Friday, 20 March 2015

Disney's Aladdin Celebrates One Year on Broadway

Happy anniversary to the Aladdin family!

Has it really been a whole year already?  It certainly doesn't feel that long!  I still have vivid memories of sitting down in the New Amsterdam Theatre, the overture beginning to play and the stage curtain pulling away to reveal a hilarious Genie and all the heroes and villains of Agrabah.  That was March 19th, the day the show was finally locked.  March 20th was the real celebration as the casts' friend, family and peers filled the audience to celebrate the show's official opening on Broadway.  They and the critics agreed, Aladdin was Disney's latest masterpiece.

I was fortunate enough to see the show twice that week.  It was everything I ever wanted it to be.  My favourite childhood film brought to life on stage with the "lost" songs of Howard Ashman restore to their rightful place.

To help celebrate this anniversary I asked Disney Theatrical if any of the Aladdin cast would be willing to share any special memories they had of this first year.  Ariel Reid very kindly agreed and shared this incredible memory;

"One of my favorite memories of the show is from the night of the Tony awards. We had just performed on the broadcast, and we raced back to the New Amsterdam Theater in order to watch James' category. We didn't have enough time to fully change so most of us were in our robes and wig caps, and we all crammed into Adam Jacobs' dressing room to watch on TV. When they announced the category and nominees you could hear a pin drop. When they announced James as the winner we all collectively started screaming and crying and hugging and jumping for joy for our Genie! It was one of the most exhilarating moments at Aladdin for me.  And that is what makes this show special: the love that we share for each other and the support that we provide for each other."

Tony Award Winner James Monroe Iglehart, Photo by Getty Images
Thanks Ariel, I wish you and the entire Aladdin family an incredible first anniversary and hope it's just the first of many magical years on Broadway!

Happy anniversary everyone!

Adam Jacobs and Courtney Reed as Aladdin and Jasmine, Photo by Matthew Murphy

Sunday, 15 March 2015

James Monroe Iglehart Returns to The View & New Hunchback Media

James Monroe Iglehart as Genie, Photo by Disney Theatrical

Where does the time go?  Next week Aladdin celebrates it's first anniversary on Broadway!!

As part of the celebrations Tony Award winner James Monroe Iglehart will be returning to co-host ABC's The View on Friday March 20th.  The show will air 11am-12noon ET on ABC.  JMI is a natural host so if you can tune in it's bound to be a great show!

And over in New Jersey the promotional push for Disney Theatrical's latest kicked up a notch this week as the Paper Mill Playhouse released the first images and footages of The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Michael Arden as Quasimodo, Photo by Matthew Murphy

Michael Arden and Ciara Renee as Quasimodo and Esmeralda, Photo by
Ciara Renee and Andrew Samonsky as Esmeralda and Phoebus, Photo by Matthew Murphy

Ciara Renee as Esmeralda, Photo by Matthew Murphy

Doesn't it look amazing?  Get your tickets now at Paper Mill's website and if you become a Sponsor of the Paper Mill you could even go on a one-of-a-kind backstage tour on 18th March (details here).

That's all I have time for this week (it's holiday time!!) but I promise a proper news round up will be posted ASAP when I get back.  Sadly this means I won't be able to post a review round up for The Hunchback of Notre Dame next week but if you follow the blog on twitter (@AladdinBDWYBlog) I promise I'll keep you up to date on all the reviews and all the other news whilst I'm away.  As for Aladdin's first anniversary, well I already have something in the works for that so that's one post that will be happening!

Opening Night for The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Michael Arden and Ciara Renee as Quasimodo and Esmeralda, Photo by Matthew Murphy

After a week and half of previews the Paper Mill Playhouse's production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame officially opens tonight!  After last year's critically acclaimed production at the La Jolla Playhouse here's hoping for more of the same after the press leave the theatre tonight.  Then maybe, just maybe, Broadway could be next.

But that's the future.  Tonight is important for that, of course, but it's more important as a celebration of this production and all the hard work and energy that the cast, creative team and everyone at the Paper Mill have put into making this show the best it can possibly be.  The press will be there, but more importantly so will friends and family.  So to everyone at the Paper Mill tonight, on stage, back stage and in the audience, I will say simply this, enjoy it, celebrate it and be moved by it.  That's what live theatre's all about.  This is your night and I wish you all the very best.

