Saturday, 24 December 2016

Disney's Broadway Hits to Air on Christmas Day!

The cast of Disney's Broadway Hits, Photo by Manuel Harlan

Last week BBC Radio 2 aired the fantastic Disney's Broadway Hits concert as part of their Friday Night is Music Night series (and you can still listen to the full show right here!)  I can't put into words how much I loved hearing this concert again, but now Sky Arts is going one better with a real Christmas treat for you!

Tomorrow morning Sky Arts will be airing Backstage with Disney on Broadway: Celebrating 20 Years at 9am followed by Disney's Broadway Hits at London's Royal Albert Hall at 10am!!  What a Christmas present!!

I can't wait to watch this again and again!  As someone who had tickets to see Tarzan but the show closed a month before I was due to see it, seeing Josh Strickland sing some of those songs in person was something I'd waited over 10 years for and he didn't disappoint.  Finally seeing Ashley Brown live was electrifying.  Hearing songs from Aida and King David live was something I never thought would happen.  The Aladdin finale with Trevor Dion Nicholas and the West End cast raising the roof and bringing the audience to their feet is out of this world.  And, of course, Alan Menken himself singing "Proud of Your Boy", dream come true.  This concert is truly magical so make sure you don't miss it!

Merry Christmas!

Disney's Aladdin Celebrates Christmas on Broadway and in the West End

James Monroe Iglehart as Genie, Photo by Cylla Von Tiedemann

It's the most wonderful time of year once again! And to help put you in the festive mood the Broadway and West End casts of Disney's Aladdin have been carolling for two incredible causes.

The Broadway company of Aladdin have once again teamed up with Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS to take part in the annual Carols for a Cure album which can be purchased on iTunes or from http://broadwaycares.org/store with all proceeds going to this fantastic cause.

This year they're singing a beautiful rendition of "Angels We Have Heard on High"



And on this side of the world, Dean John-Wilson has joined forces with other West End stars along with ensemble members from Aladdin and other shows to record an incredible new rendition of "If We Only Have Love" to raise money for Childline.  The song is available now to download with all proceeds going to this amazing cause.



And if that's not enough Christmas magic for you, then here's last year's fantastic medley from Broadway's Courtney Reed, Nathan Lucrezio, Jaz Sealey and Angelo Soriano!



Merry Christmas everyone!!

Friday, 16 December 2016

Disney's Broadway Hits Airs Tonight on BBC Radio!



In October Disney Theatrical premiered the incredible Disney's Broadway Hits concert at London's Royal Albert Hall.  Featuring the incredible talents of Disney's Broadway and West End stars past and present this wonderful evening showcased some of the greatest songs from over 20 years of Disney on stage and included a beautiful performance by Alan Menken himself.

Now the BBC is sharing this one night event with the world as part of their Friday Night is Music Night Series.  The concert will air tonight at 8pm on BBC Radio 2 and then be available online on the BBC iPlayer.  So if you couldn't see it live or if you want to recapture the magic make sure you tune in!

For me, the concert was one of the best theatrical events I've ever had the pleasure of seeing and I can't wait to hear it all again (and again and again!) I really hope they make a CD of this!

Monday, 5 December 2016

Welcome to Agrabah! Hiba Elchikhe Joins Sydney's Aladdin as Princess Jasmine!



Tonight Australia's Aladdin will welcome a new princess as Hiba Elchikhe makes her Australian debut, joining the cast as Jasmine.

Best wishes for your first night Hiba!  I hope you have a long and magical run with the show!

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Salaam Worthy Friend - Arielle Jacobs Says Goodbye to Aladdin

Arielle Jacobs as Princess Jasmine, Photo by Deen Van Meer

Today is Arielle Jacobs' final flight on the magic carpet as she ends her run as Princess Jasmine in Sydney.  Arielle moved to Australia earlier this year to originate the role in the Australian production of Aladdin which opened to fantastic reviews this summer.  During her time with the show Arielle has brought Jasmine to life over 100 times for thousands of fans of all ages and this afternoon she will take her final bow at Sydney's Capitol Theatre.

Good luck Arielle, enjoy your final high adventure in Agrabah!  Thank you for everything and I wish you all the best for whatever the future may hold!

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Thankful for Theatre

The cast of Broadway's Aladdin celebrated 1,001 performances in August, Photo by Playbill

What a year it's been!  As a fan of Disney Theatrical and especially Aladdin it's been an incredible 2016 and there's so much to be thankful for!  With new productions opening to rave reviews here in the UK and in Australia, the original Broadway production celebrating 1,001 magical shows right in the heart of New York, and the superb Disney's Broadway Hits concert premiering at the Royal Albert Hall last month it's been a truly magical year!

Trevor Dion Nicholas as Genie in London's Aladdin, Photo by Deen Van Meer

I say this every year but it always bears repeating - I am so thankful for Disney Theatrical taking a chance and bringing Aladdin not just to Broadway but all around the world.  Of course this year I'm extra thankful that the show came to my home country, opening in London, and for all the success its had here!  I've not been able to see it as much as I would have liked this year, but I've loved it every time I've been, and I'm definitely planning to go more next year!

