Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Wishing You a Magical New Year

Adam Jacobs, Courtney Reed and James Monroe Iglehart as Aladdin, Jasmine and Genie

What an amazing year it's been!  Over twenty years after it was released in cinemas and three years after it's stage debut in Seattle, Aladdin finally premiered on Broadway with a dream cast who have been making wishes come true eight times a week since the show opened in February.

Tonight they will be in New York's Times Square to help make more wishes come true as the clock strikes 12, the ball drops and confetti wishes fill the air.  And if you want a little sneak peak at the magic make sure you check out the show's official Facebook page where you can see a video of the confetti test at the New Amsterdam Theatre earlier this week!

And you can watch the main event right here from 6pm EST until 12:15am EST

Have a fantastic night everyone.  Here's wishing you all a magical 2015!

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Merry Christmas!

James Monroe Iglehart as Genie, Original Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann

Merry Christmas everyone, may all your wishes come true!

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Welcome to Agrabah - Steel Burkhardt Makes His Debut as Kassim

Tonight Steel Burkhardt will make his debut as Kassim in Aladdin on Broadway at the New Amsterdam Theatre.

Good luck Steel!  Have a great first night, I wish you all the best for a successful run as Kassim.

Broadway News Round Up 26

James Monroe Iglehart as Genie, Original Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann

Well here we are, the final news round up before Christmas!

Firstly, sorry for not posting a round up last weekend.  I was working on something Aladdin related though and I hope to be able to share it with you all very soon.  Oh, and make sure you go and vote for James Monroe Iglehart as's Star of the Year!

Now that's out of the way, let's get in the festive mood with some more Christmas carols with an Agrabah twist from the one and only James Monroe Iglehart!  You can see the video's on Aladdin's official Facebook page here and here!  And speaking of festive, James also took part in the 7th annual Joe Iconis Christmas Spectacular at 54 Below last Friday.  I wish I could have seen that!

Staying with the festivities for a moment, Theater Pizzazz has a positive review for Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol which featured Don Darryl Rivera as the Ghost of Christmas Past.  Another one I wish I could have seen!  But at least has a few photos.

If you want to help make someone's wish come true this Christmas then take a moment to look at San Mateo High School's Dancers IndieGoGo page where they are trying to raise money to take the students to New York to see 3 shows and learn from Broadway stars (including Aladdin with an after show talkback and a private dance class) and at this GoFundMe page to help Andrew go on his school trip to see the show.

In the last news round up I told you that Adam Jacobs and James Monroe Iglehart were going to be featured on The View, well now that special medley can be viewed online!  Make sure you check it out right here!

And speaking of Adam Jacobs, you can see an exclusive video interview with him at the CYT blog!

Last weekend was a big one for Disney Theatrical with ABC's presentation of Backstage with Disney on Broadway: Celebrating 20 Years.  To get in the mood Disney posted a special performance by VoicePlay on their YouTube channel and on all their musical's Facebook pages;

Awesome performance and I love that they even included some of the cut Arabian Nights lyrics at the end!

There was plenty to love during the special but the highlight for any Aladdin fan had to be a special backstage look at the show stopping Friend Like MeGlee's Darren Criss has never made any secret of his love for Disney and during the show he finally got to sing for them (and make his mother proud) as he sang his interpretation of Proud of Your Boy;

Normally I wouldn't post a link to the full show, but this was tweeted by Lebo M so I guess it's ok to share!  So if you couldn't see it the first time or just want to watch it again, enjoy 20 Years of Disney on Broadway!

Broadway World have photos from James Monroe Iglehart's appearance earlier this month at 54 Below's Don't Quit Your Night Job.

On Monday 8th December Aladdin's Brian Gonzales and his wife took part in Dallas' 4th annual Sugar Cookie Gala to raise money for Gideon's Feet, a non-profit organisation that supports artists in need, founded in memory of their first son.  A silent auction at the gala featured paper snowflakes created by Brian's cast mate, Don Darryl Rivera, and signed stars such as James Monroe Iglehart, Idina Menzel and the legendary Disney composer Richard Sherman.

Aladdin's Daisy Hobbs will be making her NYC solo concert debut next month in Here, An Evening of Song on Sunday 11th January at Stage 72 at The Triad (158 West 72nd Street).  Daisy has been with Aladdin since the original Pilot Production in Seattle and her concert will feature everything from Sondheim to pop music and even have some original material as well.  And if that's not enough you even get Aladdin's Jaz Sealey on guitar (you all remember his wonderful backing music to JMI's I Dream of Genie vlog right?).  Tickets are $20 (plus 2 drink minimum) and are available now from Brown Paper Tickets.  You can find out more about Daisy at her website.

This month Aladdin's Broadway home, the New Amsterdam Theatre, played host to the annual Gypsy of the Year event and Broadway World has the photos including James Monroe Iglehart on stage with Seth Rudetsky and a picture of the Aladdin cast's performance.

Ok, it's that time of year when everyone starts to look back at the year that was and Aladdin on Broadway has made a few of the lists!  Aladdin has flown a magic carpet right to the top of's "Best 5 Shows of 2014" (and also makes their "Top 5 Shows Kids Will Go Wild For") whilst The Associated Press has Aladdin in their "Top 10 Theater of 2014" and USA Today calls James Monroe Iglehart "Mr. Genie-ality" in their "The Best of Broadway in 2014"!

As well as looking back, it's also a time to look forward.  Have you made your New Year's Wish yet?

Finally, these last two pieces aren't really about Aladdin or even Disney but it's been announced that Aladdin's Director/Choreographer Casey Nicholaw's newest musical Something Rotten! will be skipping it's 5th Avenue debut and going straight to Broadway and that composer Alan Menken is working on a musical adaptation of 1994 film Corrina, Corrina for the stage.  Congratulations Casey!  And it's always good to hear about a new Menken musical!!

And speaking of new Menken musicals...

