Sunday, 16 July 2017

Casting Announced for Disney's Live Action Aladdin at D23

There's always big news out of Disney's D23 Expo and this year certainly didn't disappoint as Disney Studios officially announced the stars of Guy Ritchie's live action Aladdin to a packed Hall D23 at the Anaheim Convention Centre yesterday.

Mena Massoud will be bringing to life my favourite Disney hero in the title role, Naomi Scott will be Princess Jasmine and Will Smith be the Genie.

First impressions?  I've got to say I really happy with this cast.

Full disclosure - it's no secret I've championed Adam Jacobs, Courtney Reed and James Monroe Iglehart for these roles.  Heck, I've been shouting it all over Twitter since The Hollywood Reporter's claims that Disney was struggling to find its Aladdin and Jasmine last week.  I stand by that 100%.  I've followed them in these roles for 6 years, from Seattle to Broadway, and they are perfect to me.  I always knew it was a crazy long shot but it was a beautiful dream.  And I'll still continue to champion Jonathan Freeman and Don Darryl Rivera as Jafar and Iago until those castings are revealed.  But just because my dream castings weren't chosen doesn't mean I can't be happy with the people who were cast.

So let's start with Aladdin and Jasmine.  What excites me the most about Mena Massoud being cast as Aladdin is one simple thing - I've never heard of him.  I know that sounds crazy but it really is.  Because this means he's been cast for one simple reason, Disney believe he's the right man for the job.  Heck, they even delayed production trying to find him as filming was originally due to start this month!  The same goes for Naomi Scott.  Outside of this year's Power Rangers movie (which I actually really enjoyed) she's unknown.  Disney have made good on their promise from earlier this year and cast newcomers rather than stars, cast on ability rather than name.

Now, this is a musical just like Beauty and the Beast was, so the first thing I do whenever Disney announce the cast for these live action remakes is search for videos of the new stars singing.  Normally you can at least find something but you try searching for Mena Massoud videos - the first five pages on Google are all just video news/reactions to the Aladdin casting.  I did manage to find his acting demo reel (I'm not the best at judging based on short scenes but I think he shows a good range) but nothing of him singing.  This worried me when Emma Watson was cast in Beauty and the Beast but it doesn't with Mena Massoud.  He wasn't cast for his name, so if he couldn't sing he wouldn't have got the job.  Plus, Naomi Scott can sing!  Like, seriously sing.  Check out her YouTube channel!  There's no way they're casting an Aladdin who can't vocally match with Jasmine.  If she's a strong singer then I'm sure he is to.

So, yeah, I'm really excited by these two and can't wait to see them in costume and hear something of them singing together.

And now the announcement that seems to have split the internet.  After months of rumours it's finally official, Will Smith is the Genie.  And I think he'll be great.

Let's get one thing straight, he's not Robin Williams.  No one is.  No one is ever going to replace or replicate that iconic performance.  But he won't play it like Robin Williams.  When recreating the Genie for Broadway, James Monroe Iglehart was given the freedom to put his own spin on it, bringing the character closer to his original Fats Waller/Cab Calloway inspiration he maintained the spirit of the character Robin created whilst creating something new and uniquely his own that saw him take home a Tony Award for the role.

As long as Will Smith is given this same freedom, to truly make Genie his own whilst honouring the spirit of what Robin created, then I believe he could do something equally special with the role.  The man oozes star power and charisma, for all the movie's flaws he (along with Margot Robbie) pretty much carried Suicide Squad and even succeeded in making Deadshot a more likable character than Superman in the DCEU.  Plus, he can sing.  Genie was always going to be a big name, especially once it was confirmed Disney wanted unknowns for Aladdin and Jasmine.  Will Smith brings that star power to the movie but also has the skills to do a good job with the role as long as he's allowed to make it his own.

Now the waiting beings and it's gonna be a long one.  Disney revealed their production slate through to 2019 yesterday and Aladdin wasn't on it.  That means this movie is likely to be a 2020 release!  Best start saving for 2019's D23 as that's likely where we'll get a first look!

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Aladdin's Telly Leung to Perform at Michener Art Museum

Telly Leung as Aladdin & Major Attaway as Genie & the Broadway cast of Aladdin, Photo by Matthew Murphy

Tonight Broadway's new Aladdin, Telly Leung, is taking a night off from making wishing and flying carpets to appear in PNC Arts Alive's Broadway: Cabaret at the Michener at the Michner Arts Museum alongside Leslie Odom Jr. (Hamilton) and Eden Espinosa (Wicked).

More details on the performers can be found at the Michener's website.

It's always great to see these incredible performers in a more intimate environment.  I just want to wish Telly and everyone attending and taking part a fantastic evening.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Major Attaway and Clifton Davies to Star in A Broadway Musical at 54 Below

Major Attaway as Genie

The amount of times I write about 54 Below I swear that place must be a home away from home for the Aladdin cast!

On July 16th Major Attaway and Clifton Davies will be trading Agrabah for New York as they bring to life Strouse and Adams' "lost" work A Broadway Musical at Broadway's favourite supper club.

According to Playbill A Broadway Musical had a rocky road to Broadway (with both cast and creative changes following its out of town preview run) and closed on its opening night in New York!  Joining our two Aladdin stars will be a cast of new talent and veterans of the original one night wonder original cast, recreating their original roles for another one night only performance.

It's always a treat to see Aladdin's incredible cast sink their teeth into new material and the addition of cast members from original production of the show mean this is sure to be a night to remember.  Tickets are available now from 54 Below.

Clifton Davis as Sultan, Photo by Walter McBride

Trevor Dion Nicholas to Premiere What's On Stage Live Solo Concert Series!

Hot off his incredible West End Live performance and the release of Neighbourhood Goliath's debut album last month (not to mention his What's On Stage Award winning day job as Aladdin's sensational Genie) Trevor Dion Nicholas will premiere the brand new What's On Stage Live tomorrow night!

Described by What's On Stage as intimate events that offer the chance to hear exclusive performances from some of the top West End talent, What's On Stage Live will also offer guests the opportunity to take part in special Q&A sessions with the stars during the evening.

Taking place at Above the Arts Studio Theatre (which, as its name suggests, is located above the Arts Theatre in central London) tomorrow's special event will begin at 7:30pm and you can get tickets right here!

I wish everyone going an incredible time, Trev is an amazing performer and a wonderful guy so I know this is going to be an unforgettable evening.