Once again, I'm so grateful for all the incredible people who bring the show to life every day all over the world, from the cast and creative team to the front of house staff and all the people behind the scenes who make live theatre possible.  The phenomenal casts of this show continue to amaze me, not only with their talent but with how welcoming they are after the show.  They really are some of the nicest people you could ever wish to meet.  I know this is true on Broadway and in London, and from social media I know it's true around the world as well.  These people make the show what it is and I'm so grateful to them.

Ainsley Melham & Arielle Jacobs as Aladdin & Jasmine in Sydney's Aladdin, Photo by Deen Van Meer

The last few years at Thanksgiving I've recounted my experiences with the show and how thankful I am for them (even that time I thought I'd die of embarrassment giving a one man standing ovation after Friend Like Me!).  I do hope to write a post like that later this year and I am so grateful for everything from the hug Trevor Dion Nicholas gave Jane and I after Aladdin's first London Preview to seeing Adam and Courtney again on Broadway to being in the audience at the Royal Albert Hall as Alan Menken sang Proud of Your Boy (oh there were tears!).  For me, it's been an amazing year.  But this year has also been one of the most divisive in recent memory on both sides of the Atlantic.  Whichever side of the debate you were on in the EU Referendum and the US Election, there's no denying it got pretty ugly.  It showed us at our worst.  Which is why, this year I want to say not just that I'm thankful for Aladdin and Disney Theatrical, I'm thankful for theatre.  I'm thankful for the way theatre and the theatrical community celebrates diversity, bringing together people of all backgrounds, races, religions, genders and sexual orientations to create art, to educate, entertain and uplift everyone who enters a theatre.  As we look forward to a hopefully more unify 2017 it's a lesson that everyone can learn from, to come together and create something beautiful.  Because when we do come together, embracing our differences and celebrating what makes us unique, there's no telling what we can accomplish.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.


The cast of Disney's Broadway Hits, Photo by Manuel Harlan


Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Awards Time for London's Aladdin


Trevor Dion Nicholas and the Cast of London's Aladdin, Photo by Deen Van Meer

It's awards time in the West End and you can help the cast of London's Aladdin by nominating and voting for them in both the What's on Stage Awards and the Broadway World UK Awards!

First up is the 17th annual What's On Stage Awards!  This is the only major UK theatre awards decided purely by the audience!  From now until the 24th November you can nominate who you want to see on the shortlist for the awards, then on December 1st the shortlist will be revealed and you can vote for your favourite stars and shows through to the end of January 2017.

London's Aladdin can be voted for in all the following categories;

Best Actor in a Musical
Best Actress in a Musical
Best Supporting Actor in a Musical
Best New Musical
Best Direction
Best Choreography
Best Costume
Best Set Design
Best Lighting Design
Best Video Design
Best West End Show

So please head over to What's On Stage and nominate this incredible cast and show!

But don't take my word for it!  Hear it from the cast;

And make sure you also vote in the Broadway World UK Awards as well!  Voting runs until December 31st and the awards will be announced in January!

You can vote for Aladdin in the following categories;

Best New Production of a Musical
Aladdin

Best Supporting Actor in a New Production of a Musical
Nathan Amzi
Rachid Sabitri
Stephen Rahman-Hughes

Best Actress in a New Production of a Musical
Jade Ewen (who is also nominated for In The Heights)

Best Actor in a New Production of a Musical
Dean John-Wilson
Trevor Dion Nicholas

Understudy of the Year in any Play or Musical (Female)
Lauren Chia
Marsha Songcome

Understudy of the Year in any Play or Musical (Male)
Albey Brookes
Ethan Le Phong
Leon Craig
Miles Barrow
Oliver Lidert

Best Costume Design of a New Production of a Play or Musical
Gregg Barnes

Best Set Design of a New Production of a Play or Musical
Bob Crowley

Best Lighting Design of a New Production of a Play or Musical
Natasha Katz (who is also nominated for Motown the Musical)

Best Choreography Design of a New Production of a Play or Musical
Casey Nicholaw

Best Costume Design of a New Production of a Play or Musical
Casey Nicholaw

Best Long-Running West End Show
The Lion King (ok this one's not Aladdin but let's help a Disney cousin out!)

Theatrical Venue of the Year
Prince Edward Theatre

Massive congratulations to all the cast and creative team for the nominations!  Please vote everyone!!

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Making Magic for Children in Need

The cast of London's Aladdin, Photo by Johan Perrson

Tonight is one of the biggest charity events of the year here in the UK as Children in Need returns to our screens for its 36th year of raising money for good causes all around the world.

This year though is extra special for Disney fans as the fabulous cast of London's Aladdin will be opening the show with a special six minute medley featuring Arabian Nights, A Whole New World and, of course, the spectacular Friend Like Me!

So make sure you tune in tonight to catch them at 7:30pm on BBC One, it's going to be a magical start to the evening!

Oh, and how adorable is this!!


Monday, 7 November 2016

The Music Beyond the Magic 4 - James Monroe Iglehart

James Monroe Iglehart, Photo from 54 Below
In celebration of James Monroe Iglehart's return to 54 Below tonight I thought it was well past time for another Music Beyond the Magic post!

And thanks to Broadway.com's sneak peak at How the Heck Did I Get Here? I have the perfect video to share with you!



Does it get any more magical than that?  I swear, one day I'll make it to one of his solo shows!

