Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Proud of Your Boy - An Interview with Adam Jacobs

Adam Jacobs as Aladdin, Photo by Deen Van Meer

One of my favourite memories of the Seattle production of Aladdin was being fortunate enough to interview many of the principal cast members of the show.  When it was announced that Aladdin would be coming to Broadway I always hoped that I'd be able to do that again and tonight I'm extremely happy and honoured to be able to present an interview with Aladdin himself, Adam Jacobs!

Hi Adam!

Thanks for agreeing to do this again, I can't believe it's been over three years since we last did this for the Seattle Pilot!

Last time we did an interview you were in the middle of rehearsing for Seattle, so that seems like a good place to start. What was that production like to be a part of and how did you approach the character of Aladdin?
Looking back now, Seattle seems like a distant memory!  I feel like a LOT has happened since then and the show has grown and changed so much.  That was an exciting time, full of possibilities and experimentation.  Everyone's creative juices were flowing and we all were hyped up and daring to push the limits of what we could do.  My approach to Aladdin was taking what I already knew about him (aversion to authority, rough around the edges but with a heart of gold, witty and insouciant) and tried to delve a little deeper into the "why".  Where did his laissez faire attitude stem from?  How much was his mother an influence in his life? Was there a father figure?  Creating my own backstory helped create and inform the character.
What was your favorite part of the show in that production and is that still your favorite part in this new production?
I loved how the Seattle audiences received us with open arms.  I also loved watching “High Adventure” from the wings (and still do).
Between playing Aladdin in Seattle and returning to the role on Broadway you certainly kept busy, reuniting with Courtney Reed in Once On This Island and starring as Zorro.  What is it that attracted you to these roles and what do you look for in a show?
I tend to be attracted roles that require a bit of athleticism.  I had to learn how to fence in Zorro and working with Terry King, one of the foremost fight choreographers today when it comes to sword-fighting, was super fulfilling.  I love playing characters that have a hero's journey.

Adam Jacobs as Zorro, Photo by Grey Mooney

When did you first learn that Aladdin might be heading to Broadway, how did you come to be involved with the production, and what was it like to get that call saying you'd got the part?

I actually found out I'd be playing Aladdin on Broadway while I was rehearsing for Zorro.  Getting that call straight from the Disney producers was incredible to the say the least.  My wife happened to be in town that week in Atlanta and we were jumping for joy in the hotel room.
Having been with the show since the early workshops and pilot production, how did it feel to finally get to bring the show to Broadway and to do so with many of your Seattle cast mates?
Having been with the show from the very beginning makes our arrival here even that much more fulfilling. Stepping into the New Amsterdam Theatre and seeing them load our set in was electrifying.  We felt like all the hard work and all the revisions and rewrites and the blood sweat and tears were worth it.
Having played the part before, did this inform how you approached the role or did you try to approach it as if you’d not played the character before when you started rehearsing for Toronto?
When I started rehearsals again for Toronto, it was like putting on a familiar coat, or riding a bike.  Aladdin was still within me and it didn't take much coaxing to bring that character back to life.

Adam Jacobs as Aladdin, Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann
The show went through some big changes between Toronto and Broadway (arguably even bigger than the changes between Seattle and Toronto) but the final show is much stronger for it.  What were those final rehearsals like in the run up to your Broadway opening?
Honestly it was a little chaotic.  We were still making script changes the day before opening and I was a little sad when it actually became "frozen".  Even though I was excited to have the show set, I always go through a little bit of mourning when the creative process ends.
Looking back over all the versions of show, from early workshops to Broadway’s opening night, is there anything that you miss/were sorry to see go from those earlier versions and what’s been your favorite addition/change to the show?
Well, sure there were jokes here and there that I loved and was sad to see go, but all the trims and cuts helped streamline the story and it was the right thing to do.  I miss Babkak's "It's the vamp" line, and I miss parts of "Call Me A Princess".  But I also love some of the new lines like "I think the chosen people are a few hundred miles to the west..."
The cast album is incredible.  What was it like in the recording studio?
A bit nerve-wracking.  Knowing it's forever made me a bit jittery.  Having Alan Menken there didn't help either :). But I'm super pleased with how it came out.

