Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Countdown to Broadway - Utah 2012

Two weeks ago I took a look back at 5th Avenue's Pilot Production of Aladdin: The New Stage Musical, today I continue the countdown to Broadway with a special look back at the Tuacahn's 2012 production of the show.

After the curtain fell for the final time at The 5th Avenue Theatre, Aladdin fans were left wondering "what happens next?"  We didn't have to wait too long for an answer, on 26th September 2011 it was announced that "The Southern Utah desert will be transformed into an Arabian oasis when Tuacahn presents the stage musical adaptation of the Disney film "Aladdin" as part of the outdoor venue's 2012 season".

Following their successful productions of Tarzan and The Little Mermaid, Tuacahn was chosen by Disney Theatrical as one of only two regional theatres to present Aladdin in 2012.  It seemed at the time that Disney was sticking to their original plan, to use Aladdin as one of their licensable properties, but there were also hints that something bigger could be in the works.  In November Alan Menken tweeted that he was having meetings with Chad Beguelin and Casey Nicholaw to further develop the show.  Following the Pilot Production it seemed only natural that Alan Menken and Chad Beguelin would be involved in any tweaks and changes being made to the show's book ahead of its regional productions, but the continued involvement of Director and Choreographer Casey Nicholaw (both roles that would be fulfilled by someone else in the regional productions), combined with the fact that Disney had chosen just two theatres to present this "newly expanded and revised production" of the show instead of allowing a wide release, hinted that this could be the first step towards something bigger.

Tuacahn's production of Aladdin was to run in repertory with Hairspray (in summer) and Legally Blonde (in fall) from 1st June through 18th October 2012 with performances every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and Tuacahn's Artistic Director Scott Anderson was announced as director (making this his third Disney show, having already directed Tuacahn's productions of Tarzan and The Little Mermaid) with a cast and creative team to be drawn from Utah, California and New York.

Then, like with the Pilot Production, things went quiet for the next few months as casting and all the behind the scenes work took place.

Set Production, Photo by Tuacahn

It was in April 2012 we got our next update as the Tuacahn's blog (which sadly seems to no longer exist) gave us our first look at early set production (by Scenic Designer Doug Ellis) and costume materials for the show (from Costume Designer Wilma Mickler).  But it was the description that came with them that caught most peoples eyes.  Aladdin was described as a "lavish large scale production" including "water screen animations, illusions, a flying carpet as well as 3D animation in segments of the show".  Water screen animations and 3D segments?  I can't speak for anyone else, but those were certainly two things I never expected to see in a live theatre production (at least outside of the Magic Kingdom).  It certainly sounded like the team at Tuacahn were going all out to make the show special, the only question was could they make it work?

April ended with the announcement of the principle cast (which I covered in more depth here, here and here);

Dan Domenech as Aladdin

Haley Carlucci as Princess Jasmine

Edward Juvier as Genie

Michael G. Hawkins as Jafar

Jeff Asch as Iago

Paul Vogt as Babkak

Randy Aaron as Omar

Todd DuBail as Kassim

Bob Walton as Sultan

Before the end of May Aladdin was breaking Tuacahn sales records and they'd released a short teaser for their summer season featuring a short clip of Dan Domenech and Haley Carlucci singing "A Whole New World" and the cast of Hairspray singing "You Can's Stop the Beat".

And then came the first picture of the cast, featuring Todd DuBail, Randy Aaron and Paul Vogt as Kassim, Omar and Babkak, and three live camels!!  It's interesting to see how the costumes changed between this initial picture and the final costumes featured on the character banners earlier in this post.  There's only a few changes but they serve to make the costumes much more vibrant and colourful.  And I can't tell you how excited the live camels made me!  That may sound strange but it's something that could never be done in a normal theatre.  Seeing them made me realise I was in for a theatre experience unlike any I'd had before.