If you're going tonight or next week I hope you have an incredible evening.  James, all the best, I'm sure it's going to be a fantastic night!

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Broadway's Aladdin & Disney Vacation Club Unite to Support Make-A-Wish

James Monroe Iglehart makes wishes come true, Photo by The Disney Blog

For over 35 years Make-A-Wish and The Walt Disney Company have worked together to grant over 100,000 Disney-related wishes for children with life-threatening illnesses.  This year, as part of its 25th Anniversary celebrations, the Disney Vacation Club joined forces with Disney Theatrical's Aladdin with an exclusive DVC performance of the hit Broadway show which saw Tony Award Winner James Monroe Iglehart granting an extra special wish as he announced that the Disney Vacation Club was making a $25,000 donation to Make-A-Wish!

At the event DVC Senior Vice President and General Manager Ken Potrock said "Wishes are granted every night at Aladdin.  For more than three decades, Disney and Make-A-Wish America have also joined together to grant thousands of wishes.  And, in honor of 25 magical years of the Disney Vacation Club, we're proud to continue our support of granting wishes, giving children the emotional and physical support to fight their illness."

Make-A-Wish is a fantastic cause and it's truly heart warming to see the Disney Vacation Club and Aladdin coming together to support it and help make children's wishes come true.

The Men & Women Behind the Magic

The cast of London's Aladdin, Photo by Johan Persson
We heard a lot about the incredible creative team behind Aladdin as the show premiered first in New York and then around world, and we hear a lot about the amazing casts who bring this magical show to life every night.  But what about the people behind the curtain?

Shortlist and Stylist recently went behind the scenes of the West End production of Aladdin to see just how the magic is made on stage, talking with the stars, stage and company managers and orchestra members to get a feel for what it takes to bring Agrabah to life eight shows a week!

You can read both of these great articles by clicking the links below!

The Women Creating a Whole New World

The Man Who Can Make You Fly

It takes a lot of work to create that phenomenal cosmic Genie magic every night but the results are simply wonderful.  When you hear the audience gasp and burst into applause when the magic carpet is revealed, it's just an amazing feeling and you know you're seeing something very special.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

James Monroe Iglehart Returns to 54 Below!

James Monroe Iglehart, Photo from 54 Below

Back by popular demand!  54 Below's most magical guest is back as JMI returns with 4 more performances of his solo show; How the Heck Did I Get Here?

Tickets are now on sale for shows which take place on November 7th & 14th and if you check out James' Instagram account you can even get a special discount code!

Trust me, you don't want to miss this!!

London's Aladdin Announces Education Programme

Trevor Dion Nicholas and the cast of London's Aladdin, Photo by Deen Van Meer

This week Disney Theatrical announced a new education programme for their new West End smash hit Aladdin!

The programme is designed for Key Stage 2 & 3 pupils and includes workshops for pupils aged 7+ along with a series of behind the scenes videos including interviews with the show's multi award-winning creative team.

The programme offers a fantastic opportunity for the next generation of West End stars to learn from some of the greatest of this generation whilst taking in an incredible show and learning what goes in to making the magic!

Tickets are available now for education groups of 10 or more.  For more details and bookings check out the Aladdin Education website!

5th Avenue Offers a Master Class with Don Darryl Rivera

Don Darryl Rivera at Aladdin's Opening Night, Photo from Broadway World

If you're aged 14-18, love theatre and can be in Seattle on Friday 21st October then 5th Avenue have a treat for you!

A Workshop with Don Darryl Rivera!!

Described by The 5th as "a master of physical comedy who knows how to ground his performance in truth" Don Darryl will help young performers "explore the acting skills that can make audiences laugh in delight even as they are also challenged to be true to new ideals".

If you've ever seen DDR in Aladdin (or watched some of his New Voices performances on YouTube) then you know he's a brilliant character actor, has amazing comic timing and he's one of the nicest guys you could ever hope to meet so this promises to be an amazing class for all who take part!

You can get all the details at The 5th Avenue's Facebook page and website!

And make sure you check out this great new interview that Jetspace Magazine did with DDR on his move to Broadway, return to Seattle and Broadway Iago Vs Seattle Iago!

Courtney Reed was #LiveAtFive with Broadway.com


Last month Courtney Reed launched her Broadway collection of Gagged Chokers to fantastic sell out success and in case you missed it she also appeared on Broadway.com's #LiveAtFive to discuss her new venture and you can catch the full show right here!!

And that's not all!  She's now launched a new Halloween Collection as well!  So make sure you check them out and give Courtney your support!

Next Stop - Melbourne!

Ainsley Melham as Aladdin, Photo by Deen Van Meer
The Australian production of Aladdin is going on tour!

Next April Ainsley Melham (Aladdin), Arielle Jacobs (Jasmine) Michael James Scott (Genie) and the gang will fly the magic carpet from Sydney's Capitol Theatre to Her Majesty's Theatre in Melbourne!

There's still time to catch them in Sydney where the show is running through to January 8th but make sure you get your tickets now as they're sure to sell out over the holiday season and as the end of the run approaches!

Tickets for both are on sale now from the show's official website so grab yours today!

Aladdin begins performances in Melbourne on 26th April 2017 and is currently booking through to 4th June 2017.