Adam Jacobs in the recording studio with Alan Menken

In our previous interview, you spoke about your pre-show routine for playing Simba (in The Lion King), what’s your pre-show routine like for Aladdin?
It's actually not too different.  I still do some of the same exercises and warm ups, but now I just add some juggling and a little tap-dancing.
What’s the best part about being Aladdin on Broadway?
Greeting the fans at the stage door is the best.  Seeing people of all types and ages excited and happy from watching us fills me up every time.  Even if I feel like I didn't have the best show, hearing people say how much they loved it makes it all worth it.
If you weren't playing Aladdin, which role would you want to play in the show?
I'd love to take a crack at Kassim just to do “High Adventure.”  I just love that number.

"High Adventure", Photo by Adam Jacobs

And finally, what's your favorite show and why?
I don't have a definite favorite, but one of my favorite shows is West Side Story.  I love that score and the choreography.  I remember watching the guys dance "Cool" in the film and being entranced by how much the dance was telling the story.  Those love songs are pretty incomparable too :)

Adam, once again, thank you so much for doing this interview.  It was incredible getting to see you bring Aladdin to life earlier this year, I wish you all the best.

In addition to Adam Jacobs, I just want to say a big thank you to Disney Theatrical for arranging this interview for me.

Adam Jacobs is currently playing the title role in Disney's Aladdin at the New Amsterdam Theatre, New York.  Tickets are currently on sale through to January 2015 and can be purchased from the show's official website.  If you want to know more about Adam make sure you check out his website.

Challenge Accepted

On Saturday the cast of Broadway's Aladdin took the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and nominated Thomas Schumacher, head of Disney Theatrical, and their award winning composer Alan Menken.

You can now watch their response on Alan Menken's official Facebook page.

Guess it's over to Casey Nicholaw now!

Monday, 25 August 2014

Broadway News Round Up 14

Jonathan Freeman and Don Darryl Rivera as Jafar and Iago, Photo by Deen Van Meer

Time is just flying this year!  Sorry I missed last week's news round up, I was away for a family birthday.  So, without further ado it's catch up time!

First a quick announcement - James Monroe Iglehart will be performing in Speechless at Joe's Pub TONIGHT!!  Tickets can be purchased here and you can read more information at Broadway World.  If you can make it be sure to check it out as it sounds like it should be a hilarious night.

Aladdin continues to make box office magic on Broadway as Variety is reporting that the show has broken the weekly house record for the New Amsterdam Theatre (no easy feat given that an earlier occupant of the New Amsterdam was Disney's own megahit The Lion King) and continues to play to sold out audiences.  Huge congratulations to the cast and crew of Aladdin and everyone at the New Amsterdam Theatre.

NBC New York offers up a rare treat this week as they talk to Jonathan Freeman about playing Jafar for over 20 years and share some brief clips from the show featuring Jonathan and Don Darryl Rivera's Iago.

The other half of Aladdin's villainous duo spoke with about moving to New York and living his Broadway dreams in Aladdin and then took Playbill on a photo walk through of a two show day which is well worth checking out as Don literally takes you from waking up to going to sleep with 2 shows and some great behind the scenes photos along the way.

Of course it wasn't just the villains getting in on the fun as Courtney Reed took part in's latest Character Study video, discussing her character and why Jasmine is her favourite Disney princess.  As you watch you can see the magic of theatre as Courtney is transformed into Jasmine right before your eyes.

You're probably all aware of the Ice Bucket Challenge that has taken the internet by storm in recent weeks to raise awareness of ALS.  Given the amount of charities and good causes that the cast of Aladdin have supported it should come as no surprise that the whole cast this week took the challenge and posted the video on Facebook to prove it.  They also challenged the head of Disney Theatrical Thomas Schumacher, Aladdin's composer Alan Menken, Aladdin's book writer and lyricist Chad Beguelin and Disney CEO Bob Iger (again!)