Well, I guess this is the final The Hunchback of Notre Dame update I'll be doing until the show begins its run at the Papermill Playhouse in March.  It sounds like it's been a rousing success with both critics and audiences so I can't wait to see it for myself next year!  Until then, here's a final round up of all the news from the La Jolla Playhouse's US Premiere Production.

Up Magazine listed Hunchback as one of the "5 Things We Love This December".

Blouin Artinfo looks at the show in a piece looking at the "freak shows" this season, calling Hunchback "an audience pleaser" that "has the potential to be a hit".

Buzz Feed gives the perfect review to end this run of the show on, saying that "those who attend the Hunchback musical hoping to see the Disney film onstage will be sorely disappointed" but "this is Hunchback as it was meant to be experienced."

And a bit of Aladdin related news, during the show's final week Samantha Massell (who played Jasmine in The Muny's production of Aladdin) went on as Esmeralda and from the fan reactions on Twitter she totally nailed it.  Well done Sam!  And remember, before returning to Notre Dame for the Papermill's run, Samantha will be in A Very Broadway Holiday at 54 Below on 30th December, so get your tickets now!

And that's it for The Hunchback of Notre Dame.  Next stop the Papermill Playhouse!

Merry Christmas everyone, may all your Christmas wishes come true.

Salaam Worthy Friend - Brandon O'Neill Says Goodbye to Aladdin

Brandon O'Neill with Brian Gonzales & Jonathan Schwartz as Kassim, Babkak & Omar, Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann

Today is Brandon O'Neill's final adventure in Agrabah.  Having originated the role for both Seattle and Broadway, Brandon will take his final bow as Kassim this afternoon at the New Amsterdam Theatre.

Good luck Brandon, and thanks for all the high adventures.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Don't Miss ABC's 20th Anniversary Special Tonight!

If you live in America then make sure you don't miss tonight's special Backstage with Disney on Broadway: Celebrating 20 Years on ABC at 7pm EST.  And to get you in the mood Entertainment Weekly have a special preview of Glee's Darren Criss singing Aladdin's Proud of Your Boy.

Hosted by Jesse Tyler this hour long celebration will take you from 1994's Beauty and the Beast to 2014's Aladdin and feature performances by Elton John, Mary Poppins' Ashley Brown and Aladdin's own Adam Jacobs as well as taking you back stage during the show stopping extravaganza that is Friend Like Me.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Last Chance to See La Jolla's Hunchback of Notre Dame

Just a quick reminder, this weekend is your last chance to see the critically acclaimed US Premiere production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame at the La Jolla Playhouse.  If you like musical theatre and you are in the San Diego area this weekend then you owe it yourself to see this show!

Tickets (the few that are left anyway) are available from the La Jolla's website.

To all the cast and crew, congratulations on a fantastic run, have an amazing last weekend!  Can't wait to see you all at the Paper Mill next year!

Friday, 12 December 2014

Steel Burkhardt is Aladdin's New Kassim

Disney Theatrical announced this week that Steel Burkhardt is to return to Broadway as Aladdin's new Kassim.

Steel is a graduate of Baldwin Wallace and most recently starred in this year's off-Broadway production of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing.  He last appeared on Broadway as Berger in the 2011 revival of Hair (a role he had previously played in London's West End and on the US National Tour) and other stage credits include Murder Ballad, Guys and Dolls, Kiss Me Kate and Jesus Christ Superstar.

Steel will take his first bow as Kassim on Monday December 22nd 2014.

Congratulations Steel, and welcome to the Aladdin family!  I wish you a long and happy run in Aladdin and look forward to seeing you bring Kassim to life when I see the show again next year.

Brandon O'Neill to Take His Final Bow as Kassim

Brandon O'Neill, Brian Gonzales & Jonathan Schwartz as Kassim, Babkak & Omar, Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann

This week Disney Theatrical announced that on Sunday 21st December Brandon O'Neill would take his final bow as Kassim in Aladdin on Broadway.

Brandon has been a part of the Aladdin family since the show's pilot production at The 5th Avenue Theatre in his native Seattle back in 2011.  Already cast as Sky Masterson in 5th Avenue's Guys and Dolls, Brandon was initially unavailable to audition for Aladdin but after being the reader in auditions the casting team liked what they saw and asked Brandon to audition for the show.  Scheduling conflicts were worked out and the rest, as they say, is history.

If you have chance to see Brandon in Aladdin before he leaves then make sure you take it!  December 21st is the last time you will see the complete original Broadway cast of Aladdin and I promise you that it's an experience you'll never forget!

I just want to say a big thank you to Brandon for everything he did for the show, taking the concept of Kassim and, with the creative team and his fellow cast members, turning him into a fully realised character and bringing him to life on stage every night.  On a personal note I also want to say thank you for your support these last few years, it's meant a lot.

Brandon, I hope you enjoy your final nights in Agrabah and wish you all the best for your future career.  Keep making some magic!

Brandon O'Neill with Brian Gonzales, James Monroe Iglehart, Andrew Keenan-Bolger and Adam Jacobs in the 5th Avenue's Pilot Production of Aladdin, Photo by Chris Bennion

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Broadway News Round Up 25

Jonathan Freeman as Jafar, Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann or Deen Van Meer

Welcome to another news round up for Disney's Aladdin on Broadway!  I'm aware that I've not done one of these for a while so there's a lot to catch up on, but first something to get you all in the festive mood since we've reached December!  Here's James Monroe Iglehart putting an Agrabah twist a Christmas classic.  And after Thanksgiving Disney Theatrical certainly have a lot to be thankful for as both Aladdin and The Lion King broke house records again during Broadway's highest-grossing Thanksgiving weekend in historyAladdin pulled in $1,759,955 as it broke the New Amsterdam's house record for the third time (or is it fourth now?  I've honestly lost track!)