And now for an extra special treat!  This morning Ainsley Melham and Arielle Jacobs performed A Whole New World on The Morning Show and you can watch it right here!

Lia Chang Gets to Know Broadway's New Iago

Alan Muraoka as Iago, Photo by Alan Muraoka (via Instagram)

Whilst Don Darryl Rivera is starring in The Man of La Mancha Broadway veteran Alan Muraoka has returned to the Great White Way for a limited run as everyone's favourite evil sidekick.

Last week Alan Muraoka did a great interview with Lia Chang about his return to Broadway after 12 years and his history with Aladdin (which goes back to before his run as Iago!)

It's a great interview so make sure you check it out right here!

I can't wait to see Alan's performance for myself in a few weeks!

Monday, 26 September 2016

Aladdin's Dean John-Wilson Guest Stars with Shoshana Bean at The Singer's Lounge

Dean John-Wilson as Aladdin, Photo by Deen Van Meer
Fresh from his own solo concert last month Aladdin star Dean John-Wilson will be supporting Broadway's Shoshana Bean in her solo concert at Covent Garden's The Singer's Lounge this Sunday evening!  Also supporting will be West End and Broadway star Ramin Karimloo.

Having seen both Dean and Ramin live and having watch some of Shoshana's Defying Gravity performances on YouTube I can safely say that tickets for this event are an absolute steal!  Three phenomenal voices for just £18, that's the best value for money you're ever gonna get in London!

If you're in London this weekend you can get your tickets right here!  But be fast as there's not many left and it's sure to be an incredible evening!

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Aladdin Comes to Once Upon a Time TONIGHT!


Now here's a day I never thought would come!  Tonight ABC's Once Upon a Time begins it's sixth season and Aladdin is finally making his debut on the show!!

Thank God for Netflix as I can legally watch the show tomorrow, less than 24 hours after it airs in the US!  I've loved this show since the beginning and can't wait to see my favourite Disney character join the cast!

And then in episode 4 a certain Disney Princess will be making her debut played by none other than Galavant's Karen David!  Oh how I wish OUAT could do a musical number right now!!


Here's a little tease at what's in store tonight;



Never thought I'd be happy for it to get to Monday!  CAN'T WAIT!!!!!

Michael James Scott Talks with Studio 10

Michael James Scott as Genie, Photo by Deen Van Meer

I feel like I've not posted enough about Australia's Aladdin and it's well past time that changed!  Earlier this month Michael James Scott was on Australia's Studio 10 morning show talking about the show, seeing Australia and bringing the Genie to life!

Check it out right here!


Courtney Reed Talks Gagged Chokers with Big City Little Blog


As part of New York City Fashion Week, Disney Style invited several fashion bloggers to a special performance of Broadway's Aladdin (and why not, the costumes in the show are absolutely gorgeous!)

After the show the guests got a chance to meet the cast and discuss the show.  During the Q&A Big City Little Blog got a chance to sit down with Courtney Reed to discuss her newly launched Gagged Chokers brand and you can read all about it at their blog right here!

It's always great hearing from Courtney and if you want a choker of your own make sure you use the discount code at the bottom of the interview!

JMI Talks Aladdin and Freestyles with Deja Vu


It's always a treat to hear James do a bit of Freestyle and talk about Aladdin.  Just listening to him speak you can tell how much he loves this show and bringing the Genie to life on Broadway.

Here he is chatting with WBLS's Deja Vu about Aladdin, how he got into musical theatre and his love of Freestyle;


Vote for Trev as Best West End Debut!

Trevor Dion Nicholas as Genie, Photo by Deen Van Meer
As Aladdin's magical Genie Trevor Dion Nicholas spends his nights bringing audiences' wishes to life, now you can help make his wish come true.

Trevor has been nominated for West End Frame's Best West End Debut 2016 and you can vote for him right now!

So please vote for Trev and help him bring home this well deserved reward!  Follow the link above, voting is open until 3pm (GMT) on Wednesday 28th September and the winner will be announced on Thursday!

Good luck Trev!!

And if you want to learn a bit more about Trev check out his recent interview with What's On Stage where he reveals his favourite show tunes!

London's Aladdin Wins Best New Musical!

Award Winning Original Cast of London's Aladdin, Photo by @AladdinLondon

Talk about ending the week on a high note!

Massive congratulations to the entire cast, crew and creative team of London's Aladdin who this week won their first award, bringing home LastMinute.com's Musical Theatre Award for Best New Show!

Hopefully this is just the start of great things to come as we head towards the West End's award season.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Team Agrabah Strip for West End Bares 2016


Well here's something I never thought I'd ever write about when I started this blog! Stripping!!  But it's all in the name of a good cause!

Aladdin's Mitch Leow, Ethan Le Phong, Kayleigh Thadani and Kade Ferraiolo have come together as Team Agrabah to take part in this year's King Arthur themed West End Bares - Excalibare!  Together they are raising money for Theatre MAD (Make A Difference Trust) to raise awareness of AIDS/HIV, fund projects and help support those already living with HIV.

It's a fantastic cause so please head over to https://stripathon2016.everydayhero.com/uk/teamagrabah and give them your support!

And if you want to see them in the flesh this Sunday then you can get your tickets right here and catch the show at London's Novello Theatre at 7:00pm and 9:30pm!  Mitch has choreographed a sword routine so there's going to be some dangerous weapons swinging around (and that's not an innuendo I promise!!)

