PLAYBILL ON OPENING NIGHT: Aladdin — The Ashman Cometh (Again)

By Harry Haun
21 Mar 2014

James Monroe Iglehart
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

The aforementioned "entire New Amsterdam audience" — said to be nearly 2,000 fun-filled first-nighters — apparently made it to the elaborate after-party held at Gotham. Every possible room, anteroom, mezzanine and main dining room was taken up with tables and stools. And there was a room upstairs rumored to be gripped in gridlock.

John Lasseter, the Pixar prexy and the principal creative advisor for Walt Disney Imagineering, and Disney CEO Bob Iger with his wife, Bloomberg correspondent Willow Bay, led the big parade of Disney suits. The artistic heavyweight was director Julie Taymor, who brought Disney's New Amsterdam Theatre magically and spectacularly back to life with the opening march of animals in The Lion King and became, because of it, the first female director to win a Tony (there are now three).

Casts from past Disney-Does-Broadway shows passed proudly in review on the red carpet: from Beauty and the Beast: Bryan Batt, John Tartaglia and Patrick Page; from The Lion King: Page again and Alton Fitzgerald White; from Aida: Sherie Rene Scott; from The Little Mermaid: Scott again, Sierra Boggess, and Heidi Blickenstaff; from Mary Poppins: Gavin Lee, Rebecca Luker and Laura Michelle Kelly; from Tarzan, Josh Strickland and Merle Dandridge; from Newsies: Andrew Keenan-Bolger and, currently, Corey Cott, Liana Hunt, Andy Richardson, Luca Padovan and Zachary Unger.

Then, there were Emmy winner Carla Hall of TV's "The [daytime] Chew"; Tina Fey; Tony winners Harvey Fierstein, Cady Huffman, Gabriel Ebert and Laura Benanti; Cabaret's Tony and Oscar winner Joel Grey; Newsies' Tony-winning choreographer Christiopher Gattelli and lyricist Jack Feldman; actor-producer-director Michael Arden; The Wedding Singer producer Margo Lion, and easy smiler Cheyenne Jackson.

Courtney Reed
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Plus: Richard Kind, bound in July for Bay Street Theater in Travesties; Marsha Mason preparing to direct Chapter Two at George Street Playhouse ("What would you know about that?" I asked the second and ex-Mrs. Neil Simon, who laughed); producers Fran and Barry Weissler, pursuing more Diane Paulus-created Tony magic with a three-week workshop of Finding Neverland; director Lear deBessonet, a woman in the year of Lear, casting Pump Boys and Dinettes for its City Center Encore July 16-19; Actors' Equity's Nick Wyman, doing a TV pilot next and always tending his chickens; director Jack O'Brien, preparing his April 3 reprise of Guys and Dolls and bracing for a little Shakespeare in the Park this summer; Rodgers & Hammerstein's Ted Chapin prepping his bosses' debut in the 92nd Y's "Lyrics and Lyricists" series April 5-6 and promising a R&H debut — Lt. Cable's "My Friend," cut from South Pacific ("How did it not get into Cinderella?" I asked); Richard Skipper, one of our better Carol Channings, on the verge of saluting Channing's Minnie Fay and Mary Martin's Tiger Lily, Sondra Lee, March 25 at the Spiral Theatre on West 36th St.; director Michael Mayer sporting a cane from a gym mishap just as he is starting to show Neil Patrick Harris his moves for Hedwig and the Angry Inch; and James C. Nicola, artistic director of the nonprofit New York Theatre Workshop, seeing how the other half live.

Side Man's Tony-winning author, Warren Leight, said that he had a crack at the last project Ashman had propose to musicalize with Menken: The Big Street. It was Lucille Ball's favorite performance and starred Henry Fonda as "Little Pinks," a scruffy Damon Runyon character. "We were actually planning to do it," Leight admitted, "but we really only had one wheelchair musical in us, and that was Leap of Faith." More's the pity.