On December 14th Disney are celebrating 20 Years on Broadway with an hour long Backstage with Disney on Broadway: Celebrating 20 Years special on ABC.  The event will be hosted by Jesse Tyler Ferguson and feature performances from Elton John, Mary Poppins' Ashley Brown and Aladdin himself, Adam Jacobs.  The special will take you into the rehearsal room with The Lion King, to opening night with Newsies and backstage during Aladdin's "Friend Like Me" so it's definitely a show that you don't want to miss!

But before that Broadway World is reporting that Adam Jacobs and James Monroe Iglehart will be on The View this Tuesday morning (9th December) so make sure to check it out!

Continuing the 20th anniversary celebrations of Disney Theatrical NY1 News went behind the scenes at Aladdin to speak with Adam Jacobs, Courtney Reed, James Monroe Iglehart and Jonathan Freeman.  They also spent time with the touring cast of Newsies attended the opening night of The Hunchback of Notre Dame in San Diego and spoke with the head of Disney Theatrical, Thomas Schumacher.

On Thursday 11th December James Monroe Iglehart will be joining other Broadway stars at 54 Below for the Don't Quit Your Night Job Holiday Spectacular where Broadway and improve meet... and make out.  Tickets are on sale now so don't miss out!  And that's not all!  James will be back at 54 Below on 19th January as part of song writer Scott Alan's 54 Below debut.

Continuing the tradition of Aladdin cast members supporting good causes, Adam Kaokept recently spent time helping Broadway Serves at the NYC Rescue Mission's Thanksgiving Banquet.  Well done Adam!

James Monroe Iglehart talks to NYC City Guide about Aladdin and picking his targets in the audience!

Joshua Dela Cruz talks with The Jersey Tomato Press about his High Adventures in Aladdin.

Aladdin's Michael James Scott is taking part in King of Glory, the annual Christmas concert of the Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church in Florida on Friday 12th December.

Broadway World has photos of some of Aladdin's cast members at the Broadway Dream's Foundation's Night of Dreams gala.

The Burlington County Times (a New Jersey community newspaper) has a new review of the show. (subscription required)

Broadway World reports that Aladdin's Bud Weber is taking part in an industry reading of Sing Me Home (and also give an email address where you can request complimentary tickets!)

The New Amsterdam Theatre will be host to the 26th annual Gypsy of the Year on Monday 8th December (4:30pm EST) and Tuesday 9th December (2pm EST) which will celebrate the 40th anniversary of The Wiz.  The show will feature special appearances by a number of Broadway stars, including Aladdin's James Monroe Iglehart, and the panel of judges includes Aladdin and Jasmine themselves, Adam Jacobs and Courtney Reed.

Adam Jacobs and James Monroe Iglehart's appearance on Seth Rudetsky's Chatterbox is now on the SethTV website. (subscription required)

Disney Theatrical's Thomas Schumacher talks with Vulture about how Broadway has changed in the last 20 years and the highs and lows of bringing Disney to life on stage.

Last month Adam Jacobs taught a musical theatre workshop with A Class Act NY and Broadway World has the photos.

And speaking of Adam Jacobs, the readers of recently voted Adam into the Top 10 sexiest men alive on Broadway.  Congratulations Adam.

Disney Channel stars Ben Savage and Rowan Blanchard (Girl Meets World) recently went backstage at the New Amsterdam Theatre and met the cast of Aladdin;

The West End rumours keep on coming as the Daily Mail's Baz Bamigboye wrote last month "the Broadway show Aladdin arrives at the London Palladium in early 2016.  The folks at Disney were meeting with Palladium executives this week for another round of discussions that will, eventually, seal a deal."  No sources were quoted, not even the usual anonymous Broadway/West End executives/producers that normally get mentioned in reports like this (as happened in January 2013 when Aladdin was first rumoured for Broadway) but with 2 international productions already announced and more confirmed to be coming it's extremely likely that this report is accurate.  That said, Baz Bamigboye does lose some credibility when he goes on to state that "Rice wrote the lyrics for the animated film version then worked with Director Casey Nicholaw and other writers on numbers for the stage iteration" as Tim Rice was not involved with the Broadway production of Aladdin nor the earlier Seattle Pilot production in 2011.  And when he says "they need to calm it down a bit for London" well, let's just say I respectfully disagree.

And on the subject of international productions the Herald Sun is reporting that, according to a rumour "which is building among the arts industry" Aladdin is set to open in Australia in 2016!  As with the West End rumours this is unofficial until it is confirmed by Disney but if both of these rumours are true then Aladdin is having one of the fastest international roll outs in Disney Theatrical's history!  Not bad for a show that was never meant to go to Broadway!

Not exactly Aladdin related but the Tuacahn (who staged a fantastic production of Aladdin in 2012) has been nominated in several categories of the 2014 Broadway World Salt Lake City Awards for this year's production of The Little Mermaid including a Best Actress nomination for Heidi Anderson for her portrayal of Ursula.  Heidi was Marketing Manager at the Tuacahn during their production of Aladdin and was a big supported of this blog so please take a moment to vote for her and the Tuacahn's production of The Little Mermaid.

And finally Disney Theatrical recently announced a new ticket exchange program for their Broadway shows.  Recognising that people these days often have hectic and unpredictable schedules you can now exchange your ticket right up to 2 hours before the performance!  Playbill have all the details.

Next week is the final week of the US premiere production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame at San Diego's La Jolla Playhouse and if the tweets that have been filling my homepage these last 3 weeks are any indication then it's been an absolutely incredible run and Broadway is almost certainly looming on the horizon after the Paper Mill's run next March.

But don't take my word for it!  Here's some more fantastic reviews to tell you just what you're missing if you haven't seen this show! (Big thanks to Alex for sending me a lot of these links!)

