Disney’s Aladdin, the Tony Award-winning new musical comedy based on the Academy Award®-winning animated film, is now in its second smash year on Broadway at the New Amsterdam Theatre (214 West 42nd Street).
Aladdin opened to critical acclaim on March 20th, 2014 and quickly established itself as the biggest blockbuster in recent years. NBC-TV raves “Aladdin is exactly what you wish for!” New York Magazine calls it “Musical comedy wish-fulfillment!” while The New York Times hails the show as “Fabulous… Extravagant! It defies expectations,” and the Daily News declares, “Seriously, it’s amazing!”
Since beginning performances on Broadway, Aladdin has been seen by over three quarters of a million people and broken six New Amsterdam Theatre house records. Despite beginning performances eight weeks into 2014, Aladdin was the third highest-attended Broadway show of last year – only the juggernauts Wicked and The Lion King entertained more people – and finished 2014 as the fifth highest-grossing show of the year, the only show of last season to make the top five.
Aladdin stars Adam Jacobs (Les Miserables, The Lion King) in the title role, Courtney Reed (In the Heights, Mamma Mia) as Jasmine, James Monroe Iglehart (Memphis, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee) in his Tony Award-winning role of Genie, and, as Jafar, Tony Award nominee Jonathan Freeman (Mary Poppins, The Producers, She Loves Me) brings to the stage the role he indelibly created in the animated film. The show also stars Steel Burkhardt, Brian Gonzales and Jonathan Schwartz as Aladdin’s sidekicks Babkak, Kassim and Omar, Clifton Davis as Sultan and Don Darryl Rivera as Iago. Merwin Foard and Trevor Dion Nicholas stand by for several principals.
Aladdin, adapted from the Disney film and centuries-old folktales including “One Thousand and One Nights,” is brought to fresh theatrical life in this bold new musical. Aladdin’s journey sweeps audiences into an exotic world of daring adventure, classic comedy and timeless romance. This new production features a full score, including the five cherished songs from the Academy Award-winning soundtrack and more written especially for the stage.
The animated film Aladdin was released by Disney in 1992 and was a critical and box office smash, grossing over $500 million worldwide (not adjusted for inflation) and becoming the highest-grossing film of the year.
The film won the Oscar for Best Original Score and introduced the hit song “A Whole New World,” which won the second of the film’s two Academy Awards as Best Original Song. The Peabo Bryson/Regina Belle recording of the tune soared to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
Aladdin is designed by seven-time Tony-winning scenic designer Bob Crowley, five-time Tony-winning lighting designer Natasha Katz, two-time Tony-winning costume designer Gregg Barnes and sound designer Ken Travis.
The production team also includes illusion designer Jim Steinmeyer, hair designer Josh Marquette and makeup designer Milagros Medina-Cerdeira. The music team is headed by music supervisor and music director Michael Kosarin, who also created the vocal and incidental music arrangements, joined by orchestrator Danny Troob and dance music arranger Glen Kelly.
Adam Jacobs is proud of his Filipino California roots and he just so happens to have a charming little sister, Arielle, who followed him from California to Broadway, performing as Nessarose in Wicked. Their parents must be so proud! Together, they’re a stunning sibling. Get to know Adam Jacobs!
I read an article in Playbill where Lea Salonga was talking about Asians winning Tony’s and she said there is still a long way to go in terms of diversifying and having a true representation of our country on stage and television.
ASIANCE: What a great show!!
Adam: Our show is high production value, high octane. A lot of fun!
ASIANCE: I just saw right before Aladdin and it had nothing on this production.
Adam: Mamma Mia came at the right time in my career because I just finished Les Misérables. I needed something upbeat and fun hahah!
After about a year of Abba, I figured it’s time to move on (laughs).
ASIANCE: Did you face any obstacles to obtain this role of Aladdin or Broadway, in general?
Adam: This isn’t your typical story in terms of getting this role. I didn’t have to audition in a group of thousands of people to get this one. I was already playing Simba in The Lion King on the national tour when the Disney producers came to the show and they thought, ‘He might be a great Aladdin!’
In 2010, they flew me out to New York from Chicago, for a week, and we did the first initial readings of the show! At the time, I didn’t know they were working on Aladdin! My agent told me what was going on. I thought, ‘How incredible!’ I didn’t even know they were doing it! I felt extremely happy I reached a level in my career where people are coming after me. It’s amazing that would happen.
Eventually, I did have to audition for Casey Nicholaw, the director. He was brought on later that year in 2011. We did the show in Seattle. When he saw me, he liked me. Once he checked off on me, I had the role, at least for the pilot production. I didn’t know if I was going to do it for the Toronto production.
We did it in Seattle, Toronto and Broadway.
There was a good 8 months where I wasn’t sure if I had the role. They were still auditioning all over the country. It was very nerve wracking. That summer they called me and said I was going to be on Broadway in the fall.
I worked in theme parks, cruise ships and regional gigs. And I worked my way up before booking the national tour of Les Misérables.
ASIANCE: You went to NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. So was this your dream to star on Broadway?
Adam: Yes that was always the dream… To be a working actor in New York. There is something romantic about that. It didn’t happen right away. I worked in theme parks, cruise ships and regional gigs. And I worked my way up before booking the national tour of Les Misérables and having my Broadway debut with that show in 2006.
ASIANCE: Will you be venturing in films or television?