Also over the last few weeks the cast of Aladdin have been posting photos on Twitter and Instagram using #IHeartTheArts to show their support for The Actors Fund.  You can see them all on Twitter and Instagram but here's a small preview;

Don Darryl Rivera as Iago Hearts the Arts, Photo by Don Darryl Rivera

Of course, the last two weeks also saw the sad death of Robin Williams.  I already shared my own thoughts and the cast's heartfelt tribute the other week but there have been a few other pieces that I wanted to share with you.  When writing my thoughts I deliberately avoided the issue of Robin Williams' depression.  I wanted to focus on what he meant to me and also respect his family's wishes that he be remembered for the joy and laughter that he gave the world.  However, when Patrick Page (The Lion King's Scar and soon to be The Hunchback of Notre Dame's Frollo) shared the deeply personal story of his own battle with depression with Broadway World I felt compelled to share it.  It's not easy to read but I'm glad I did.  It offers a deeper, intimate, understanding of what many people struggle with everyday.  Anyone who's ever even thought "what did he have to be depressed about" needs to read it.  My heartfelt thanks go out to Patrick, this can't have been easy for him to share.

Alan Menken, who worked with Robin Williams, also posted a moving tribute to him on his Facebook page, recalling meeting Robin Williams in LA, the recording sessions in which Robin sang his songs in their original intended style before being let loose to do his thing, the magic that followed and later scoring for Robin's character Charlie Boyd in Noel.

And I just want to end with this.  Many of you will probably already have seen it but I still wanted to post it here.  A fitting farewell from Genie's Supervising Animator Eric Goldberg.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

I Dream of Genie Episode 3

James Monroe Iglehart as Genie, Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann

Sorry I'm a little late with this.  Earlier this week posted the third episode of James Monroe Iglehart's vlog I Dream of Genie.

In this episode James takes us behind the scenes at a pick up rehearsal and answers the first batch of your questions (you did submit a question on Twitter, right?).  This week is also a little extra special as it has backing music provided by the talented Jaz Sealey.


Farewell to the Kings of New York

The Cast of Newsies

In 2011 Disney Theatrical, working with regional theatres, developed Pilot Productions of two shows.  The first was Aladdin and if you're reading this blog then chances are that you know the story behind that production.  The second was Newsies.

Like Aladdin, Newsies was based on a 1992 Disney musical and the Pilot Production, produced at the Papermill Playhouse, was not intended for Broadway.  Like Aladdin, the intention was for Newsies to be a licensable production for professional and amateur regional groups who had long been requesting an official stage version of the musical from Disney and MTI.  Like Aladdin, the fans of Newsies had other ideas and support for the Papermill's Pilot Production was overwhelming.  And, unlike Aladdin, the Newsies had the critics on their side.  Within a month of closing in New Jersey it was announced that Newsies would be carrying the banner all the way to Broadway in March 2012.

Originally announced as a limited run of 101 performances the fans once again turned out in overwhelming support for Newsies that saw it's limited run extended to an open ended stay on Broadway.

Today, after 1005 performances, the Newsies will take their final bow on Broadway.

I was lucky enough to see this fantastic show when I went to New York earlier this year.  It's a great night at the theatre and the choreography is incredible.  If you have the chance I would highly recommend seeing the US Tour which starts in October.

Today, I just want to wish the cast and crew a fabulous closing show and congratulations on their record breaking run.  Farewell, Kings of New York.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

I Dream of Genie Episode 2

James Monroe Iglehart as Genie, Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann

Last night posted the second episode of James Monroe Iglehart's vlog I Dream of Genie.

This week it's time to go backstage and meet the cast and it's done in true JMI style.  The cast sing the best rendition of "Happy Birthday" I've ever heard to Khori Petinaud and Don Darryl Rivera has the best copy of the Aladdin VHS ever!!

For next week's episode James is taking your questions!  Tweet your questions to him at @jamesmiglehart using the hashtag #askthegenie

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Aladdin on Broadway Pays Tribute to Robin Williams

In an emotional finale to the show, last night (Tuesday 12th August) James Monroe Iglehart and the cast of Aladdin led the audience in a sing-a-long of "Friend Like Me" in tribute to Robin Williams.

