Aladdin on Broadway is a marvel- and the cast is only too happy to gush.
Adam Jacobs and James Monroe Iglehart, who play Aladdin and Genie, had known each other for a while even before playing together on Broadway and have an easy chemistry together as they discuss their roles.
I actually just saw it- and I noticed that you have a lot of autonomy. It seems like you’re often able to break the fourth wall, and I caught that Lemonade reference- very topical. So I was wondering, have you had roles like that where you were able to ad-lib or is this something new?
Iglehart: Not on Broadway, but one of my favorite things to do is improv. I do it with a group that I’m a part of, I used to do it in college a lot, and I’ve had other shows where they’ve given me the freedom to kind of play and break the fourth wall. My favorite type of show is to talk directly to the audience. I like telling stories and being able to see the audience, get their reaction. To be in a show like this, and to have these kind of fun moments, it’s really good for me. So I have a couple moments in the show where I get to play and- you also want to talk about something that’s topical and people know, so Lemonade is one, and it’s everywhere right now so why not?
Okay. So I have another question. It seems like especially in Disney we have this thing where we keep coming back to the elegant villain up against the ruffian, and why do you think that people love that story so much?
Jacobs: I think it’s an underdog story, and it’s a Cinderella story even though I’m a guy, you know, rags to riches story, and people just always- they always love to root for the underdog, they love to see the journey of a guy’s rise to fame and then his fall, his triumph at the end…it’s a hero’s journey. You learn about it in high school. It’s- there’s something about it that- the heartstrings, and if you’re familiar with it too, you’re able to then play with it a little bit, play with the form, and even though it;s a musical comedy, push the boundaries of what to do, and have fun.
I also noticed that- the first thing I noticed when watching the musical was they took away your monkey! Replaced him with friends, a squad.
Jacobs: That was an original idea, in the film, the original idea, and they had to get rid of that for whatever reason, and I think it’s okay. I think it’s, you know, those guys are so much fun and I like having a group of guy friends. At one point I think we were a boy band- we have many different-
Iglehart: Street Rats.
Jacobs: Street Rats, Street Rats on three! Mesopotamia’s Got Talent…
Iglehart: That was mine. Yep.
Jacobs: It’s been through a lot of different variations, but I’m very happy with the way it’s turned out.
Yeah, I was going to ask- do you think Aladdin is a better character?
Jacobs: Yes, well, only because I think it informs his character for the audience members, and it gives him a little bit of struggle to play against because his friends are “thieves” and, you know, buskers, pocket-pickpockets, and that’s what they’re used to doing. He’s able to have to struggle between going straight and making his mother proud, and going back to his life of crime, essentially. So whenever you have that sort of conflict in play it’s good stuff.
One last question. I wanted to know how you feel about playing the Genie, who is this trapped character, trapped essentially for so long, especially as an artist. How do you get that feeling of being trapped?
Iglehart: I think there’s a moment where everyone in their life has felt trapped at some place, whether you’re a teenager in a home and your parents just “don’t understand you”, or you’re surrounded in a group of folks where you know you’re, you have things you want to do, but your boys and girls don’t want to do that. Everybody’s felt trapped, and I kind of go back to that feeling of- you have all this energy, you have all this- but you can’t do anything with it! And you meet someone who says you do got- you do have something special. I’m gonna set you free and let you go.
Jacobs: I mean- you didn’t lock yourself in a box for about a week?
Iglehart: I tried that for a second, but it didn’t work- it didn’t work- method acting, I was like okay look. The problem isn’t that I didn’t want to, the problem is I’m a big guy- I’m like 6 foot 280 pounds
Jacobs: He gets in there-
Iglehart: To find a box that I could fit in, that someone would help me fit in was kind of hard. So I just went back to the mental box, that’s how I felt. Trapped. Although when I was moving to my new apartment, I did get in a box and mess with my wife, but she doesn’t get scared easily, I was just a dude in a box. I was like Boo! Get out the box, man. I was like thanks babe, thanks.
Next were the actors who play Jasmine and Jafar- Courtney Reed, best known for her role in In The Heights as Carla and Jonathan Freeman, with a long list of roles- including Jafar in the original movie Aladdin.