Adam: Oh yes. Right now, I’m working with my agents to secure more film and television auditions to try to branch out. It is a totally different medium. Theater will always be my first love. I do have a desire to give that a try. It might happen that I do one or two things and check it off the list! (laughs) Broadway will always be my first love. I love the interaction and the live audience.
I’m also working on my first solo album coming out in October. I’d like to do some concert work and singing with symphonies and orchestras.
ASIANCE: Do you play any instruments?
Adam: I played piano at a very early age. My parents put me in the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. I studied for about 8 years. I then decided to move on. I have a strong music background. I also taught myself guitar.
ASIANCE: How does it feel working with such a diverse group of cast members? It’s changing?
Adam: It’s great. This is one of the shows that really highlights the increasing diversity on Broadway. It’s exciting. I read an article in Playbill where Lea Salonga was talking about Asians winning Tony’s and she said there is still a long way to go in terms of diversifying and having a true representation of our country on stage and television. I’m happy to say with our show we have a diverse cast. It’s a credit to Disney as well for breaking down those barriers. David Henry Hwang was the first Asian to win a Tony. He won it for Best Play – M Butterfly Ruth Ann Mills was the third Asian to win a Tony and she did for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical: The King and I.
ASIANCE: Disney is one of the first companies to spearhead diversity.
Adam: Yes. Even when I went to see the Aladdin production in LA, there is a person with disabilities in a wheelchair as part of the ensemble. That is so great! It’s amazing what Disney has been able to do to be all inclusive.
ASIANCE: Did your parents see your passion for singing and dance?
Adam: It was music first. We had a piano in our house. I used to bang on it, so they put me in piano lessons at age 4. My piano teacher at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music said I can be a concert pianist but I’ll have to lock myself in a room,, hours a day, to practice. I didn’t want to do that. haha!
I started signing shortly after. My sister was taking voice lessons before me. She’s part of this group called Razzle Dazzle Kids in San Francisco. I wasn’t too interested at first but then I started getting to that age where I started to think the girls were cute. So I thought I’d give it a shot.
I did Oliver in the 7th grade and Curly in the 8th grade. In high school I did all the shows. I was playing soccer at the time but then switched over to theater and dance.
ASIANCE: Did you have any weird experiences that have happened on stage? Something that sticks out in your mind?
Adam: That happens a lot!! From people on the street screaming, ‘Aladdin!’ When I kiss Jasmine on stage, sometimes you can hear the kids say, “Ewwwwww!” Cellphones going off. People laughing at different times. But I like that. It’s what keeps it fresh!
ASIANCE: Will your children get into the business?
Adam: I am not going to push that on them. If they find they have an infinity towards it then I’m not going to stop them either. I’ll support them with whatever they want to do. I don’t know if we’ll become the Osmonds, but hey, you never know. (laughs)
ASIANCE: Maybe one of them will be your understudy!
Adam: Well I hope I’m not a 50 year old Aladdin! (laughs)
I didn’t start training for dance until college. I took ballet, jazz and tap at my conservatory at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.
ASIANCE: Were you happy with your experience at NYU?
Adam: Yes I was. All the teachers that I had were working professionals. Not only were they teach us what was going to be beneficial for me but it was backed up by the fact that I could see them in a show. I can see them practice what they preach. I could build my network in college which could give me a leg up, once I graduated.
ASIANCE: Did you ever forget your lines on stage?
Adam: oh yes that has happened. Or you say the wrong line and you think, ‘wait that’s not the right line.’ But you quickly have to think, fix it and move on. And it happens where James, the Genie, will say something different and it might throw you off but you have to try to go with it.
ASIANCE: I thought so..I feel like he improvs a lot and plays off the audience.
Adam: Yes he has the authority to do that. And every Genie understudy has lists of jokes, which is pretty cool.
ASIANCE: What do you say when people come up to you on the street and say ‘Hey Aladdin’?
Adam: (laughs) Well that usually happens in the theater district. Not so much in Queens, where I live. I’m pretty anonymous once I get on the subway. I try to spend as much time with the fans as I can. If they wait to get an autograph, I want to take the time to give it to them. People aren’t going to want my autograph forever. You have to stay humble.
ASIANCE: What’s next for you?
Adam: We’re on year contracts. At the end of the year, I may or may not be able to come back. That’s a decision the actors and producers make together.
If I had a series or a television show, I’d love to do that. This role in Aladdin is such a great job. I don’t even want to call it job because it doesn’t feel like a job. Like I said, I don’t want to be a 50 year old Aladdin, but it’s such a great group.
We perform twice a day on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Starting September, it will be two shows Saturday and Sunday.. But it’s always 8 shows a week.
ASIANCE: Do you have any Filipino customs that you partake in?
Adam: We see each other at family events. Most of my family was in Salinas when I was in San Francisco.. So when we do see each other, it’s always the big Filipino meal.
ASIANCE: How big of a Pacquiao fan are you?
Adam: oh yeah sure! I was so upset how that last fight went. Mayweather just danced around! It was so frustrating.
Tickets are available for purchase through AladdinTheMusical.com, by calling Ticketmaster’s Disney on Broadway hotline at 866-870-2717, or in person at the New Amsterdam Theatre box office (214 W. 42nd Street). The New Amsterdam Theatre box office is open Monday through Friday 9:00am – 8:00pm, Saturday 10:00am – 8:00pm and Sunday 10:00am – 6:30pm.