Disney Theatrical have very kindly provided me with the video to share on this blog;

RIP Robin Williams

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

In Memory of Robin Williams 1951-2014

This morning I woke up to the sad news that Robin Williams passed away yesterday aged 63.  Yesterday Disney's CEO Bob Iger released a statement calling Robin "a true Disney Legend, a beloved member of our family" and offered his condolences to his family.  Aladdin's official Facebook page followed suit, saying "The world just won't be the same without the magic, inspiration and laughter you brought to us all".
The cast of Broadway's Aladdin and Robin Williams' co-stars from the original animated Aladdin took to social media and joined the world in offering their own personal messages of remembrance and condolence with James Monroe Iglehart saying "Robin Williams! 1 of the Greatest Period. I just want to say Thank You for the laughs" #FallenHero" whilst Gilbert Gottfried offered a simple but poignant "From the Parrot to the Genie... #RIPRobinWilliams".
For me, Robin Williams was a large part of my childhood thanks largely to his role as the Genie.  He played more roles than I can list here and I'm ashamed to admit that I've seen less of them than I should have, especially his more recent performances, but for me three will always stand out - Peter Pan, Genie and Mrs Doubtfire.
Like many people my age, my introduction to Robin Williams was the Genie.  It's a performance that's stood the test of time and rightly gone down in history as one of his greatest roles (as Genie's animator Eric Goldberg said, if there was ever anyone tailor made for animation it was Robin), but it's not the performance that's stayed with me the most.  That is Mrs Doubtfire.  That may seem like a strange thing to say on a blog dedicated to Aladdin, and I've certainly seen Aladdin far more times than I've seen Mrs Doubtfire, but as a child of divorced parents that film spoke to me on a very personal level.  I've not seen the film in years (something I plan to rectify very soon) but I can still remember the ending, as Robin's character speaks to his children on TV through his reply to another child's letter, saying "some [families] live in separate homes, in separate neighbourhoods, in different areas of the country - and they may not see each other for days, or weeks, months, even years at a time.  But if there's love dear, those are the ties that bind, and you'll have a family in your heart forever. All my love to you, poppet, you're going to be all right. Bye-bye."  It touched me and spoke to a truth that I knew in my own life.  It stayed with me.
There has been a lot of talk in the news today about Robin Williams' battles with depression, I just pray that Peter Pan has his happy thoughts again and is able to soar to the heavens once more.  Rest in peace Robin, if anyone deserves to it's you.  Thank you for the laughter and joy that you gave to the world.
Many people today are saying that the Genie is free.  It's a fitting tribute, but for me the quote from Aladdin that sums up my feelings comes not from the Genie but from Aladdin;
"Genie, I'm... I'm gonna miss you."

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Happy Birthday Courtney Reed!

Courtney Reed as Princess Jasmine in the 2011 Pilot Production, Photo by Mark Kitaoka

One last quick update for this weekend!  I just want to wish a very happy birthday to Princess Jasmine herself, Courtney Reed!  Hope you have an incredible day Courtney.

Broadway News Round Up 13

Hi everyone!  A very short news update this weekend as the last one was only posted on Wednesday and I'm giving JMI's vlog episodes their own posts.  This week it's all about supporting good causes.

It's not often we get an Aladdin #SIP but Courtney Reed posted one yesterday, dedicated to #smileyforkylie.  This isn't the first time Courtney has shown her support for young Kylie
(two months ago she and Adam Jacobs posted this picture) and it's incredibly heart warming to see members of the theatre community coming together to help a young girl through dark days.

And last week Aladdin's Marisha Wallace took part in the Broadway Sings for The Trevor Project concert, raising money to help provide crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBT young people aged 13-24 .  Theater Mania was there was to capture photos from the event.

