, highly recommended to any Aladdin, Disney or musical fan). Now, I know that Chad and the rest of the team behind the upcoming show had access to far more material than this (as well as Alan Menken and all of his experience, knowledge, and material that hasn’t been released to the public), but the released songs, in the form of work tapes, demos and unreleased masters, certainly give us a good starting point for what to expect in July.

Arabian Nights (Original Lyrics)
A really nice extended version of the introductory song. The song was originally cut down because parts were deemed to be too offensive, so I doubt we’ll see all of the original lyrics in Seattle. However, there are plenty of lyrics that weren’t in the film version of the song (some of which eventually became the opening song for The Return of Jafar and Aladdin: The Series) so I’m pretty much 100% certain that we’ll get an extended version of "Arabian Nights" when the show opens.

Babkak, Omar, Aladdin, Kassim
Replaced by One Jump Ahead in the animated classic when the story was re-worked and Aladdin’s friends removed. This song acts as an introduction to their quartet and will almost certainly be reinstated into the story for the new show.

Count on Me
Written by Alan Menken after Howard Ashman's passing, before he partnered with Tim Rice to finish the songs for the film.  It's a really nice "I want" song for Aladdin, but I don't expect to see it brought to life in Seattle.  Since this show is looking to re-introduce the lost Ashman/Menken songs, I'm expecting "Proud of Your Boy" to be the main solo for Aladdin.

Arabian Nights Reprise 1
In the original version of Aladdin, the Narrator played a much larger role, with small interludes to move the story along. This first reprise is a really nice introduction for Jafar. I’m not sure how the story will progress in the show, but I’d say there were reasonable odds of the "Arabian Nights Reprises" being reinstated in some form, probably with new or re-worked lyrics.

Call Me a Princess
This is actually a great song in the right hands (just listen Kerry Butler sing it on her Disneyland CD), but there’s no way that it’ll appear in the Seattle show. This is from the original version of the story where the princess was a spoilt brat and Aladdin’s true love was Abby, and Chad confirmed in his interview with Jim Hill that Abby was not going to be re-introduced and they were keeping Aladdin and Jasmine’s love story faithful to the animated classic.

To Be Free (A Musical Spectacular)
Written by Alan Menken for Princess Jasmine to sing in Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular, Chad was a bit cagey when Jim Hill asked him about this song, so it’s possible that it won’t be in the show. The music the song is set to (also called To Be Free) was more associated with Genie in the animated classic, so there’s a good chance that if this particular song doesn’t make the cut, then Genie may get a song of the same name and Jasmine will get a new song.
If this song is used in the show, then I’d expect it either just before "A Whole New World" (like in A Musical Spectacular) or after the Sultan and Jasmine argue and she says she doesn’t want to be a princess anymore before releasing the birds (or an equivalent new scene).

Why Me
A wonderful Jafar song by Alan Menken and Tim Rice. This song was written for Jafar’s triumphant moment when the gets the lamp and exposes Prince Ali, but it was ultimately replaced by "Prince Ali Reprise" as it was felt that it was too late in the film to be introducing completely new songs and musical themes. However, Aladdin Jr. uses an abridged version of the song earlier in the story (around the time he uses the sands of time to track down Aladdin I’d imagine, but I’m not sure as I’ve never seen Aladdin Jr.), so it is possible that the same could happen in the Seattle show. I’d actually say there’s pretty good odds of this happening. Jafar does need another song, especially with Jonathan Freeman back in the role, and he sounds great in the unreleased master track on The Music Behind the Magic. If it does happen then I imagine it would be revised and extended for Seattle.

Arabian Nights Reprise 2/Arabian Nights Reprise 3
In the original version the first of these takes place when Jafar (disguised as Aladdin’s uncle like in the original Arabian Nights take) leads Aladdin to the Cave of Wonders, and the second takes place later in the story, when Aladdin is in jail. I’m trying to go through these songs in what would roughly be film order which is why I’ve placed them both together here. Obviously in Seattle they would be spread more evenly through out the show and have re-worked lyrics to fit the combined story elements that make up the new show.