Todd DuBail as Kassim, Randy Aaron as Omar and Paul Vogt as Babkak, Photo by Tuacahn

And then it was June.  The run up to the Tuacahn's production seemed much shorter than the build up to 5th Avenue's production and their preview run certainly was.  The show had its first performance on Monday 4th June and its official opening night on Friday 8th June.  That week The Las Vegas Review interviewed Dan Domenech about playing Aladdin and the Tuacahn very kindly provided me with what is probably my favourite promotional image from the show;

Dan Domenech and Haley Carlucci as Aladdin and Jasmine, Photo by Tuacahn

The show's official opening marked the beginning of what is, to date, the largest media release of any production of Aladdin.  Whilst they didn't release any production videos, over the next few months Tuacahn released more promotional and production images than I could post!  That Friday both Playbill and Broadway World posted articles on the show, providing details on the full cast and creative team along with new promotional images of Dan Domenech, Haley Carlucci, Edward Juvier and Michael G. Hawkins as Aladdin, Jasmine, Genie and Jafar respectively, and the following week the Tuacahn released the character banners pictured above to their Facebook album.  In the weeks that followed The Salt Lake Tribune ran a feature on the show's 3D effects by former Disney Imagineer Geoff Puckett (and included a gallery of production images) and, of course, the end of June also saw Tuacahn releasing their commercial on YouTube;

In July Broadway World, Playbill and Tuacahn's own Facebook page posted image galleries for the show, but one of the biggest highlights had to be St. George's 4th July Parade which featured a special Aladdin float that year (more photos here)!

Samuel Warburton and Haley Carlucci as Aladdin and Jasmine, Photo by Tuacahn

The final media release came in August as KSL News confirmed that the show had been breaking Tuacahn records all summer and went back stage to interview Dan Domenech (Aladdin), Haley Carlucci (Jasmine), Edward Juvier (Genie) and Director Scott Anderson.  It's a fantastic video that includes some footage from the show and is well worth checking out!

Whilst the 5th Avenue's Pilot Production may have received mixed reviews, Tuacahn's reviews were incredibly favourable, with The Salt Lake City Tribune saying "Aladdin flies high" with "strong comic acting, onstage chemistry and a live orchestra help ground a stage show packed with special effects", Deseret News saying "with great direction, impressive special effects and playful humor, audiences of all ages will perceive "Disney's Aladdin" as an enjoyable classic worth viewing again", and The Spectrum calling it "an experience that will not disappoint".

Dan Domenech and Haley Carlucci as Aladdin and Jasmine, Photo by Tuacahn

My own review of the show can be found here.  Needless to say, I loved the show.  As I said in the review, "A year ago I had never heard of the Tuacahn Amphitheatre in southern Utah, now I can't wait to go back."  The Tuacahn is a theatre experience unlike any other and its beautiful desert backdrop was perfect for Aladdin.  Scott Anderson made full use of his outdoor venue with live camels (and a small menagerie of other animals), fireworks and a fantastic water screen projection of the Cave of Wonders.

Dan Domenech as Aladdin, Photo by Tuacahn

The 3D effects were well integrated and worked well in the Cave of Wonders/"Friend Like Me" sequence, but the most magical effect of the show was reserved for "A Whole New World" as "Aladdin and Jasmine take flight on a magic carpet that takes them up and over the audience as they sing.  It was a truly magical moment and one I will never forget, especially as the audience spontaneously burst into applause as the carpet took flight".

I won't repeat my whole review here, suffice it to say that the cast were all incredible and the show was fast paced and funny (with Edward Juvier's Genie often stealing the show whenever he was on stage) but still retained the heart of the animated classic thanks largely to the performances of Dan Domenech and Haley Carlucci as Aladdin and Jasmine.  It perfectly balanced the movie I knew with the cut material I'd longed to hear brought to life, combining two visions of Aladdin into one fantastic reality and for that Chad Beguelin has my thanks.

Dan Domenech as Aladdin and Edward Juvier as Genie, Photo by Tuacahn

Towards the end of the show's run I looked back on my time in Utah and did a very in depth look at the show in Aladdin: The Tuacahn Experience

Part 1 - Before the Performance
Part 2 - It's Showtime!

Looking back now there's a few errors in my run through of the show (serves me right for writing it so long after I saw it I guess) but it covers everything.  Seriously, if you're planning to see the show on Broadway and don't want spoilers then don't read Part 2!