EDIT - Just a quick update to say that Team Agrabah smashed their target and raised an incredible £6,663.53 for this fantastic cause!

Mitch has posted a thank you video to everyone who helped make his routine in the show such a success;



Congratulations Team Agrabah!!

Photo by Ethan Le Phong via Twitter

Courtney Reed Launches Gagged Chokers

Courtney Reed, Photo from GaggedChokers.com
The cast of Broadway's Aladdin showcase their incredible talents on stage every night, capturing the magic of Disney's beloved classic with singing and dancing that brings audiences to their feet in well deserved standing ovations.  But what we don't always see is how talented they are off stage.  From arts and crafts to photography and film direction, the skills of this cast are simply incredible.

Now you can add fashion design to that list as this summer Courtney Reed launched her very own line of hand made chokers with Gagged Chokers!  That's right, you can now buy chokers designed by Princess Jasmine herself!  And with ranges inspired by everything from Disney to celebrities there's something for everyone's unique style and personality.

Earlier this month Courtney took over Disney Style's Instagram story as she launched The Mouse Collection and shared how she gets ready for a night on stage at Broadway's New Amsterdam Theatre and tonight on Twitter she'll be previewing the new Broadway Collection set to launch later this month!

So make sure you give Courtney lots of love and support, check out her new website and follow Gagged Chokers on Twitter and Instagram!

Monday, 12 September 2016

Adam Jacobs Hosts Broadway's First Prince Party

Adam Jacobs as Aladdin, Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann

Who says girls have all the fun?  Not these Broadway heroes!

Next month Aladdin's leading man, Adam Jacobs, will co-host the first ever Broadway Prince Party at Feinstein's/54 Below along with Anastasia's Derek Klena.

Promising an "unforgettable MANLY evening of heroism, bravura, and macho magic", Adam and Derek will lead a host of Broadway's finest leading men as they sing some of stage and screen's most beloved 'Prince' songs.

I can't believe I'm going to miss this by one day, but if you're in New York on October 17th then make sure you grab your tickets now for what will hopefully be the first of many Broadway Prince Parties!  It promises to be a truly heroic night!

Alan Muraoka is Broadway's Iago

Alan Muraoka, Photo by Alan Muraoka (via Instagram)

With Don Darryl Rivera currently starring in 5th Avenue's Man of La Mancha Broadway needed a new Iago.  DDR leaves some pretty big shoes to fill so Disney Theatrical turned to none other than Sesame Street's beloved Alan Muraoka!

A veteran of both stage and screen, Alan Muraoka began his run in Broadway's Aladdin at the start of this month and will be bringing Iago to life until the end of October.  Whilst Alan may be best known for his role on TV's Sesame Street, he also has extensive theatre credits as both an actor and director and I can't wait to see what he brings to the role of Iago.

Congratulations Alan and welcome to the Aladdin family!  I can't wait to see you in the show next month!

You can read much more about Alan and his incredible career at his website so make sure you check it out!

Salaam Worthy Friend - Adam Kaokept Bids Farewell to Aladdin

Adam Kaokept in Broadway Aladdin, Photo by Angelo Soriano
It's always a sad day when someone leaves the Aladdin family and last night Adam Kaokept took his final bow on the New Amsterdam's stage.

Adam made his Broadway debut in Aladdin and has been with the show since it first opened on Broadway, playing in over 1,000 performances and bringing joy and laughter to over 1 million guests.

I just want to wish Adam the very best of luck for the future and say thanks for all the High Adventures!

Saturday, 10 September 2016

London's Aladdin Celebrates 100 Shows!

The cast of London's Aladdin celebrates 100 shows, Photo from Twitter (@Mitch_Leow)

Yesterday London's Aladdin passed its first major milestone since opening in June as the cast and crew celebrated 100 magical performances in the West End!

I can't believe this amazing show is already at 100 performances!!  It seems like just yesterday that it opened to rave reviews and well deserved standing ovations.  Massive congratulations to the cast, crew, creative team and everyone involved with bringing this incredible production to life every night.  Keep making magic everyone and here's to the next 100 high adventures!

Monday, 5 September 2016

Don Darryl Rivera & Brandon O'Neill Return to 5th Avenue!


Everyone's favourite evil sidekick is returning home as Don Darryl Rivera heads back to Seattle to star in The 5th Avenue Theatre's production of Man of La Mancha as Sancho!

And he's not alone!  Joining DDR back on The 5th's stage is none other than Aladdin's original Kassim, Brandon O'Neill, as Pedro and fellow Disney Theatrical alum Norm Lewis (The Little Mermaid) in the leading role of Don Quixote!

Don Darryl Rivera along with Sean G. Griffin and Jonathan Freeman in 5th Avenue's Aladdin
Man of La Mancha marks Don Darryl's return to the 5th Avenue for the first time since making his Iago debut there in 2011.  Brandon O'Neill has starred in both Pirates of Penzance (Pirate King) and Carousel (Billy Bigelow) at The 5th since returning home from Broadway but this marks the first time the two have shared a stage since 2014!

Brandon O'Neill as the Pirate King in 5th Avenue's Pirates of Penzance

You can read the full cast announcement right here.  As always, there's an incredible amount of talent gracing the stage at 5th Avenue for this production!  So make sure you don't miss out and grab your tickets now!