Proud of Your Boy
I don’t think there’s any doubt that this will be in the show. In fact, I’d imagine that it’s one of the main reasons they’ve gone back to the original Howard Ashman concept of Aladdin. You only have to watch the Aladdin Special Edition DVD to see how important this song was to Howard, Alan and pretty much everyone involved in making Aladdin. It’s a beautiful song, possibly the best Ashman/Menken song, and it’s the main reason I’m so upset that I can’t be in Seattle to see it come alive on stage. If Disney need ANY reason to do a Cast Recording for this show (as if money and Jonathan Freeman returning aren’t enough) then this song is it.

Prince Ali (Demo Version - Extended Intro)
Like "Friend Like Me" there are some slight lyric differences to the demo version of "Prince Ali" and it’s sung in a different style (which Chad confirmed is the direction they’re taking with Aladdin: The New Stage Musical), but the main difference is the demo version of "Prince Ali" features an extended introduction. And yes, I’m pretty certain it’ll be in there. In fact I can already see it in my mind’s eye, opening Act 2 as the procession moves across stage and through the audience to announce the arrival of Prince Ali.

How Quick They Forget
A nice song for Aladdin’s friends as they reflect on how he’s ignored them since finding the lamp and (in this version at least) becoming a prince. Since they’ve gone to the trouble of including Babkak, Omar and Kassim this song is pretty much a certainty.

Humiliate the Boy
Howard Ashman and Alan Menken’s attempt at a song for Jafar. Like the Menken and Rice effort "Why Me" this was ultimately replaced by "Prince Ali Reprise". Now in his interview with Jim Hill, Chad only confirmed the original five songs would be included ("Arabian Nights", "One Jump Ahead", "Friend Like Me", "Prince Ali" and "A Whole New World") so I guess on a technicality you could say there’s a chance that this will replace "Prince Ali Reprise" so they can get in as many Howard Ashman songs as possible, but I honestly don’t see it happening. I don’t have a problem with it happening (I actually think it would be quite nice) but I think any song from the film, reprise or not, is guaranteed to be in there, which means there’s no place for "Humiliate the Boy".

High Adventure
After "Proud of Your Boy" this is probably my favourite song in The Music Behind the Magic collection. It’s a rousing piece of Aladdin and his friends going off to battle to defeat Jafar and rescue Jasmine. It’ll need to be re-worked for Seattle as the demo features the Genie of the Ring, who Chad confirmed has been cut from the story again, but I’d be very disappointed if the whole song got cut. This song could have some great staging and I imagine it will be a real treat to see it come alive in Seattle.

Arabian Nights Reprise 4/Finale
The original ending for Aladdin is what we eventually got in Aladdin and the King of Thieves, except in Aladdin it was going to be revealed that the Narrator was the Genie. I don’t know if the Narrator will be the Genie (cool as that would be), but I’m pretty certain that the show will end with the film’s brief reprise of "A Whole New World". However, this reprise could easily follow that or maybe after the bows? I know some shows repeat parts of the last reprise after everyone has bowed (The Little Mermaid being one example) and it would be great for "Well salaam worthy friend, come back soon that’s the end, till another Arabian Night" to end the show.

Well that just about covers all of the deleted/additional material that has been publicly released. Hopefully we’ll hear some casting news very shortly as rehearsals are meant to be starting this month. Till next time!

Friday, 13 May 2011

That Fez and Vest Combo is much too Third Century

They say a picture speaks a thousand words, well if you'll excuse the (shockingly bad) pun, these speak a thousand and one!

The (Edit - Source/Link Removed) has discovered costume sketches for the upcoming Aladdin: The New Stage Musical.  They're originally from (Edit - Source Removed), but whilst they're still on their servers, the article/picture viewer appears to have been taken down.  Now, they're still pretty easily found around the net so I think I'm ok to post them here, but if anyone from Disney or 5th Avenue asks, I will take them down.

I'll let the pictures talk for themselves so here we go;

Edited: At the request of The 5th Avenue Theatre I have removed the costume sketches.  However, they have very kindly added me to their press mailing list and have provided me with the first official picture of Adam Jacobs as Aladdin which I'll post later tonight when I do an updated post on the full cast.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

To Make a Prince

Ok, here's the first of two "catch up" posts I'll be doing this week.  Credit goes to Aladdin Central for the find.

Back towards the end of March Jim Hill Media conducted an interview with Chad Beguelin, the writer of Aladdin: The New Stage Musical.  The full interview can be found here.