Michael G. Hawkins as Jafar and Jeff Asch as Iago, Photo by Tuacahn

The show ended its run in October having broken Tuacahn sales records and setting the record for the longest running production of Aladdin.  That record will be broken this year as the show takes to the Broadway stage, but for now it still belongs to the Tuacahn.  As the show came to a close, several of the cast very kindly wrote some short reflections on their time in Aladdin for this blog.  I think Jeff Asch summed it up very aptly when he said "I remember being young and how it felt to see theatre... I can't imagine, though, what it must be like to see something of this magnitude as a kid, or an adult for that matter.  6 months of the same show can get old very fast, but I can honestly say this "high adventure" never got stale... lots and lots of love to all"

For my part this will always be my first Aladdin.  I can't wait to see the show on Broadway (believe me, I'm literally counting the days now) and I'm expecting it to be every bit as magical in its own way, but I will never forget the live camels, the shimmering mirage of the Cave of Wonders, the hairs standing up on my neck and the tears in my eyes as Aladdin and Jasmine flew off the stage and over my head, and the beautiful red rock backdrop of the Tuacahn.

Once again, I would like to say a big thank you to Heidi Anderson, Scott Anderson, the cast of Aladdin and everyone at the Tuacahn for making Jane and I feel so welcome and making our holiday extra special.  I promise, one day we will come again!

Dan Domenech and Haley Carlucci as Aladdin and Jasmine, Photo by Tuacahn

This year Tuacahn be producing another Disney show.  In 2011 The Little Mermaid broke Tuacahn records and hopefully it will do the same again this summer when they present their new production of the show!  Tickets are available here.  If you're in the area then you owe it to yourself to go.  I saw both Aladdin and Hairspray during my time in Utah and both were fantastic.  Last time they did The Little Mermaid they literally flooded the stage.  Trust me, you won't be disappointed.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Artist Spotlight - Chad Beguelin

The countdown to Broadway continues this week as Disney Theatrical release the second video in their Artist Spotlight series!

This time it's the turn of writer and lyricist Chad Beguelin who talks about going back to Howard Ashman's original treatment and bringing something new to the stage version of Aladdin.

When I saw the show in Utah I was amazed at how well Chad Beguelin's book managed to work in so many of the lost Howard Ashman elements (from characters to songs to the tone of the show) whilst still staying true to the heart of the film that so many people grew up with.  He's truly done a fantastic job and from what I've heard out of Toronto the show has only gotten stronger during its preview run

Previews of Aladdin: Broadway's New Musical Comedy begin 26th February and tickets are now on sale from the show's official site.

Disney Raises the Marquee and Adam Jacobs Talks Aladdin and Impending Fatherhood

The countdown to Broadway continues!  Earlier this week Disney Theatrical released a great little time delay video showing the Aladdin marquee being raised at the New Amsterdam Theatre in New York.  You can check it out below;

And in the first post-Toronto/pre-Broadway interview Adam Jacobs talks with NPR's Mark Kennedy about Aladdin and the upcoming birth of his twin sons!  Congratulations Adam!  It truly will be a whole new world for you this year and I wish you and your family all the best.

Adam Jacobs as Aladdin, Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann

Monday, 13 January 2014

Countdown to Broadway - Seattle 2011

Next month will see Aladdin finally debut on a Broadway stage.  It's a moment that's been a very long time coming and, with the preview run now behind us, I thought that now would be a good time to pause and look back at the road has led us here.  Today is a very apt day for this as it was on this day, 13th January, 3 years ago that The 5th Avenue Theatre released a press release that would announce the start of Aladdin's long journey to the Broadway stage.  There had been rumours and "talk" of Aladdin being done for stage for years, even workshops in 2010, but 13th January 2011 was when Aladdin became very real with the following words;

The 5th Avenue Theatre Presents
The Premiere of
Disney's Aladdin, A New Stage Musical
Stage Version of  Disney's Film to Close 2010-11 Season
SEATTLE, WA–The 5th Avenue Theatre is proud to announce that it will produce the premiere of Aladdin, a new stage musical adapted from Disney’s 1992 animated feature film. Aladdin, featuring the Academy Award®-winning score by Alan Menken, Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, previews on July 7 and runs until July 31, 2011.  The show replaces Oklahoma!, which will be postponed until the 2011-2012 season.

