Thursday, 26 November 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

Adam Jacobs, Courtney Reed and James Monroe Iglehart as Aladdin, Jasmine and Genie, Photo by Disney
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!

I've said it a few times this year but I just can't believe how quickly this year has gone! We're just 4 weeks away from Christmas (and only 3 weeks away from Star Wars!!)  But anyway, back to Thanksgiving!

We don't celebrate Thanksgiving here in the UK but I've got friends and family in America, and this blog is celebrating an American show, so I decided I'd get in the spirit of the holiday and share what I'm thankful for in the world of Aladdin!

Let's start at the beginning - I'm thankful to Disney Theatrical and Thomas Schumacher, that they saw the potential in Aladdin and weren't content to just license it out for easy money, that they came back to it after 2011's initial pilot production and turned it from a diamond in the rough to the Broadway sensation that it is today.  There's a beautiful feature on the show on the new Diamond Edition Blu-Ray of Aladdin where Thomas Schumacher says that the reason Aladdin is what it is today, the reason it works, "is because nobody quit.  Nobody quit on it, and it was the sheer will of an enormous number of committed people that made the show happen."  I'm thankful to each and everyone of them.

Moving away from Aladdin for a moment, I'm thankful of how supportive Disney Theatrical been to The Hunchback of Notre Dame, allowing the show to go back to the book to tell the story they wanted to tell.  And then, when it became clear the show wasn't going to Broadway, getting the cast back together to produce a cast album so there will always be a record of that incredible production.

Adam Jacobs and Courtney Reed as Aladdin and Jasmine, Photo by Deen Van Meer
Back to Aladdin and the one thing I can never be thankful enough for is this amazing cast!  I've said it before and I will say it again, this cast is incredible!  No only are they phenomenally talented and hard working, putting on the best show on Broadway 8 times a week, but they're also some of the nicest, most generous people you could ever hope to meet!

Backstage with Trevor Dion Nicholas
I'm thankful that I got to see Trevor Dion Nicholas make his show and Broadway debut as Genie, and that I got to see Merwin Foard before he left the show.  But more than anything I'm thankful for the heart warming welcome back we received.  I will never forget standing at the stage door having just seen the show for the first time in over a year and then Jane and I being recognised by both Courtney, who pulled us both into a massive hug, and Adam!

Then it was back stage to see Don Darryl Rivera!  And I just have to say here, I'm thankful for every member of this wonderful cast but I'm extra thankful for Don.  He's treated me as a friend from the beginning and has been incredibly generous with both his time and support.  When it was announced that Brandon was leaving, I'd asked Don if he could get one of the show posters signed for me before he left.  I'd thought I'd ask the others to sign it whilst I was there but Don was one step (or one jump if you will!) ahead of me.  He met us at stage door with a fully signed poster each!

And then he took us back stage and gave us an incredible guided tour, showing us everything from the props to the costumes to the orchestra pit (I have no idea how they move in there, I had no idea how small it was!!).  We also got to meet his wife, Kate, who was just as generous and kind as Don.  When she heard we were going to see The Hunchback of Notre Dame she offered to take us backstage there as well!!  And I have to say, seeing that set that close up was simply amazing.  The set was truly a work of art and the bells were magnificent!

Yes, it's Jafar's staff! Yes, it's awesome!
Don showing off the hidden lamp in Omar's sword!  Look for it in "High Adventure"!
And speaking of The Hunchback of Notre Dame it was amazing to finally meet Samantha Massell in person!  Which brings me to another thing I'm thankful for - this blog!  I never dreamed when I started this that I'd get the chance to interview the cast, I certainly never dreamed I'd get to meet any of them or go back stage at a Disney show!  Heck, I thought this would all be over by the end of 2011!  This blog has been a gift to me.

But even after going back stage at Aladdin and Hunchback, Don wasn't done yet!  When we came back to see the show again before going home he took us to visit the Disney Theatrical offices upstairs at the New Amsterdam Theatre!!  I was in Disney and Theatre geek heaven!  I'm kicking myself at the moment as I can't find the folder with the pictures I took!  The offices are incredible!  There was beautiful prints of show photos on the walls, props from the shows, even the prototype of the magic lamp from Aladdin!  It was a once in a life time experience that I can never thank Don enough for.
Edit - Found the pictures!!!

I'm also thankful for fun holiday memories.  Like the time I gave a one man standing ovation for "Friend Like Me"!  It was a great performance ("Friend Like Me" always is) so I leapt to my feet as you do and then slowly realised I was on my own.  Even my wife wisely gave me that "you're on your own" look before giggling at my predicament.  We were on the front row so I was probably blocking the view of the rows behind me and in full view of the cast on stage!  But I would totally do it again!  The bows that night were amazing, with Don giving us a thumbs up and Courtney waving to us as the curtain came down.  The feeling is something I can't put into words, I'm just so grateful to everyone for it.
Back stage afterwards it was great to see everyone again to say goodbye.  Adam gave me a hug and a "thanks for trying" for the standing ovation and Courtney gave us a lovely card before we left.
I had another "pinch me I'm dreaming" moment when Don introduced us to Jonathan Freeman!!  It was so surreal stood talking about Aladdin and the various productions in had on the way to Broadway with the original Jafar!!  Of course me being an idiot I didn't ask to get a picture!  But it was an incredible moment for this lifelong Disney fan!
After how fantastic everyone was to Jane and I last year, we made sure this year we went bearing gifts!  Schmackary's for everyone and then some special gifts for a few people who have always gone the extra mile for me.  The only reason I'm mentioning this is because I want to share a picture of Don's gift with you now, simply because it's a brand new piece of Iago art by Iago's supervising animator Will Finn!!

Big thanks to Don for this picture with him in costume!
And, of course, I'm thankful that Aladdin is coming to the UK next year!  I hope they bring these with them!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  I hope you have a wonderful time filled with friends, family, love and laughter.
Stage selfie for the finish!!

No comments:

Post a Comment