Broadway World calls it "a feast for the eyes... and the soul".
Disney Examiner says "it's not an exact replica of Disney's film version, but if you're looking for a complex, alternate look at the story, you have to watch this musical production that brings the tale to an epic, darker level."
Disney Club of UCLA calls it "unforgettable" stating that "Scott Schwartz's masterful presentation at La Jolla Playhouse has greatly exceeded any preconceived expectations."
Neon Tommy calls the show "an absolute triumph" before going on to say "It is tragic, sweet, disturbing, inspiring, and revelatory.  The exciting work that La Jolla Playhouse has done to bring this old and classic tale to the stage may finally bring The Hunchback of Notre Dame to the forefront of American theatre on the Broadway stage, and sets the gold standard for musical theatre adaptations to come."
Entertainment Today says "there is little doubt that this production of Hunchback will have a long run on Broadway"" and advises readers to see it now during it's San Diego run.
Examiner gives the show 5 stars saying it "is both spectacular and a spectacle, and is alive and well."
The Guardian also gives the show 5 stars saying it's the show's "newfound complexity that will put this musical right on track to becoming a Broadway hit."

NY1 took a look at the show and spoken with Alan Menken, Stephen Schwartz and Scott Schwartz about Hunchback.

Chase Brock spoke with Edge Media Network about choreographing The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Disney's D23 fan club reflects on the recent D23 Member Night at The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

And on a lighter note Hunchback's Samantha Massell and Nora Menken have been posting some unique backstage videos as the girls of Hunchback play the kazoo.  Check them out here and here.

Aladdin Nominated for 2015 Grammy Awards!

On Friday the nominations for the 2015 Grammy Awards were announced.  Now being honest I don't normally pay them much attention but this year Playbill had a headline that made me take notice.  Aladdin's Original Broadway Cast Recording has been nominated for Best Musical Theatre Album!!  I didn't even know that was a category!

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder, Hedwig and the Angry Inch and West Side Story have also been nominated in the same category.

Congratulations to all of Aladdin's cast and everyone involved in the production of the cast recording.  And good luck!!

Sunday, 30 November 2014

What Are You Thankful For?

I hope that all of my American readers have had a happy Thanksgiving weekend.  Whilst the holiday of Thanksgiving isn't celebrated here in the UK there is something that I've been meaning to post on this blog for a while now and this weekend feels like a very appropriate time to share it.

When we visited New York earlier this year Jane and I were not only fortunate enough to see Aladdin in it's opening week on Broadway, we were also blessed with the chance to meet many of the cast who bring this amazing show to life every night.

It was Wednesday 19th March and we'd just seen the incredible final preview performance of the show.  It was everything I'd dream it would be and, somehow, even managed to beat my insanely high expectations.  After the show we rushed to the stage door to do what all theatre lovers do - meet the cast and say thank you for an amazing experience (and in my case say thank you for all the support they'd given me over the last 3 years).

If I'm remembering correctly it had been a relatively sunny day, cold certainly but clear.  Whilst we were in the New Amsterdam Theatre the heavens had opened.  It was absolutely pouring down.  As we waited for the cast to come out I heard a lady behind me call my name.  To my absolute surprise and delight it was Tipawan Reed.  Tipawan has been, and continues to be, the biggest supporter of this blog and her words of kindness and encouragement have meant the world to me.  We'd spoken briefly but never met before, Tipawan had come out looking for us and recognised my English accent.  I introduced her to Jane and she introduced us to her husband Porter.

Standing in the crowd at stage door we got chance to meet Adam Jacobs and Brandon O'Neill who, despite the weather, ensured they spent time meeting everyone and signing Playbills.  I'm certain that the rest of the cast did the same but we didn't get chance to meet them that night.  As the rain continued to pour Tipawan very kindly offered to take us inside to meet Courtney!

As we went back stage I felt like I was in a dream.  As we exited the lift on Courtney's floor she was already in the corridor speaking with another woman.  When Courtney turned to face us she had a slightly star struck look - the woman she'd just been talking with was none other than the original Princess Jasmine - Linda Larkin!!

We then went back to her dressing room (painted pink, perfectly suited to a Disney princess, and filled with Jasmines) and got to spend a few minutes talking with Courtney and her parents.  It was a surreal and amazing experience.  I had never been back stage at a show, never mind on Broadway, and suddenly here we were standing in Jasmine's dressing room!  Courtney was lovely, if you've ever been lucky enough to meet her at stage door then you'll know just how friendly and welcoming she is.

We said our thank yous and our goodbyes.  As we left Courtney went out to brave the rain and meet the fans at stage door.

It was an amazing end to an incredible night.  Jane and I were both on cloud nine.

When we got back to the hotel I turned on the iPad to message Don Darryl Rivera to apologise for missing him at stage door.  I was greeted by messages from Don, James Monroe Iglehart and Khori Petinaud asking if they'd missed me and if I was coming back!  It was an overwhelming moment and I still continue to be surprised and humbled by the level of support that this amazing cast has shown me.  Now, I didn't fly halfway around the world to see a show and only book one set of tickets (yeah Broadway is expensive but flights cost even more and at this point I had no idea when I'd be going back) so I happily replied that we were coming to see the show again on Saturday and couldn't wait to meet them all!

The next day was Opening Night!  Now, I've already covered Aladdin's Purple Carpet event in a earlier post but as we were watching them set up something incredible happened.  James Monroe Iglehart decided to use the front door.  Coming up to the barrier that had been erected and jokingly asking who'd blocked the way into work.  As he passed I took the opportunity to introduce myself and was again humbled as he thanked me for doing the blog and my support.  And then he invited us back stage on Saturday.  Jane said she wished she'd had a camera out as my face was apparently a hilarious mix of shock and joy.  I hope I wasn't so shocked that I at least managed to get out a "thank you"!

The next morning was one of my favourite moments of our holiday as we shared breakfast with Tipawan and Porter Reed.  Tipawan and Porter are two of the nicest people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting and it was an absolute joy to spend time with them.  Yes, we spoke about the show's opening night but we also spoke about family, holidays and life in general.  In many ways it felt like a meal between old friends even though we'd never met.