Aladdin will feature a cast and creative team drawn from Seattle and Broadway. Several 5th Avenue veterans return for the production, including acclaimed director and choreographer Casey Nicholaw, who received his first professional choreography gig at The 5th Avenue Theatre (The Prince and the Pauper, 2001) and where he later choreographed My Fair Lady (2002). On Broadway, Nicholaw won praise as the choreographer of Spamalot, and director/choreographer of The Drowsy Chaperone and Elf: The Broadway Musical, garnering three Tony nominations for his work.
Music for Aladdin is by Alan Menken (Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Tangled), who has won a total of eight Oscars, more than any living person; lyrics are by the late Howard Ashman (Little Shop of Horrors, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid) and Tim Rice (Jesus Christ Superstar, Chess, The Lion King). Librettist Chad Beguelin wrote the books for The Rhythm Club, Wicked City and The Wedding Singer, which premiered at The 5th Avenue in 2006.  Menken and Beguelin contribute additional lyrics.

This new Aladdin incorporates all of the beloved songs from the film’s Oscar®-winning score plus never-before heard Menken/Ashman songs restored from early drafts of the score.  It marks a return to the authors’ original vision:  a loving homage to the Hope-Crosby road pictures with a
score invoking the jazz sound of stars like Cab Calloway and Fats Waller.
Other confirmed production artists include set designer Anna Louizos (White Christmas, In The Heights), Tony Award®-winning costume designer Gregg Barnes (The Drowsy Chaperone, Mame at The 5th Avenue), Tony® winning lighting designer Natasha Katz (Beauty and the Beast, Aida), dance arranger Glen Kelly (The Producers, Drowsy Chaperone) and musical supervisor Michael Kosarin (Beauty and the Beast, Sister Act).
“New musicals have become a large part of the mission of The 5th Avenue Theatre and we are thrilled that Disney has selected our theatre to produce the premiere of this new work they have developed.  I am especially thrilled to have Casey back here where his amazing career first got started,” says The 5th’s Artistic Director and Executive Producer David Armstrong.

Steve Fickinger, VP Creative Development and Licensing for Disney Theatrical Productions, said, “Responding to extraordinary demand from our licensing customers for a full length, two- act version of Aladdin, Alan Menken brought to us the idea of returning to the highly theatrical vision he and Howard Ashman had originally conceived but that had proved unsuitable for the film.  Our goal with this pilot production of Aladdin at The 5th Avenue is to launch this title for inclusion in our innovative professional and regional theatre licensing catalog.”
The full press release can still be read in The 5th Avenue's online Press Archives.  This press release had myself, and many other Aladdin fans, bursting with joy.  Aladdin was finally coming to stage!  It was a moment I'd longed for since seeing a touring production of Beauty and the Beast years earlier.  But that final sentence brought us all crashing back to earth.  This wasn't going to be a pre-Broadway run.  This was a strictly limited 3 week run being done to launch Aladdin as part of Disney Theatrical's licensing catalog.  Any future productions, professional or amateur, would be done without Disney's involvement and who knew when or where they would pop up or what the level of quality would be.  Back then I figured that if the show did exceptionally well then maybe, just maybe, there was some hope that Disney would do an official tour before licensing the show out through MTI.  I also remember being devastated that I couldn't go to see the show and that, in part, was one of the reasons I created this blog, to follow the show as closely as possible even though I couldn't be there.  I'm sitting here now, 3 years later with the benefit of hindsight, smiling and marvelling at how funny it is that everything has worked out better than I ever dreamed possible.
But enough about me!  Within days of the press release casting notices went out (with the noticeable exception of Jafar) and tickets went on sale.  Then nothing.  Aladdin entered that dark period where casting and all the behind the scenes stuff is being done but no information is being released.  It was nearly 4 months later, on 6th May 2011, that the next big announcement came, and oh boy was it a doozy!  Jonathan Freeman was returning as Jafar!!!  This marked the first time that any actor from one of Disney's animated classics had returned to reprise the roll on stage.  With Jonathan's Broadway background the casting made perfect sense and was a fantastic coup for 5th Avenue/Disney Theatrical.
The rest of May saw a lot of (accurate) casting rumours flying around, the leak of several costume sketches and ended with Adam Jacob's website confirming that he was playing Aladdin.  The official Memphis facebook page also unofficially confirmed James Monroe Iglehart's casting as Genie with several messages wishing him good luck in his new role.  Official confirmation soon followed as the full cast was announced on 1st June 2011 with the principles as follows;