I wish I could be there to see this!  DDR & Brandon, I hope you both have an incredible time!


Sunday, 28 August 2016

Catch Aladdin's Dean John Wilson in Concert

Dean John Wilson as Aladdin, Photo by Deen Van Meer
If you're in London tonight make sure you stop by The Pheasantry to catch Aladdin himself in concert!

Yes, Dean John Wilson is starring in his first solo concert since taking the magic carpet to Agrabah and he's bringing some of his co-stars with him!  Joining Dean tonight will be Stephen Rahman-Hughes, Nathan Amzi, Marsha Songcome and Ethan Le Phong so you just know there's going to be some amazing voices on display!

Doors open at 6pm and the show begins at 8pm.  There's still a few tickets left (right here) for the incredibly low price of just £20 so make sure you go if you can, it's going to be a fantastic night!

Wish I could be there myself!  Hope you all have fun!!

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Disney's Aladdin Officially Opens in Australia

Ainsley Melham as Aladdin, Photo by Deen van Meer
Tomorrow night (well, actually tonight for everyone at Sydney's Capitol Theatre due to the time difference) Disney's Aladdin officially opens in Australia!

I just want to take this opportunity to wish the cast, crew, creative and everyone at the Capitol Theatre the very best of luck for their opening performance!  This is your moment, I hope you enjoy every second of it. Make some magic!



Monday, 8 August 2016

1,001


On Saturday Aladdin celebrated a Broadway milestone, yesterday it celebrated one more fitting of a show based on the Arabian Nights - its 1,001st performance on Broadway!

Here are two fantastic little videos that Disney Theatrical have released via social media to celebrate this magical occasion;



Of course such an incredible occasion deserved a celebration, and what better way to say 1,001 than with cake!!

The cast of Aladdin celebrate 1,001 performances, Photo by Playbill

You can check out more photos from this celebration at Playbill, Broadway World, Theater Mania and Broadway.com!

Congratulations to everyone involved with the show, past and present, here's to the next 1,001!  Keep making magic!

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Aladdin Celebrates 1000 Performances Tonight!

Adam Jacobs, Courtney Reed and James Monroe Iglehart, Photo by Disney
Tonight Disney's Aladdin celebrates another magical milestone, its 1,000th Broadway performance!

I just want to take this opportunity to say a massive congratulations to everyone involved with this production, past and present, on this incredible achievement!

Have a fantastic show tonight and keep making magic everyone!!

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Disney's Aladdin Opens in Australia!


It's almost midnight here in the UK which means it's already morning in Australia.  That means that Aladdin opens today at Sydney's Capitol Theatre!

I just want to take this moment to wish the very best of luck to everyone involved whether on stage or off.  You've all worked so hard for this moment, enjoy it and let your passion and energy shine on stage.  This is your night - make some magic!  I hope all of your wishes come true!


And speaking of wishes coming true if you've dreamed of walking the purple carpet at Aladdin's official Australian opening night next week then head on over to Ticket Master as Disney Theatrical have released a limited number of tickets for this extra special performance!

To celebrate Aladdin's Australian debut make sure you check out the video of their Sitzprobe that was released this weekend!  I just love seeing a show come together!


Thursday, 21 July 2016

Aladdin: The New Stage Musical Celebrates 5 Magical Years


Five years ago tonight Aladdin: The New Stage Musical officially opened at The 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle.  With the show now premiering around the world in Disney Theatrical's fastest ever roll out, it's hard to believe that it began life as a small Pilot Production that was never meant for Broadway.  Indeed, Aladdin only came about in response to the growing demand for a licensable 2-Act version of the show with the intention that the Seattle production would provide a blueprint that could then be licensed to regional and amateur groups.  But when the show premiered at The 5th with a sold out run and overwhelming support from audiences and fans, it soon became clear that a much bigger future was in store.

In celebration of the show's 5th anniversary let's take a look back at how it all began!

Our first look at the show came before we even knew who would be starring in it when Broadway World premiered a gallery of Gregg Barnes' amazing costume designs for the show.  The gallery was quickly removed from Broadway World and, at the request of 5th Avenue, from this blog.  Now everyone's seen the fantastic work Greg Barnes did for the Broadway show I think it's safe for these to come out of the Disney Vault!  So here's a selection of costume designs from the show!

Aladdin (5th Avenue), Costume design by Gregg Barnes

Princess Jasmine (5th Avenue), Costume design by Gregg Barnes

Genie (5th Avenue), Costume design by Gregg Barnes
 
Jafar (5th Avenue), Costume design by Gregg Barnes

Iago (5th Avenue), Costume design by Gregg Barnes

They look pretty amazing!  I love looking at these and seeing how the designs evolved from concept to Seattle to Broadway.


Adam Jacobs as Aladdin from Concept to Broadway
Costume Design by Gregg Barnes, Photos by Mark Kitaoka & Cylla Von Tiedemann

I think Tia Altinay puts it best as she shares her thoughts on Aladdin's journey from Seattle to Broadway;

"It's been the most amazing experience to see the transformation of this show over the last 5yrs. Everything from costumes to characters have changed and I've been fortunate to see it all. Agrabah continues to be the best place to work on Broadway." -- Tia Altinay

Whilst the full cast announcement would come in June, there was an extra special announcement made in May.  Jonathan Freeman, who gave Jafar life in the classic animated film, would be bringing him to life on stage!  Needless to say, I (and every other Aladdin fan) was over joyed at this brilliant casting.