And maybe, if we're lucky, we'll see this show make its way to Broadway one day, someday, soon.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Welcome to Agrabah!

The Cast of Aladdin, Photo by Deen Van Meer

Ok, last week I posted that the majority of Aladdin's original Broadway cast had extended their contracts through to 21st February 2016 and welcomed Trevor Dion Nicholas and Angelo Soriano to the show and wished goodbye to three original cast members as Marisha Wallace, Bud Weber and Michael James Scott left Agrabah to join Casey Nicholaw on his latest venture.

This week Aladdin welcomed two new ensemble members to Agrabah as Kathryn Allison and Rodney Ingram joined the cast and made their Broadway debuts in the process!!  Kathryn will be playing Jasmine's Attendant, the Fortune Teller and be a member of the ensemble and Rodney will be a member of the ensemble and understudy for Aladdin.  Congratulations to you both and welcome to the Aladdin family!!

Broadway News Round Up 32

Adam Jacobs and Courtney Reed as Aladdin and Jasmine, Photo by Deen Van Meer

Before I start the news round up this week I just want to say a massive congratulations to Courtney Reed and the entire Team Broadway Strong who took part in Cycle for Survival earlier today and raised a fantastic $40,784 for rare cancer research!  An amazing job everyone!  You can see a picture Courtney posted of the team here.

James Monroe Iglehart recently did a great little interview with Cal State;

I missed this when it went on sale but today is the first ever autism friendly performance of Broadway's Aladdin.  Presented by The Theatre Development Fund's Autism Theatre Initiative the autism-friendly performance of Aladdin sold out within 5 hours of tickets going on sale!  This performance of Aladdin completes the Autism Theatre Initiative's 4th season (other shows this year included The Lion King, Matilda and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time).  For these special performances The Theatre Development Fund purchases every ticket in the theatre to sell at discounted prices to families who have members on the autism spectrum.  During the production itself jarring sounds and strobe lighting are reduced and staffed quiet areas are provided in the theatre lobby.  For more information on this great initiative and for information on upcoming autism friendly performances check out their website.

Tomorrow night (Monday 9th March) Aladdin's Trent Saunders (who understudies for Aladdin) will be taking part in Musicals Tonight!'s latest At This Performance... at The Lion Theatre on 42nd Street.  At This Performance... is a showcase of the talents of Broadway's Standbys, Alternates and Understudies, the unsung heroes of every Broadway musical.  More information can be found at Broadway World.  And speaking of Trent Saunders, Theater Mania has posted a piece about Trent and his equally talented siblings which is well worth a read.

If you missed him in Carousel you can catch Aladdin's original Kassim, Brandon O'Neill, in ACT's production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof running 17th April through 17th May.  More information about the production (part of ACT's 50th Anniversary season) can be found at Broadway World and ticket's can be purchased from ACT's website.

Show Tickets posted an interesting piece recently, looking back at Aladdin's road to Broadway and the changes that the show went through along the way.  Whilst there's nothing really new it's a nice reminder of the journey Aladdin took from Seattle to New York and it does have some interesting observations on Disney Theatrical's ongoing efforts to keep Aladdin in the public eye that make it well worth a read.

In fact those observations made me think of Ant & Dec's Saturday Night Take Away, it's a popular Saturday night show here in the UK and it's currently running a competition to win a trip to New York that includes tickets to Aladdin!  So if you live in the UK here's your chance to win an amazing holiday and tickets to the most magical show on Broadway!

Broadway World is reporting that Disney Theatrical's Thomas Schumacher is to serve on the judging panel of the Tony Awards' first education award, the Excellence in Theatre Education Award.  Congratulations Thomas!  More information about the new award can be found here.

And finally, Disney Blog The Tiara Talk Show has posted their review of Aladdin.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame began previews this week at New Jersey's Paper Mill Playhouse and, despite an unfortunate snow day, there's already some fantastic word of mouth coming out about the show.