Adam Jacobs as Aladdin
Courtney Reed as Princess Jasmine
James Monroe Iglehart as Genie
Jonathan Freeman as Jafar
Don Darryl Rivera as Iago
Brian Gonzales as Babkak
Andrew Keenan-Bolger as Omar
Brandon O'Neill as Kassim
Sean G. Griffin as Sultan

The casting announcement was the start of two things.  For me it was the day I reached out to Adam Jacobs, asking if he'd be willing to do an interview for this blog, and to Disney, asking if they'd be willing to send me any press materials for the show.  In less than 24 hours Adam had said yes and Disney had put me in touch with the wonderful Bridget Summers at The 5th Avenue.  I can't say enough about how amazing Bridget was, without her help and support I wouldn't have been able to do half the things I did back in 2011 and it's very likely I wouldn't still be doing this today.  She made me feel part of it even though I was half the world away.  The second thing was the beginning of an incredible media blitz.  With the casting came the first official photo of Adam Jacobs as Aladdin and from then on it felt like the media campaign was in overdrive.

Adam Jacobs as Aladdin, Photo by Mark Kitaoka
The 5th Avenue Theatre announced a free Spotlight Night for Aladdin, where the cast and creative team discussed bringing the show to life and previewed some of the cut songs being restored to the show along with the classic A Whole New World.  A last minute change of venue even led to an extra treat for ticket holders as they received a message from Jafar himself letting them know of the change(which you can hear here)!  Over the next few weeks The 5th playfully teased fans who couldn't make the event, releasing clips of Why Me, Babkak, Omar, Aladdin, Kassim and James Monroe Iglehart talking about how he got the role of Genie before finally releasing the full hour long video the day of the show's premiere.

Throughout June and early July more preview images surfaced online, featuring Adam Jacobs as Aladdin and Courtney Reed as Princess Jasmine;

Adam Jacobs as Aladdin, Photo by Mark Kitaoka

Courtney Reed as Jasmine, Photo by Mark Kitaoka

And my personal favourite;

Adam Jacobs and Courtney Reed as Aladdin and Jasmine, Photo by Mark Kitaoka

As the pictures came, so did the press interviews.  In the build up to the show's opening and throughout its 3 week run the cast and creative team appeared on TV, on radio and online to promote the show;

Courtney Reed appeared on King 5 talking about the show and performing Call Me a Princess
Writer and lyricist Chad Beguelin spoke with Broadway World about bringing the movie to the stage
Sean Griffin spoke with Q13 Arts Around about playing the Sultan
Brandon O'Neill and Don Darryl Rivera appeared on the John Curley Show
The Seattle Times ran a preview article about the show and then a video interview with James Monroe Iglehart
Hunk du Jour interviewed Adam Jacobs
Q13 did a set visit the morning before the show opened (though sadly the video no longer appears to be online)
Seattle Weekly spoke with Jonathan Freeman about bringing Jafar to life again
Theater Mania interviewed Casey Nicholaw
After the show opened King 5 featured video interviews with Adam Jacobs, Courtney Reed and James Monroe Iglehart along with footage from the show
Talkin' Broadway interviewed Alan Menken
Seattle Weekly spoke with Paul Hansen about his percussion work for the show
Don Darryl Rivera guides Playbill through a 2 show day with some fantastic behind the scenes photos and witty captions (seriously if you only check out one of these links then make it this one, it's a fun read and offers some of the best views of the costumes, including Jonathan Freeman as Jafar).

Even after the show finished the media kept coming as Jonathan Freeman spoke with InsideTheMagic (and this video has the only stage photo of Jonathan as Jafar I've ever seen, as far as I'm aware it never received a wide released anywhere) and Adam Jacobs spoke with Stage Rush about playing Aladdin.