The rest of Friday and Saturday passed in the same blur most holidays seem to.  Then it was Saturday night and we were seeing Aladdin again and the second time seemed even better than the first.  I think it my head I was subconsciously noting all the changes the first time I saw the show (despite trying really hard not to) and the second time I was able to fully appreciate it without thinking about everything that had come before (if you want to know how much I loved it you can read my review here).

After the show everything went into that surreal dream world again.  Knocking on the stage door and saying I was there to see James Monroe Iglehart was an electrifying moment (and strangely a little nerve wracking too).  Then Jane and I, along with other guests, were taken through the stage door and onto the stage!

Confession time - I may have started singing "Proud of Your Boy" quietly to myself as I stood on the stage.  May have... ;)

After missing him a few nights earlier I finally got to meet Don Darryl Rivera.

Don has been a friend to me and we've kept in touch ever since I got the chance to interview him for the Seattle production so finally getting to meet him was the highlight of our back stage adventure.  He's also one of the nicest guys you could ever hope to meet.  I'd told Brandon O'Neill I'd hopefully see him this evening but he was entertaining guests.  Don thought he'd seen him and even popped his head out of stage door trying to find him for me.  He came back in laughing that the crowd had playfully booed him when he'd come back inside!

We got to see Courtney again and Adam Jacobs (in dryer conditions this time) so it was nice to be able to properly speak with him for a moment and thank him for everything he'd done for me.

I also had the chance to meet Jonathan Schwartz briefly.  He seemed like a great guy and I hope that one day I'll get the chance to interview him for this blog.

Then we got the chance to spend a few minutes with the man who'd made this possible -  James Monroe Iglehart.  I know I've said this about everyone but JMI is one of the nicest guys you could hope to meet.  Warmth just seems to radiate from him.  He introduced us to his wife Dawn and she took our picture.  Then something happened that just made us all burst out laughing;

Don Darryl Rivera - Photobomb King!

We got more pictures with JMI, one where we're all still laughing and one where we actually managed to take a normal photo but this one is my favourite.

Then came the best part of the night.  Don took us on personal back stage tour!  We learnt some amazing things, like the lamps are actually 3D printed and there are hidden Mickey's in the Cave of Wonder's jewels.  But in case you were wondering the flying carpet is pure Disney magic!

These are memories that we will treasure forever and I can never say thank you enough.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Make a New Years Wish with Aladdin

Adam Jacobs, Courtney Reed and James Monroe Iglehart as Aladdin, Jasmine and Genie

What are you doing New Years Eve?

Every year an estimated one million people fill New York's Times Square to watch the famous ball drop followed by (literally) a ton of confetti.  What you may not know is that on those pieces of confetti are New Years wishes from people all over the world.

This year Broadway's Aladdin is sponsoring New Year's Eve Wishes and you can add your wish to the confetti right here!

So, "What would you wish for?"

Monday, 17 November 2014

Broadway News Round Up 24

Adam Jacobs as Aladdin, Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann

Welcome to another weekly news round up for Broadway's Aladdin!

The biggest event this week was the live AMA with Adam Jacobs, James Monroe Iglehart and Jonathan Freeman!  The Q&A with the stars was a lot a fun and revealed several behind the scenes tidbits along with plenty of hilarious stories!  The official Disney Blog has the highlights or you can read the full Q&A over at Reddit.  I'd definitely recommend reading the full thing!

Aladdin's book writer and lyricist Chad Beguelin and Disney Theatrical's Thomas Schumacher made the OUT100 2014 List this week, where the year's most compelling people pay homage to pivotal moments in LGBT history.  The article links 2 moments - the November 25th 1992 premiere of Aladdin in cinemas and the 26th February 2014 debut of Aladdin on Broadway.  The short piece also contains a very thought provoking comment by Chad Beguelin that gave me a deeper understanding and appreciation of Proud of Your Boy.  I've read before that Beauty and the Beast's Mob Song is speaking about AIDS (which Howard was tragically dying of when he wrote the song), but I'd never considered the added level to Proud of Your Boy that would come from being gay.  Howard Ashman's talent is nothing short of incredible.  To be able to write songs that not only drive the narrative forward and perfectly fit the characters they are written for but at the same time to reflect his own life, his own feelings and emotions, is simply astounding.

Do you remember's Justin "Squigs" Robertson's portrait done in honour of the show's opening night?  If not here's a quick reminder;

You like it?  Well now you can officially get the T-Shirt!  You can pick yours up either in person at the New Amsterdam Theatre or at Aladdin's online store!

And on the subject of, CONGRATULATIONS to James Monroe Iglehart who came 4th in's "10 Must-See Performances on Broadway Right Now"!

Broadway World is reporting that Aladdin's Yurel Echezeretta took part in the Sueno Pop: Pulso Latino concert last weekend.  The event celebrated Latin pop music and featured a host of stars from both Broadway and TV.

Gavin Doyle of DisneyDose posted a special story on Inside the Magic about a recent trip to Broadway, including his stage door experience at Disney's Aladdin.  As a special bonus the article also includes the Disney Dose podcast where Gavin interviewed by Adam Jacobs and James Monroe Iglehart!  I've posted a link to the interview before (it was originally released back in September) but if you've not heard it then it's well worth checking out!

The Daily Item has posted a heart warming story about a young girl who's dreams came true as the Make A Wish Foundation took her and her mother on a magical holiday to New York City, including a trip to Aladdin with a behind the scenes meeting with the cast.  I just love stories like this and I wish Lily all the best for her hospital evaluation this week.

And finally, Playbill is reporting that Andrew Keenan-Bolger (who played Omar in 5th Avenue's 2011 Pilot Production) is re-teaming with Aladdin Director/Choreographer Casey Nicholaw for the new musical Tuck Everlasting.  The Premiere Production will take place in Atlanta at the Alliance Theatre from January 21st - February 22nd 2015.  Whilst dates have not yet been announced for Broadway it is believed that the production is Broadway bound so watch this space!