Before I get the latest news, Hunchback's Samantha Massell retweet a FANTASTIC competition for any Disney or musical theatre fan!  A chance to win tickets for two to the official Opening Night of The Hunchback of Notre Dame at the Paper Mill Playhouse on 15th March.  But that's not all, the prize also includes entrance to the after show party and a meeting with the legendary Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz!!  Click here to enter!  And if you win after seeing this then make sure to say thanks to Samantha whilst you're there!

Ok, now you've entered the competition of a lifetime here's the rest of the week's news :o)

Theater Mania has a short video interview with the cast and creative team.

Broadway World has posted an interview with Patrick Page about his career of villainy and bringing Frollo greater depth in this new telling of The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

The Soul of the American Actor has posted an interview with Erik Liberman (Clopin).  It's not strictly about Hunchback but it's very informative about Erik himself and his approach to his craft.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Happy Opening to The Hunchback of Notre Dame!

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

Tonight is the night!  Following last year's critically acclaimed US Premiere production at the La Jolla Playhouse, the cast and creative team of The Hunchback of Notre Dame are reunited as they bring Victor Hugo's story to life once more at the Paper Mill Playhouse tonight!

The cast and creative team have all confirmed that the show has been through some changes since last year's premiere production so tonight's audience will be amongst the first to see this new and improved production!  After the incredible word of mouth the La Jolla run got I can't wait to hear what's been tweaked to make the show even better and I can't wait to see it myself in a few weeks!

For now though, I just want to wish everyone at the Paper Mill Playhouse the very best of luck for tonight's first performance.  This is your night, enjoy it and ring those bells with pride!

Sunday, 1 March 2015

James Monroe Iglehart Makes His 54 Below Solo Debut!

James Monroe Iglehart as Genie, Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann

I've never been to 54 Below, and I've never wanted to go more than I do right now!  On Monday 4th May Tony Award Winner James Monroe Iglehart will be making his solo debut at Broadway's famous supper club in How the Heck Did I Get Here?

James has star power, we all know that, he brings audiences to their feet every night with his literally show stopping performance of Friend Like Me (aided by Aladdin's incredible ensemble).  He has enough energy to light up Times Square all by himself and a talent for making people laugh.  He's also one of the nicest guys you could hope to meet.

In How the Heck Did I Get Here? James "relives his obsession with being cool, getting girls and becoming a star told through funny childhood stories and songs ranging from R&B, Hip-Hop, Gospel and Broadway (and maybe a country tune!)".  This is your chance to meet the man behind the Genie in a more intimate setting.

If you're in New York on 4th May then you owe it to yourself to go.  It promises to be a fantastic night of music and laughter that you won't forget.

Tickets go on sale to 54 Club Members on March 2nd, 54 Below's Insider mailing list on 5th March and to the general public on 9th March.

Congratulations James!  I wish I could be there!

Broadway News Round Up 31

Brandon O'Neill, Jonathan Schwartz and Brian Gonzales as Kassim, Omar & Babkak, Photo by Adam Jacobs

Since the big Aladdin news this week is the departure of Michael James Scott, Marisha Wallace and Bud Weber and the remainder of the original cast extending their contracts until February 2016, both of which I've already covered in separate posts, this news round up is actually going to be pretty light on Aladdin news!  But that's ok as it was the first week of Tech Rehearsals for the cast of The Hunchback of Notre Dame over at the Paper Mill Playhouse so there's plenty to catch up on there!

But first, whilst the big news this week for Aladdin on Broadway has been the remaining principle cast members extending their stay in Agrabah through to February 2016, Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre have released a video of Aladdin's original Kassim, Brandon O'Neill, performing If I Loved You with Laura Griffith and Soliloquy from Carousel which ended today.

After Carousel, Brandon will be taking to the stage again later this year at the Ordway Center in Minnesota in The Pirates of Penzance.  Part of the Center's 30th Anniversary line up the show will run from August 4th till August 16th.  If you can make it, be sure to check it out!

And Aladdin's new Kassim, Steel Burkhardt, will be taking part in Baldwin Wallace at 54 Below on April 11th as he and other alumni join current seniors from Baldwin Wallace's acclaimed Musical Theatre Program at 54 Below.

Aladdin's Khori Petinaud will be making the leap from stage to screen soon.  Not sure where but keep an eye on her Twitter for more details as she is able to announce them!  Congratulations Khori!

Michael James Scott joins the cast of Something Rotten! talking about his first show and, on a scale of 1 to 10, just how rotten he was!