Jonathan Freeman and Don Darryl Rivera as Jafar and Iago, Back Stage at 5th Avenue

And what a fantastic cast they assembled for this production!  Adam Jacobs as Aladdin, Courtney Reed as Jasmine, James Monroe Iglehart as Genie, Don Darryl Rivera as Iago, Brian Gonzales, Andrew Keenan-Bolger and Brandon O'Neill as Babkak, Omar and Kassim, and Sean Griffin as the Sultan.  Plus the incredible ensemble!

We're so lucky that many of them not only returned when the show took the next step to Broadway but remain with the show to this day!  It's been an incredible 5 year journey for them as well as the show and, thanks to Disney Theatrical, some of them (like Tia above) have very kindly shared their thoughts on the Seattle production on this amazing story so far.

Here's a fantastic memory from James Monroe Iglehart on his first audition for the Seattle production of Aladdin;

"There have been so many magical moments on this journey called Aladdin. From the first table read in Seattle and hearing Jonathan Freeman speak as Jafar for the 1st time, to our family commune in Toronto in the cold, to 2 years on Broadway and winning a Tony! But the story that always comes to mind is that first audition. I was in the 3rd round of guys coming in for Genie and I knew of Casey Nicholaw but not what he looked like. So I was nervous for the audition but not super nervous because I figured I would do a bunch of wild crazy stuff just to get the call back and calm down a little when I met the real director. Well I audition for the casting director and the bald happy faced guy I never met before and just go nuts and they both seem to love me! Then I go back to my job at Memphis and begin to tell the guys on my floor about the audition and Michael McGrath says wow you did all that in front of Casey he must have loved that. I was like that was Casey? I had no idea! A little later Casey tells me how fearless and funny I was and that's what he loved about me, I didn't have the heart to tell him "I didn't know it was you!" When I finally told him we just laughed about it!

I have loved the Genie my whole life and I am blessed to play him every night and that first night at the 5th Ave was the beginning of a journey in my life I will never ever forget! I love my cast, we are truly a Family!" -- James Monroe Iglehart
James Monroe Iglehart as Genie, Photo by Chris Bennion


For a production that ran just three short weeks, the original cast of Aladdin was embraced by the fan base.  On Aladdin Central's forum (the main Aladdin fan site) the film's fans fell in love with a cast most of us would never see (at least in Seattle) and the thread for the 5th Avenue production remains the longest the boards have ever seen as we tracked down every official video, image and interview we could.  For me this is one of my fondest memories of the Seattle show, that sense of community between the fans and how we all came together to celebrate Aladdin's stage premiere.

I think part of the reason the original Seattle cast were so embraced by the Aladdin fan base is because The 5th Avenue shared so much.  Starting with their Spotlight Night and that inspired Jafar phone call that they used to announce a change of venue;

video

In the build up to the show's first preview The 5th Avenue released several performances and interviews from the Spotlight Night before releasing the entire event on the night Aladdin made its stage debut.  You can watch the special performance in full by following the link above, but here's two special performances from the event.

First up is Brian Gonzales, Andrew Keenan-Bolger, Adam Jacobs and Brandon O'Neill singing an early version of "Babkak, Omar, Aladdin, Kassim" by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman



And next is Jonathan Freeman and Don Darryl Rivera performing Alan Menken and Tim Rice's "Why Me?" which was ultimately cut before the show reached Broadway.



And speaking of Don Darryl Rivera, everyone's favourite evil sidekick has very kindly shared his thoughts on his time with Aladdin;

"The last 5 years have been some of the best of my life. I have to thank Disney for granting me this amazing wish of originating a role from the inception of the project to making my Broadway debut in that same role. Even as we approach 1000 performances, (OMG!!!) I still have a blast onstage EVERY NIGHT with this incredible cast. Special thanks to Jonathan Freeman for the 5 year master class in Disney Villainy with an emphasis in Sidekickery." -- Don Darryl Rivera

And the Spotlight Night was just the start.  Over the course of July The 5th Avenue's YouTube channel played host to The JMI Show!  I think this is where the fans who couldn't make it to Seattle truly fell in love with this original cast.  They all came across as perfect for their roles and having the time of their lives in the process.  If you've never seen these then you're in for a real treat!  So sit back and enjoy The JMI Show!









Of course, James wasn't the only one who got to interview the cast back then! He just did it better, in person and with higher production qualities ;-)  Joking aside, even 5 years later I cannot say thank you enough to both the cast and The 5th Avenue (especially Bridget Summers) for the incredible opportunity they gave me.  I was just a fan with a small blog and thanks to their kindness I was able to interview most of the principal cast from half way around the world.  It remains, to this day, one of the most rewarding experiences of my life and I will be forever grateful for that.

So here they are, my full interviews with the cast of 5th Avenue's Aladdin along with some special reflections they shared on the show's 1st anniversary.