I'll come back to the reviews in a second, first take a look at this;

It seems stupid to say this as the show has been running for a few weeks but seeing that footage it actually feels real now!  And it looks fabulous!
Ok, as you all know The Hunchback of Notre Dame officially opened at San Diego's La Jolla Playhouse on 9th November so all last week the reviews have been pouring in and, overall, they're very positive!  Here's what the critics have been saying;
Variety - "Scott Schwartz and the thesps overcome these traps.  Page's gradual descent into unmitigated evil is believable, complex and blessedly underplayed.  Renee's sizzling gypsy - choreographed with lighthearted artistry by Chase Brock - resists cliché through genuine vulnerability and charm.  And Arden is a revelation in the title role.  His delicately communicative physicality ... is wholly of a piece with a remarkably wide emotional range.  The laughs he earns are warm and in context, while his "I want" songs are the clarion calls of a tortured soul, devoid of any "American Idol"-influenced vocal pyrotechnics.  He is splendid."
U-T San Diego - "Hunchback is the rare such show that actually earns its grandeur, thanks mostly to the far-from-cartoonish humanity of its central characters."
La Jolla Light - "The music, lyrics, performances, direction, set design and costumes assemble into a majestic production of a classic story and bring it to life.  The Playhouse and all its contributors can be proud of their Hunchback of Notre Dame, a stage show that audience members will yearn to see again."
San Diego Gay & Lesbian News - "This version is large in concept and execution.  The impressive set is matched by fine actors with excellent voices ... But the heart of the show is Arden's Quasimodo, whose loneliness can be felt in the back row and whose voice on songs like "Out There and "Made of Stone" will break your heart as well ... Broadway is not in the offing yet, but this show has all the essential elements for a successful run there." 
LA Weekly - "Visually, the show is stunning ... the cast and the choir sound pristine" however "it doesn't offer anything new to the contemporary theatrical landscape".
Showbiz SoCal - "It's arguably one of Disney's most sophisticated adaptations, and one of Alan Menken's more sophisticated scores ... The direction of Scott Schwartz has many layers, and he tells the story with a great balance, always keeping the momentum moving forward so that when the beautiful melodies come in, they land comfortably at the right moments."
And it's not just the professionals.  The Playbill Collector posted her review of the show saying "Nothing was lacking from this masterpiece."
In fact the only out really negative review is that of the LA Weekly, the rest are (as seen above) largely positive with some constructive criticisms.  But to be honest the LA Weekly review lost me when it criticised the French setting as "reminiscent of Beauty and the Beast".  It just felt like it was reaching too much to find elements "borrowed" from other shows (its central criticism of Hunchback).  All in all, it's a very positive start for this new production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame and the cast and creative team have plenty to celebrate.  If the response in New Jersey is as positive as this then hopefully we'll see another fast transition to Broadway like we did with Newsies.
In other Hunchback news;
Hunchback of Notre Dame's Samantha Massell (who also played Princess Jasmine in Aladdin at The Muny) will be taking part in A Very Broadway Holiday! at 54 Below on 30th December.  Ticket details and more information can be found here!
SACRA/PROFANA member Rachel Moore shared the details of her first day as part of Notre Dame's choir with  U-T San Diego in the wonderful Diary of a "Hunchback of Notre Dame" Chorus Member.  It's a fascinating insight and well worth a read.
That's all for this week!  Have a great week and I'll be back at the weekend with another news round up.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Ask Al Anything

Ask Aladdin anything! (And Jasmine, Genie and Jafar too!)

In just 5 hours time the stars of Disney's Aladdin on Broadway will be joining Reddit for their first Ask Me Anything!

It's easy to sign up (I just joined in literally less than a minute) so if you have any burning questions for Adam Jacobs, Courtney Reed, James Monroe Iglehart or Jonathan Freeman then this is your chance!

See you there!

Edit - Here we go!

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Happy Opening to The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Michael Arden as Quasimodo and the cast of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Photo by Kevin Berne
"As I ring these bells tonight, my cold dark tower seems so bright!  I swear it must be Heaven's light!"
Tonight is the night!  Fifteen years after Der Glockner Von Notre Dame opened in Berlin, the long awaited US Premiere of The Hunchback of Notre Dame officially opens tonight at the La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego.
I just want to wish everyone at the La Jolla Playhouse the very best of luck for tonight's official opening.  From the ushers to the stars on stage to the friends and family supporting them in the audience.  This is your night, enjoy it.  I'm wishing you all the best.

Broadway News Round Up 23

Tia Altinay, Khori Michelle Petinaud & Rhea Patterson in Aladdin, Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann

Welcome to another news round up for Broadway's Aladdin!  A shorter edition this week but there's still plenty going on in the magical land of Agrabah.

Broadway World is reporting that Aladdin's Tia Altinay (who understudies Jasmine) will be appearing in tomorrow night's At This Performance... at The Lion Theatre, New York.  At This Performance... is a musical showcase created to highlight the talents of Broadway's standbys, understudies and alternates.  Tickets are $26.25 each and are available from the box office.  For the talent you'd be seeing that's an incredible price so if you're able to attend I'd highly recommend checking it out.

Also on Monday night, Aladdin alumni Andrew Keenan-Bolger will join other Broadway stars performing The Songs of Adam Wachter at Broadway's 54 Below.  Further information can be found here.  Again, it's a fantastic price to see some extremely talented Broadway performers, so if you are in NYC and looking for something to do tomorrow night you really can't go wrong with either of these events.

Timeout is reporting that Aladdin's Yurel Echezeretta (who understudies Kassim) spent time last week visiting Harrison School of the Arts, talking with the students and even directing and choreographing some scenes for their production of West Side Story (including the classic school dance and rumble scenes) which is being put on as part of the school's 25th anniversary celebration.  I guess that technically makes it his directorial debut (or at least co-director), congratulations Yurel!