Short but sweet this week.  It seems every week I'm writing about a member of the Aladdin cast doing something for a good cause and the shorter nature of this post has really helped to focus my attention on it.  It's amazing to read these stories every week about people who are going out of their way to support good causes and actually do good in the world.  Aladdin is a show about magic but this is magically in a different way, it's heart warming and serves to remind us that though we often hear about the worst side of humanity (all you need to do is turn on the news) there are people out there who are good and trying to make the world a better place, whether that's by raising money for a good cause or just helping someone to smile, it makes a difference.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

I Dream of Genie Episode 1

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

Tonight (well technically last night since it's almost 2am here in the UK but the Vlog's American so I'm gonna go with it) saw the release of the first episode of James Monroe Iglehart's new Vlog "I Dream of Genie".

I'll post more about it in the morning but for now just make sure to check it our for yourself right here!

Night everyone!

Update - Ok, I'm a little more refreshed now and how awesome was that?!  Back stage at "The View", freestyling with Freestyle Love and Batman, lots and lots of Batman!!  I can't wait to see next week's episode as JMI introduces his Aladdin cast mates!

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Broadway News Round Up 12

I know time's meant to go faster as you get old but this is crazy!  You turn thirty and the next thing you know it's been two and half weeks since the last news round up!  Hopefully this will be the start of things getting back on track!

Let's start with the big news of the last few weeks and a man who will have no problem sticking to a weekly schedule - James Monroe Iglehart is's latest Vlogger!!

James Monroe Iglehart as Genie, Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann

Yes, our favourite Genie is now going to be staring in his own video blog series, appropriately titled "I Dream of Genie" for 8 weeks starting from tomorrow!  The full announcement can be read over at  I can't wait for this series, James is a great guy and a terrific presenter so I have no doubt this series will be insightful, humorous and extremely watchable.  Hopefully it's also a prelude to more episodes of The JMI Show too (hey, a guy can wish, can't he?)

On 25th July James had one of his wishes come true as he co-hosted The View and Disney Theatrical celebrated by releasing a special video;

And have some footage from the show!

Adam Jacobs and Courtney Reed teamed up once again, this time testing each other in EW's Disney Pop Quiz (I love how Courtney mimes dinglehopper!)

Courtney Reed, Photo by Bruce Glikas
And, Fresh from her victory over Adam, Courtney had another reason to celebrate the other week as she took part in a special handprint ceremony at Planet Hollywood in Times Square! and Playbill  both have more coverage and photos from the event, including Courtney celebrating with a MASSIVE bowl of spaghetti, so make sure to check them out.

InStyle also caught up with Courtney recently to find out just how Jasmine looks that good as Courtney shared the secrets behind looking like a real life Disney princess.

Last time I mentioned that Courtney would be taking part in the annual Dare to Go Beyond summer camp and now Broadway World have some photos from the event (I can't see Courtney in them, but she did post some on Twitter).

Earlier this week Aladdin's Marisha Wallace joined other Broadway stars as part of Broadway Sings for The Trevor Project.  More details of the event and the work done by The Trevor Project can be found here.  I'm sorry I didn't know about this in enough time to give people a heads up.

Whilst on the subject of good causes, I want to give another push for support for both Dennis Stowe (who plays Razoul and others in Aladdin on Broadway) and Disney Theatrical's Thomas Schumacher who are both due to take part in Broadway Sleeps Out to raise money for homeless children.

As part of Broadway World's "Broadway Quick Change" series Robert Hartwell helps James Monroe Iglehart put his own stamp on his dressing room with the aid of some trips to Mid Town Comics and Toys R Us (and it looks awesome!)

Between TV appearances, prepping for his video blog and having his room redecorated, James also found time to be an honorary beauty queen at Pageant as he visited the show this week.  Make sure you check out for the hilarious photo!

And of course it's nice to know that Aladdin continues to go strong as it continues to be the best selling new musical on Broadway and Deadline reports that Disney's Broadway Trio (Aladdin, Newsies and The Lion King) between them took almost 20% of Broadway's total box office last week!  Aladdin this week extended it's current booking period through to 1st February 2015 and tickets to the show can be bought from the official website -

Finally, I just want to wish a belated Happy Birthday to the one and only Omar, Jonathan Schwartz who celebrated his birthday on 30th July!

That's all for this now!  I'll be back tomorrow for JMI's first "I Dream of Genie" and then this weekend for another news round up.