Adam Jacobs
James Monroe Igleahrt
Don Darryl Rivera
Andrew Keenan-Bolger
Courtney Reed
Sean G. Griffin
Brandon O'Neill
Reflections on Aladdin - The 1st Anniversary

For a show with such a short run and no planned future on Broadway The 5th Avenue really went above and beyond in promoting the show.

Courtney Reed appeared on New Day Northwest with Tia Altinay, Shanna Marie Palmer and Allysa Shorte to perform "Call Me and Princess" (another song that was ultimately cut before the show reached Broadway);




Writer and lyricist Chad Begulin spoke with Broadway World.

They took us behind the scenes;



Alan Menken visited the Seattle Children's Hospital



And shared the moment two of Disney's greatest directors paid the cast a visit after watching them bring their story to life on stage;

Ron Clements and John Musker with the cast of Aladdin, Photo from 5th Avenue's Blog

And that's just scratching the surface!  They shared an incredible amount of character and production photos, a selection of which you can see below.

Adam Jacobs as Aladdin, Photo by Chris Bennion
Adam Jacobs & James Monroe Iglehart as Aladdin & Genie, Photo by Chris Bennion
Adam Jacobs & Courtney Reed as Aladdin & Jasmine, Photo by Chris Bennion
Brian Gonzales, Andrew Keenan-Bolger & Brandon O'Neill as Babkak, Omar & Kassim, Photo by Chris Bennion
Adam Jacobs as Aladdin (the first photo!!),  Photo by Mark Kitaoka
Courtney Reed & Sean G. Griffin as Jasmine & Sultan, Photo by Mark Kitaoka

Seeing images like these was a dream come true for myself and so many other fans.  And for some of the cast that dream continues every night when they step onto that Broadway stage;

"It is very hard to put into words how Aladdin has changed my life. If I sit and think about it, it has enhanced my life in every aspect. I always said that it would feel real when I stepped on the stage opening night, but it still doesn't feel real, and that was 2 years ago. It feels like I am in a constant dream state and don't ever want to wake up." -- Courtney Reed

And then, of course, there was the clip of "A Million Miles Away" they shared (strangely the YouTube video posted by The 5th is currently blocked due to a claimed copyright by Disney, if this gets resolved I'll update this post).  Watching this I feel in love with the show all over again and knew it was in good hands with Chad Begulin.

It felt like a dream to see the film I have loved since childhood brought to life before my eyes, even for those brief few moments.  Happily the trailer for the show has been preserved and you can now see some of that early magic for yourself.




From these humble beginnings a Broadway sensation was born.  Aladdin in Seattle was, like its title character, a diamond in the rough.  Whilst the reviews were mixed to positive, audiences embraced the show night after night.  It was their support that proved to Disney Theatrical that maybe Aladdin could be something more than a licensable property.  And it was the subsequent hard work of the creative team, cast and everyone at Disney Theatrical that transformed the show into to a magical production that is truly shining, shimmering, splendid.  As Thomas Schumacher said on the Diamond Edition Blu-Ray, the reason Aladdin 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".  That's a kind of magic as well.

Yes, a lot changed on Aladdin's road to Broadway as it moved the production closer to the animated movie.  Here's Sean Griffin, the original Sultan, reflecting on seeing the show's opening night on Broadway and his time with the production in Seattle;

"I was at the opening of Aladdin in NY and loved it.  There were some changes that I liked and some I did not.  The Sultan, now played by an African American actor which is good because the show needed some actors of color, was pared down somewhat as were the roles of the three "amigos" as narrators.  They wanted the Genie to appear sooner in the production, I liked the old way better.  But still it was a spectacular show and the audience loved it.  Casey Nicholaw did a terrific job with new direction and choreography.  New costumes and sets were spectacular as well.  My memories of doing it in Seattle are the best.  I had a most enjoyable time and the entire cast and crew and creatives were wonderful.  A great experience and am lucky to have had it." -- Sean G. Griffin

Since taking part in Aladdin, Sean has starred Sugar Daddies, Outside Mullingar, Carousel and, most recently, The Secret Garden which will see him return to The 5th Avenue Theatre in April 2017.

I can't think of any better way to end this look back at The 5th Avenue's magical show than with the words of Aladdin himself;

"Has it really been five years since Seattle??  It's amazing to think of how far we've come and yet it still seems like yesterday when we were at the 5th Avenue Theatre, enjoying summer there and putting together the first production.  What a fantastic, magical and hectic time that was.  So much excitement surrounding every rehearsal and the feeling of accomplishment when you finally got the steps down, or made the quick change, etc.  I feel so lucky to have witnessed not only the show's growth and success over the years, but the growth and success of my fellow actors who were with me from the beginning.  We really worked hard, pouring our blood, sweat and tears into this project and there's nothing better than having it be a smash hit on Broadway.   To say it's a life-changing experience is an understatement.  Every aspect of my life has changed in some way, the greatest being that I'm a father now, and I can't help but equate the love I have for my twin boys with the love I have for Aladdin and all its meant to me.  And whenever my journey with Aladdin ends I will be happy knowing that I enjoyed and appreciated every moment along the way.  But until then I'm just gonna keep flying high!" -- Adam Jacobs

Happy Anniversary Aladdin!  Here's wishing you many more!

Adam Jacobs & Courtney Reed as Aladdin & Jasmine, Photo by Chris Bennion