Ok, now everyone knows that Aladdin's dancers are pretty much the best on Broadway.  They dance their butts off 8 shows a week.  So if you want to learn then you want to learn from the best.  Well, Aladdin's Dance Captain Michael Mindlin is teaching a Dance Audtion Technique Seminar this week on 13th November in NYC.  More details can be found at Playbill.

Even when he's on holiday it seems I can't go a week without posting something about James Monroe Iglehart!  If you missed Freestyle Love Supreme's show (which JMI is a part of) and you live in the USA then the show is now available on iTunes.

And finally, is asking you to rank your Top 10 Must See Performances on Broadway right now.  Aladdin's Adam Jacobs, Courtney Reed, James Monroe Iglehart and Jonathan Freeman have all made the nominations so please give them some support!

From Agrabah to Paris!  It's been an exciting week for The Hunchback of Notre Dame as the show last night completed its preview performances.  Of course the biggest news of the week was our first official look at the cast.  But that wasn't the only news to come out of the La Jolla Playhouse last week.

Theater Mania reported that Ciara Renee (Esmeralda) will be taking part in Broadway Sings P!NK in January 2015.  Ciara will be joined by other Broadway stars singing new arrangements of P!NK's pop hits at two concerts to be held in New York on 19th and 25th January.  More information, including tickets, can be found here.

In addition to our first look at the cast the La Jolla Playhouse also gave us our first look at the fantastic show merchandise that is available to anyone going to see the show.  Since I'm an absolute sucker for Disney's show pins I'll definitely be picking up the pin badge when I see the show next year!

As well as showing off cast and merchandise photos, the La Jolla Facebook team also found time to speak briefly with Hunchback's Tony Award winning Lighting Designer Howard Binkley to discuss the production's tech rehearsals.

And finally, the San Diego Jewish Journal spoke with Director Scott Schwartz about the show.  I swear, the more I read about this show the more excited I get to finally see it!

Ok, that's pretty much it for today.  Except for one final thing I'll be back with in a few minutes...

Thursday, 6 November 2014

First Look at The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Best Disney news of the day (yes, even better than Toy Story 4) - La Jolla Playhouse has released the first production photos of The Hunchback of Notre Dame featuring Michael Arden as Quasimodo, Ciara Renee as Esmeralda, Patrick Page as Frollo and the cast of the US premiere production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Michael Arden as Quasimodo and the cast of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Photo by Kevin Berne

Ciara Renee as Esmeralda and the cast of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Photo by Kevin Berne
Patrick Page as Frollo and the cast of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Photo by Kevin Berne

The US Premiere of The Hunchback of Notre Dame is currently in previews at San Diego's La Jolla Playhouse and will officially open this Sunday, November 9th.  The production runs through December 14th and tickets can be purchased from La Jolla's website.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Aladdin to Premiere in Germany!

Last week, on 29th October, Disney Theatrical and Stage Entertainment officially announced that the European Premiere of the new Broadway production of Aladdin will take place at The Stage Theatre Neue Flora in Hamburg, Germany in Fall 2015.

"The heart and humor of the timeless tale of Aladdin, the Genie and the three wishes are loved worldwide across all cultural boundaries for generations.  We look forward, with Casey Nicholaw's spectacular staging, to years of successful partnership with Stage Entertainment to add another highlight." said Disney Theatrical's Thomas Schumacher.

Uschi Neuss of Stage Entertainment Germany added "We are delighted to be able to pick the next big Disney hit to Germany after the incredible success of The Lion King and Tarzan.  Hamburg is a musical capital and the perfect location for the European Premiere ... Aladdin is the ideal addition to our portfolio in the Hanseatic city"

Robert Langer, Country Manager for The Walt Disney Company in Germany agreed, "The enthusiasm for Disney musicals in Germany is exceptional.  We are extremely pleased that Aladdin will experience its European Premiere here with us.  On Broadway the spectacular production of Disney Theatrical Group is celebrating great success and we are proud to now offer this unique live experience to the German public."

My German is very limited (ok, non existent) so please accept my apologises if the above quotes are a little off.

More details can now be found on the show's official website and tickets are now on sale with performances starting on 15th December 2015.

Wow, that's two international announcements in two months!  According to Thomas Schumacher there are five international productions in the works so there's still three more to be announced!  It's an exciting time to be an Aladdin fan no matter where in the world you are!

Broadway News Round Up 22

James Monroe Iglehart as Genie, Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann

Welcome to another Aladdin Broadway news round up!  Sorry this one is a few days late, I was away visiting family this weekend and didn't get time to post.

First this week, a quick vacation alert - James Monroe Iglehart is currently away living any Genie's dream vacation at Walt Disney World.  Whilst he's enjoying the magic, the incredible Michael James Scott will be making some on stage as Genie.

Talking about James Monroe Iglehart, remember a few weeks back when he took part in Celebrity Karaoke?  Well If/Then's James Snyder has captured some of the event in a special episode of his Vlog.  Check it out!

Just a quick reminder that tickets for Kids' Night on Broadway are now on sale.  Running from 9-15th January 2015 Kids' Nights allow anyone age 6-18 to see a participating show for free when accompanied by a full paying adult.  There's a fantastic range of shows, including Aladdin, so if you're going to be in NYC next January and want to see a show then it's a brilliant chance to save some money and introduce the younger generation to the magic of theatre.  More details and the full range of shows can be found at the link above.

Last Sunday saw a fundraiser being held at the Uptown Theatre in Grand Prairie to benefit Mama's Party and Gideon's Feet.  Whilst this isn't directly Aladdin related, Gideon's Feet is a non-profit organisation dedicated to helping theatre artists in need that was set up by Ashley Puckett Gonzales in memory of her first son, Gideon.  Ashley's husband is Brian Gonzales who plays Babkak in Aladdin.  Like I said, this isn't directly related to Aladdin but I wanted to highlight a good cause. are reporting that Don Darryl Rivera will be one of the stars taking part in Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol on December 15th at the Gerald W. Lynch Theatre.  This one night only concert is being held to benefit the Actor's Fund.  Tickets can be purchased here.  And whilst you're looking at the link make sure to watch the video of Josh Gad (Frozen's Olaf) trying to convince Jimmy Kimmel to dress up as Olaf for Halloween).