Not to be outdone, The 5th Avenue released a behind the scenes rehearsal video featuring short interviews with several of the cast and then came The JMI Show.  Words cannot describe how much I love JMI's interviews.  One of my most enduring memories of the 2011 Pilot Production of Aladdin is the theme tune to The JMI Show!  For those that don't know, The JMI Show is James' YouTube show where he interviews fellow cast and crew.  As well as a natural born entertainer, James is a gifted interviewer and really funny dude.  Throughout July The 5th Avenue released new editions of The JMI Show where James interviewed Casey Nicholaw, Adam Jacobs and Courtney Reed, Jonathan Freeman and Don Darryl Rivera, and finally Aladdin's trio of friends and narrators, Brandon O'Neill, Andrew Keenan-Bolger and Brian Gonzales.  By the end of July 2011 I knew the JMI theme tune as well as I did any of the songs from  Aladdin.  Watch them and enjoy, you will not be disappointed!

Looking back it's funny to think how myself and other fans thought they weren't releasing enough!  Compared with the releases for the recent Toronto run, The 5th Avenue released an incredible amount of information and media.  I think our desperation for more was driven, at least in part, by the belief that this was it.  This 3 week run was our only chance to see or hear any of this stuff, so we craved it.  Now, with the show coming to Broadway, that desperation is gone, we don't need to have it all now because we know it's all coming.  But it sure made those two summer months an incredibly intense and exciting time for Aladdin fans and an experience I'll never forget.

The show finally opened on 7th July 2011.  Audiences loved it from the first preview and it took less than a day for the song list to hit the net.

Act One
Arabian Nights
Babkak, Omar, Aladdin, Kassim
One Jump Ahead
One Jump Ahead, Reprise
Proud of Your Boy
Arabian Nights, Reprise 1
Call Me a Princess
Call Me a Princess, Reprise
Why Me
A Million Miles Away
Arabian Nights, Reprise 2
Friend Like Me
Arabian Nights, Reprise 3
Act 1 Finale (Friend Like Me, Reprise and Proud of Your Boy, Reprise)

Act Two
Prince Ali
A Whole New World
High Adventure
Somebody's Got Your Back
Wedding Day Suite (said to be a bit of everything and an extended Prince Ali, Reprise)
Finale Ultimo (Somebody's Got Your Back, Reprise, Arabian Nights, Reprise 4, A Whole New World, Reprise)

But, like with Toronto, the final song list would end up looking a little different.  Two days after opening the Wedding Day Suite was gone, replaced by the regular Prince Ali, Reprise (though High Adventure, Reprise was added soon after), and Finale Ultimo was being trimmed.

It also wasn't long before the show received two very special visitors.  Aladdin's writers/directors Ron Clements and John Musker!  The photos, posted by 5th Avenue, also offered fans their first real chance to see all the cast in costume.

Ron and John with the cast of Aladdin, Photo by The 5th Avenue

And hot on the heals of that came the official pictures;

Adam Jacobs as Aladdin, Photo by Chris Bennion

Adam Jacobs and James Monroe Iglehart as Aladdin and Genie, Photo by Chris Bennion
James Monroe Iglehart as Genie, Photo by Chris Bennion
James Monroe Iglehart as Genie, Sean G. Griffin as Sultan and Ensemble, Photo by Chris Bennion
Adam Jacobs and Courtney Reed as Aladdin and Jasmine, Photo by Chris Bennion
From left to right; Brian Gonzales as Babkak, James Monroe Iglehart as Genie, Andrew Keenan-Bolger as Omar, Adam Jacobs as Aladdin and Brandon O'Neill as Kassim. Photo by Chris Bennion
Adam Jacobs as Aladdin, Courtney Reed as Jasmine, Sean G. Griffin as Sultan and Ensemble, Photo by Chris Bennion

And the first video, offering a preview of the new Menken/Beguelin duet A Million Miles Away;

Sadly this was the only full clip released by The 5th Avenue, but in under 2 minutes it made me fall in love with the show all over again.  At that point I'd have given almost anything to have been in Seattle watching the show.

On 21st July 2011 the show officially opened.  The reviews, whilst mixed, were relatively positive overall with the professional critics being more, well, critical and the more personal reviews being much more positive.  My response to the reviews can found here.  It's also encouraging to note that many of the issues raised by the critics in Seattle were addressed for the recent Toronto run.  The most divisive issue in Seattle was the staging of A Whole New World, but in Toronto almost everyone agreed that that scene is now one of the standouts of the show.

