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.

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