Last week James Monroe Iglehart and Adam Jacobs took part in Seth Rudetsky's Broadway Chatterbox.  The episode should be available soon on SethTV (guess it's time I got a subscription).

I'll be honest, I thought I gave the show a pretty good review but this kid has me beat;

If that doesn't make you want to take your whole family to see Aladdin then I don't know what will!

And on the subject fan reviews, here's another favourable fan review with an honourable mention of Adam Kaokept's debut as Iago.

Also this week Disney released the full version of ABC's Backstage Pass to Aladdin to their YouTube channel.  I know parts of this have been released before (and I think the full thing was released in 4 parts by ABC before as well) but here it is in full;

Halloween may be over but I'm going to conclude the Aladdin section of this news round up with some Halloween items.  Broadway Buzz rounded up Broadway's scariest villains, including Aladdin's Jonathan Freeman, to take part in a Halloween photo shoot and to discuss their villainy.  Broadway World lists Aladdin (or more specifically Prince Ali) as one of their Top 10 Broadway themed Halloween costumes.  And it looks like Adam Jacobs agreed as he teamed up with Aladdin's costume designer Gregg Barnes to create the perfect Halloween costumes for his two little princes (more pictures at Theater Mania);

And now from Agrabah to Paris!

With The Hunchback of Notre Dame now in it's second week at San Diego's La Jolla Playhouse there has been a lot of favourable comments on message boards and social media, along with plenty of spoilers too.  Yes, there's the odd criticism but for the most part it actually seems to be (mostly) constructive rather than the usual chorus of "I don't like the changes" from people who haven't even seen the show.  If the reviews are equally as favourable then Hunchback could potentially become Disney Theatrical's best reviewed show since The Lion King.  I really hope so as that can only add to the show's already considerable chances of a Broadway transfer and, from what little I've heard, this show deserves a run on Broadway.  It sounds glorious.
The show's villain, Patrick Page, spoke with Playbill on the day the show opened about bringing Notre Dame's conflicted Archdeacon to life.
And if spoilers are what you want you can read all about the production and the changes here and here.  Sounds like audiences are really loving it!

Friday, 31 October 2014

Happy Halloween!

A little Halloween fun Aladdin Broadway style :o)

Adam Kaokept is Iago

Photo by Adam Kaokept
Whilst Don Darryl Rivera is taking a well deserved holiday this week Adam Kaokept has been taking to the New Amsterdam stage this week as Iago!

I'm sure Adam is doing an incredible job as everyone's favourite parrot turned human evil sidekick and if you want to see him as Iago you can still do so tonight and this weekend.

Make some magic Adam!

Sunday, 26 October 2014

The Bells of Notre Dame Will Ring Tonight!


What a week it's been for the cast and creative team of The Hunchback of Notre Dame!  Sitzprobe on Thursday, invited dress rehearsal last night and the US Premiere tonight as the show officially begins previews at the La Jolla Playhouse!!

This week Michael Arden (Quasimodo) spoke with Gay San Diego about Quasimodo, his path to theatre and about Hunchback in general, calling it "a lot sadder than the original Disney movie and much more of an adult treatment".  He also touches upon Director Scott Schwartz's vision for the piece saying "it's set in 1483, and we're using a lot of techniques that would've been used theatrically in plays of the time ... we use our bodies and furniture to create these worlds".  And I certainly agree with him when he calls Hunchback Alan Menken's greatest score.

The creative team of Alan Menken (composer), Stephen Schwartz (lyricist), Scott Schwartz (director) and Peter Parnell (writer), along with members of the cast, have been doing the rounds with the press this week.  Discussing the show with La Jolla Light and with U-T San Diego.

For all the speculation over the years that Disney considered the Berlin production of Hunchback "too dark" to bring to US audiences, it sounds like this new production could potentially be even darker.  And, if not darker, certainly more complex.  Speaking with U-T San Diego Scott Schwartz says "Something I really believe about this story is, nobody is just one thing ... There are horrific actions in the show, particularly that Frollo takes.  But you see moments of light within him ... there are moments of darkness in all the characters.  Quasimodo, too - there's real violence in Quasimodo."  Speaking with La Jolla Light, Alan Menken agreed, calling the piece "darker and more character-focused than the animated film."

What really excites me is that Scott Schwartz has called Hunchback's incredible score "the central focus and the essential means of the storytelling".  This, combined the show's emphasis on the humanity of the four main characters leads to what Peter Parnell calls "a very nice dynamic ... the largeness and the smallness, that feels like a very interesting place that this musical can live."

I'll admit that after hearing the beautiful Berlin cast recording I was nervous when it was initially announced that this new production would be smaller and more intimate.  I worried that it might not capture the grandness of the score and the beautiful music of the show.  The confirmation that there would be a live choir on stage soon eliminated my fears and with each new article I've been convinced that this is the right direction for the show.  It's new and exciting but at the same time very traditional.  The choir will allow the majesty of the score to soar as it should but the renewed focus on the four principal characters will give the piece a greater intimacy as well.  Personal stories told against an epic backdrop.  Disney may be taking a risk by making the show darker and more intimate but it's one I'm very glad they're taking and one I believe will pay off.

To the cast and creative team and everyone at La Jolla Playhouse, I will you all the very best for tonight's opening.  All your hard work over the last weeks and months (and even years in some cases) has led to this and you deserve every success.  Enjoy it.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame begins tonight at San Diego's La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego and runs through December 14th 2014.  Tickets are available here.  Tickets to D23's VIP Experience on November 11th 2014 are available here. Next year The Hunchback of Notre Dame will play at the Papermill Playhouse in New Jersey from March 4th through April 5th 2015.  Tickets are available here.