But sadly all good things must come to an end.  Ten days after it's official opening Aladdin: The New Stage Musical came to a close, with the audience sending it on it's way in fine style, clapping along with Friend Like Me and bringing down the house one last time.  On Twitter, 5th Avenue said it best, "Closing night is always so bittersweet. Congratulations again to everybody on a fantastic run!"

Of course my personal favourite memory of Seattle is getting to interview most of the principal cast.  When I first emailed Adam Jacobs I barely dared to imagine that he'd even reply, but he very graciously accepted and that, for me, was the moment that this blog became something very special.  Encouraged, I reached out to Courtney Reed and James Monroe Iglehart and was honoured when they both accepted as well.  Then, with the tremendous help and support of Bridget Summers at 5th Avenue, I was able to arrange interviews with Don Darryl Rivera, Andrew Keenan-Bolger, Sean Griffin and Brandon O'Neill.  To say it was a dream come true is an understatement.  It was an honour and a privilege, but above all it was an absolute pleasure.  And I just want to say a big thank you once again to them all for taking the time to do this for me and for the fans of the show who read this blog.  I owe you all a debt of gratitude and thanks that I can never repay.

One year later many of the cast, along with writer/lyricist Chad Beguelin, once again very kindly gave up their time to offer me their reflections on Aladdin for the show's anniversary.  I think that also offers the perfect place to end this look back at The 5th Avenue's Pilot Production, so I'm going to leave you now with the words of Alan Menken.  He's talking about the opening night of the show but I think this tweet also perfectly captures the entire of the Seattle run;

"First preview of ALADDIN last night. Soooo much fun! Everyone is so happy. Howard lives again thanks to Casey, Chad and the whole team..."  - Alan Menken (@AIMenken)

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Artist Spotlight - Casey Nicholaw

The countdown to Broadway has begun!  At the end of last week Disney Theatrical released the first in what is presumably a series of Artist Spotlight videos to their YouTube channel.

This first video features Tony Award winning Director and Choreographer Casey Nicholaw talking about bringing Aladdin to the stage and what he hopes audiences will take away from the show.

Previews of Aladdin: Broadway's New Musical Comedy begin 26th February and tickets are now on sale from the show's official site.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Salaam Toronto!

Well this is it, this afternoon's matinee is Aladdin's final performance in snowy Toronto.  I just want to say a big congratulations to all the cast and crew and everyone involved with bringing this show to life on the Ed Mirvish's stage.  From everything I've read it's been an incredible run.  I hope you all enjoy this final show and a well earned break.  Next month Broadway is waiting for you!

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Aladdin's Final Days in Toronto

Happy New Year!!

Well it's here, 2014.  This week Aladdin is playing it's final shows in Toronto.  If you still want to see the show before it hops on that magic carpet to the Great White Way then there are still a few seats left for both of Saturday's performances and Sunday's final matinee (tonight and tomorrow are both sold out).  Tickets are available from the Mirvish's website.

After wowing audiences for the past 2 months and bringing some of the heat of the Arabian desert to snowy Toronto (at least inside the theatre) it's almost time to say goodbye to Canada.  But unlike the last time most of this cast said goodbye to their characters this time it's only for a month, they know where they're going next and that's Broadway!

And that leads me nicely to this next piece of news.

Brandon O'Neill
Several members of Aladdin's cast will be making their Broadway debuts with this show, including Brandon O'Neill who plays Aladdin's friend, Kassim.  Just before Christmas Brandon spoke with Inlander about his musical background, his road to Broadway and the difference between the 5th Avenue's Pilot Production and the new Broadway bound production of Aladdin.  It's a very interesting read and well worth checking out.  Oh and twelve weeks of twelve hour days?  No one ever said being on stage was easy!!
Alan Menken was also interviewed recently, speaking with the Daily Tribune about the current trend of adapting movies into musicals.  It's not entirely Aladdin related but it's a very interesting read and I highly recommend giving it a look.
Coming back to Aladdin, as we end one year and start a new one it's often traditional to look back on what has been and look forward to what's to come.  Broadway World recently did just that with Aladdin topping their list of 2013's hottest news stories and coming second in their list of "14 Things We Can't Wait For".  Obviously they have good taste :o)