This week has seen the start of Tech Rehearsals at the Paper Mill Playhouse and the show's official press day so there's plenty of great Hunchback news to get through this week.

Let's start small, and by small I mean model size as TheaterMania has posted a picture of a set model for the show.  As you can see it looks very similar to the pictures of the La Jolla Playhouse set, a lot more real than Aladdin's bright colours and fantastical locations, a perfect match for the mood of the piece based on the incredible word of mouth generated by the show's San Diego run.

TheaterMania has also posted pictures of the cast and creative team from the Press Day. met the stars of the show on Press Day.

Broadway World posted two special videos giving an exclusive look behind the scenes as the Hunchback cast rehearsed and exclusive interviews as Richard Ridge met the cast.

And Esmeralda herself, Ciara Renee has taken over the Paper Mill's Instagram account this weekend for lots of behind the scenes peaks as the cast of The Hunchback of Notre Dame begin their Tech Rehearsals so make sure you check that out!! (especially Esmeralda and the Bellettes!)

I must admit, this seems to be a lot more press than the La Jolla run got ahead of its debut last year.  Could it be that after the incredibly strong word of mouth Disney Theatrical may be considering a Broadway run for Hunchback?  Obviously it depends on how well this run goes, but the last musical Disney debuted at the Paper Mill was Newsies and we all know what happened there.  Keep your fingers crossed!!

Finally, Hunchback star Patrick Page is having one of his childhood dreams come true.  Having brought so many Disney characters to life on stage, from Lumiere to Scar and now Frollo, Patrick will this summer be the voice of the Disneyland Parade and Fireworks!  What an incredible honour and achievement!  Congratulations Patrick!

The Hunchback of Notre Dame begins performances at the Paper Mill Playhouse on March 4th and runs through to 5th April with an official opening night on 15th March.

Aladdin Cast Extend Their Contracts & More Cast News

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

As you've no doubt heard this week Disney Theatrical announced the excellent news that Aladdin's leading actors have all renewed their contracts through to 21st February 2016.

That's right, Adam Jacobs (Aladdin), Courtney Reed (Jasmine), James Monroe Iglehart (Genie), Jonathan Freeman (Jafar), Don Darryl Rivera (Iago), Brian Gonzales (Babkak), Jonathan Schwartz (Omar), Clifton Davies (Sultan) and Merwin Foard (Stand By for Jafar & Sultan) are all staying for another year of high adventure in Disney's latest Broadway hit, and so is Steel Burkhardt, who recently joined the cast as Kassim!

Joining the cast are Trevor Dion Nicholas (Stand By for Genie & Babkak) and new Swing Angelo Soriano, who made his Aladdin debut on 5th February.  A big welcome to you both!

Disney haven't announced any additional ensemble casting but when they update their website next week I'll be sure to announce any new additions here.

In addition to welcoming the above new cast members I would also like to apologise and say a belated farewell to Rhea Patterson and Aleks Pevec who both left the show last September and a warm welcome to Amber Owens and Travis Ward-Osborne who joined the ensemble last October!

Salaam Worthy Friends - Aladdin Bids Farewell to Marisha Wallace, Bud Weber & Michael James Scott

Marisha Wallace backstage at Aladdin
Bud Weber at Aladdin's Opening Night, Photo from Playbill Vault

Michael James Scott at Aladdin's Opening Night, Photo from Broadway World by Linda Lenzi

Today three more original cast members will take their final bow at the New Amsterdam Theatre as the bid the kingdom of Agrabah and Broadway's Aladdin goodbye.

As well as being part of Aladdin's incredible ensemble you may have been lucky enough to see Bud and Marisha in two of the show's main roles as Bud was one of Aladdin's understudies and Marisha was an understudy for Babkak (which I really wish I could have seen).

Michael James Scott was one of the show's amazing Stand Bys and has been on as both Genie and Babkak.  I had the pleasure of seeing Michael as Babkak last year and he gave a fantastic performance.

All three will be back on Broadway later this month as they join Aladdin's
 Director/Choreographer Casey Nicholaw to help him bring a little Something Rotten! to the stage.

I just want to wish all three the very best of luck and say thank you for all that they have done for the show.