There are lots of great little facts in the article (like the fact that Chad decided he wanted to be a writer after seeing the original Off-Broadway production of Ashman and Menken's Little Shop of Horrors) and it's well worth a read.

It's interesting to note that Disney Theatrical first approached Chad to do a direct adaptation of the animated classic, and that it was Alan Menken who then suggested that they go back and incorporate some of the cut Howard Ashman songs.  I'm really glad that he did because some of those "lost" songs are truely amazing and it will be wonderful to see Howard's legacy continue to grow on stage.  The 2004 Aladdin DVD features some of them, but I'd highly recommend trying to track down the 4 disc CD set of The Music Behind the Magic which features a fantastic selection of work tapes, demos and unreleased masters for all three of Ashman and Menken's Disney classics.  The fourth disc in particular offers a wonderful glimpse of what might be on stage in Seattle come July.

As the casting notices confirmed, the previously cut characters of Aladdin's three friends (Babkak, Omar and Kassim) have been worked back into the story, whilst the Genie will be more like the Fats Waller/Cab Calloway type character originally envisioned instead of trying to get someone to impersonate Robin Williams.  Overall this will serve to restore the Hope and Crosby "Road" movie feel that Howard Ashman origianlly wanted for the animated classic.

One character who isn't making a return is Abby.  Never heard of her?  Don't worry, I'd be surprised if anyone outside of those involved with the film had heard of her before this interview.  In the original version, the princess was to be a spoilt brat (as the cut song "Call Me a Princess" shows).  This much was revealed in the book that came with The Music Behind the Magic CD set, but according to this interview, in the original story Aladdin, is true love was to be Abby, another diamond in the rough from the market place!!  Well as you can imagine, that element isn't returning, and Aladdin and Jasmine's romance will be as true as it was in the film.

There's loads more including a spoiler (if you can call it that when the film is getting on for 20 years old) regarding the end of the first act, so do yourself a favor and check it out at the link above!

Rehearsals are due to start this month according to the interview, so hopefully we'll hear a full cast announcement sooner rather than later, and I'll be back in a day or two with the second big bit of news I missed whilst I was gone.

Edit: My sincere apologies for initially calling Chad Beguelin the director of Aladdin: The New Stage Musical, he is of course the writer.  I've corrected it now!

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Jafar, Jafar, He's Our Man!!

First the big news, then an apology.


Playbill reported on Friday that Tony Award Nominee Jonathan Freeman will once again bring the classic Disney Villain to life in Aladdin: The New Stage Musical.

For those of you who don't know (and I can't imagine that would be any of you!) Jonathan Freeman voiced Jafar in the 1992 animated classic and again in the direct to video sequel The Return of Jafar.  He has since had roles in the Broadway adaptations of Ashman and Menken's other Disney classics Beauty and the Beast, where he played Cogsworth, and The Little Mermaid, where he originated the role of Grimsby.  To my knowledge this is the first time an actor from the original animated classic has reprised the role on stage!

I was fortunate enough to see Jonathan Freeman in The Little Mermaid when it opened in Denver.  I actually joked at stage door with him that he'd now had roles in all 3 of Ashman and Menken's Disney musicals, and if they ever did Aladdin for Broadway he could go full circle.  When the casting calls omitted the role of Jafar I suspected that was because it had already been cast, or at least offered to someone, but I never dreamed I'd actually get my wish of Jonathan Freeman coming back to the role!

They had better put this thing on DVD/Blu-Ray if they're not taking it to Broadway!!  Those of you that are going are in for a really magical event!

The Playbill article also reveals that the official opening night is set for 21st July (1 day after my birthday incidentally).  More casting is expected shortly.

Now for the apology I promised earlier.  I can't believe I haven't posted anything since January!  The time has just flown and I'm sincerely sorry for that, and extremely grateful to those of you who still come here and check for updates.  I've been so caught up in preparing for my wedding (just under 10 weeks to go now... "A Whole New World" is going to be the first dance, naturally) that I've neglected this blog and the lack of news made that easier to do when I should have been doing opinion pieces to make up for that.

It won't happen again.  This week I'll catch up with some of the news I've missed and next weekend I'll have an opinion piece on all the potential "new" songs that could go into the show and what I think their chances are of making it to the stage.  But for now lets just celebrate the return of Jonathan Freeman as Jafar!