A year ago tonight at The 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle, Aladdin: The New Stage Musical officially opened following two weeks of previews. To celebrate the show's first anniversary I'm very happy to present a series of reflections on the show by those involved with it.
Some of these are taken from previous interviews as I have not been able to reach everyone (and this piece was done with fairly short notice, so it is possible a few new contributions will be added in the near future) but there are also new reflections that the cast and writer have kindly contributed especially for the show's first anniversary.
"Well it has to be something that appeals to me and appeals to the storytelling of it, the script has to be good, smart, or even if the script isn’t good to start with it needs to have an idea that I feel like I latch on to, because sometimes you go ‘this is not the show for me’ and, you know, someone could do it better, you know, if I’m not the person for it, I’m not the person for it, you know. So there’s certain ones that I just totally respond to and when Aladdin came my way I thought ‘oh my gosh, I would love to do this’."
Director Casey Nicholaw on The JMI Show on what he looks for in a script/why he chose Aladdin.
|Adam Jacobs as Aladdin, Photo by Chris Bennion|
Adam Jacobs (Aladdin)
|Adam Jacobs as Aladdin and Courtney Reed as Jasmine, Photo by Mark Kitaoka|
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 inspired...my job is done."
Courtney Reed on her favorite moments of Aladdin and the rewards of playing Jasmine.
"I can honestly say Aladdin was one of the best times I have ever had in a show! Not only did I get to act a fool with my dear friends (Daniel J. Watts & Brian Gonzales), I made some new friends to act a fool with namely Brandon O'neill, Adam Jacobs, Courtney Reed, Don Darryl Rivera, Andrew Keenan-Bolger, & Jonathan Freeman. Also working with Casey Nickolaw was a blast!
This cast was just so much fun to work with! They also let me get away with all kinds of things. They would challenge me to make up new stuff on stage & I love improv so I just had a field day on stage coming up with new bits. My favorite was the last day of the show when I decided, with some egging on from DDR (Don Darryl who played Iago), to play with the sign language interpreters! I walked up behind them & just started saying stuff & watching them have to sign whatever I said! The audience was going crazy & poor Adam had to hold it together & do his best not to break! It was a classic moment that will stay with me forever!
My dream as a kid was to work with the Disney company & I got to and I will never forget what a wonderful time I had!"
James Monroe Iglehart (Genie)
|Adam Jacobs as Aladdin and James Monroe Iglehart as Genie, Photo by Chris Bennion|
"There is a small treasure trove of Howard Ashman's material here, and I feel a responsibility to bring every song we wrote to fruition if I can because he was ... just the best, you know? I've had so many wonderful collaborators, but there was only one Howard Ashman. I think people are going to love the material in here."
Alan Menken on the music in Aladdin when interviewed by Talkin’ Broadway.
"It’s been a great treat to do it, it’s a fantastic company, the 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle is a wonderful place to work and Seattle is just a wonderful place to be ... I feel sure that something will happen with Aladdin, I don’t where, I mean you know there’s a lot of possibilities it could be it’s decided to take it on a big national tour or they could decide to do it internationally first, which Disney has been doing with some of their shows. Certainly I would say, I’m guessing but I think I’m guessing right, most people involved with this particular production would love to see it go to Broadway. I think it would be very successful judging from the audience here and just listening to the show every night, it’s just a great show, it moves very quickly, it just moves and it engages the audience instantly, this particular version of it, and they go right along for the ride. It’s just been a great experience."
Jonathan Freeman (Jafar) on his time in Aladdin in an interview with Inside the Magic.
|Sean Griffin (Sultan), Don Darryl Rivera (Iago) and Jonathan Freeman (Jafar), Photo by 5th Avenue|
"I can’t believe it’s already been a year since Aladdin made its world premiere in Seattle! Aladdin for me will always have a special place in my heart (being a huuuge Disney nerd and it being one of my favorite films ever!) because so many wonderful memories were made during the course of putting the show together. One memory that stands out in particular was when the Sunshine Kids came to visit our show. The Sunshine Kids is an American non-profit organization dedicated to children with cancer. They provide positive group activities and emotional support for young cancer patients – of course, free of charge. The kids ranged from toddlers to teenagers and just the happiness they exuded from seeing our show and meeting us in costume moved me to tears. I was happy to see that they could get whisked away for 2 and a half hours to enjoy the magic of theatre and the magic of Aladdin. I still have the little Sunshine pin they gave me that night.
Thanks for letting me share this special memory from Aladdin!"
A creepy little thing,
Don Darryl Rivera (Iago)
"I feel like this production is a valentine to Howard from Alan. Of course, Alan has much here to showcase himself and Proud of Your Boy stops the show – it’s just a magnificent blend of words and music. In the days when Broadway (or whatever) shows created standards – this would be a standard for sure."
Sarah Ashman Gillespie in her review of Aladdin at Part of His World.
|Sean Griffin as Sultan and Courtney Reed as Jasmine, Photo by Mark Kitaoka|
"i dont know what is happening with the future of Aladdin...if by chance something does happen in the future i would love to be involved if they still want me...all is well here in seattle...i continue to work on some workshop projects of new plays, baby sit the grandkids and volunteer at a hospice for kids at risk...and of course paint...my memories of the Aladdin experience were and still are very happy ones...i had the greatest time working with all under casey nicholaw's direction...he is special...hadn't that much fun in a long time and got paid too...working at the 5th ave is always fun and since my wife bernie runs it that is just an extra added enjoyment...also working with all the Disney people was a joy...hope this finds you well and happy"
Sean Griffin (Sultan)
"Creating a new character in a well loved story means you always have to keep the story and tone of the world of the play in mind when making your choices. But otherwise, I found great creative freedom in adding depth to what was already written for Kassim. This sense of freedom to create was most definitely nurtured by the director- Casey Nicholaw and Chad Beguelin, the writer. They dared us to come up with new and funny material. It was also vital that the trio had chemistry. It turned out to be a match made in heaven. Brian Gonzales (Babkak) is one of the funniest and bravest actors I've ever worked with and Andrew Keenan Bolger (Omar) simply emits light and talent everywhere he goes. We became inseparable and relied heavily on one another. A great trust and love was developed over the weeks and we would back each other up with our crazy, stupid ideas. Some of them are permanently written into the script! "STREET RATS ON 3...""
Brandon O’Neill (Kassim) on creating new characters for a classic story.
|Brian Gonzales (Babkak), James Monroe Iglehart (Genie), Andrew Keenan-Bolger (Omar), Adam Jacobs (Aladdin) and Brandon O'Neill (Kassim), Photo by Chris Bennion|
"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."
Andrew Keenan-Bolger (Omar) on the most rewarding and challenging part of Aladdin.
"My favorite memory from Aladdin the Musical is the day of the sitzprobe. It's the first time everyone gets to hear the orchestra and the singers together for the first time. Since there were new orchestrations, everyone was excited to hear the score. The minute the orchestra began to play, I burst into tears. There was just something so moving about it. I know it was very special for Alan, too. He got to hear all of those wonderful songs that he and Howard wrote come to life again. The director, Casey Nicholaw, was about as tear soaked as I was by the time it was over. It was a really great day and one that I'll never forget.
Chad Beguelin (Lyricist and Book Writer)