PLAYBILL.COM'S CUE & A: The Genie of Broadway's Aladdin, James Monroe Iglehart

James Monroe Iglehart, who stars as The Genie in Disney's new Broadway production of Aladdin, fills out Playbill.com's questionnaire of random facts, backstage trivia and pop-culture tidbits.

James Monroe Iglehart
James Monroe Iglehart (Photo by Cylla von Tiedemann)

Iglehart originated the role of Bobby in the Tony Award-winning musical Memphis and has been featured in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (Broadway) and The Wiz (City Center).

He has appeared on "The Good Wife" and "The Electric Company" (Silent E Soloist) and is a member of the hip hop improv group Freestyle Love Supreme.

Full given name: James Monroe Iglehart
Where you were born/where you were raised: Hayward, California
Zodiac Sign: Virgo
What your parents did/do for a living: My mother is a retired high school choir teacher and currently plays for 3 different churches. My father is a business man.
Siblings: 3 (2 brothers and a sister)
Current audition song/monologue: I love singing "Don't Take Much" from The Life, "Big Black Man" from Full Monty and "Me" from Beauty & The Beast
Special skills: I can freestyle rap. I am a member of the freestyle hip hop improv group Freestyle Love Supreme!
Something you're REALLY bad at: Basketball. It's embarrassing because I so wanted to play ball like my boys, but alas that is not my ministry.
You have strong roots in the Bay Area theatre scene. Can you credit any particular mentors or experiences with certain companies as your greatest early inspirations?

I give major credit to 3 people Celestine Ranney-Howes and Dick & Kim Vetterli. Celestine was the costume shop supervisor at my college Cal State Hayward University but became my mentor just in advice and the life lessons she taught me, all while sewing costumes at the same time. She helped me stay focused on my goals in college. If it wasn't for her I might have gone nuts ha!

Dick & Kim Vetterli gave me my first paid job (Ain't Misbehavin'). They also helped me learn the business of theatre in the "real" world. Their advice and encouragement made me the actor I am today.


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The roles and companies that gave me early inspirations were the Preacher in Bat Boy at TheatreWorks in Palo Alto, CA, and Teen Angel in Grease at American Musical Theatre of San Jose, Ca. These 2 roles made me feel like I could truly make it in NY if I gave it a shot. So glad I did! And of course singing in church! That's where it all started!

First Broadway show you ever saw: Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk. It was glorious!
If you could go back in time and catch any show, what would it be? The two shows that come to mind are Dreamgirls and The Wiz! I would listen to those soundtracks religiously. I could only imagine the energy from the original casts live on a stage. I was obsessed with playing a James "Thunder" Early and the Lion. The Lion I finally got to do. Mr. Early has come and gone but I still love the show.
Current show other than your own you have been recommending to friends: I have been raving about Rocky the Musical. I have been a "Rocky" fanatic since my childhood. It was a thing between my father, my brother and I. So I was a little skeptical about a musical but then I saw it. Oh lord it was wonderful! I loved every second!
Favorite showtune(s) of all time:

Wow! There are so many. I will try to be brief: "Mean Ol Lion"- The Wiz (childhood fav)
"Big Ass Rock"- Full Monty (just damn funny)
"The Firing of Jimmy"- Dreamgirls (usually I act out the whole scene in my car!)
"Supper Time"- Little Shop of Horrors (role I would love to play now that I'm an adult)
"The Sadder but Wiser Girl"- The Music Man (truer words have never been written)
"Rose's Turn" (I just can't help myself!)

Just to name a few. There are soooo many more.

Some favorite modern musicals: Full Monty, In the Heights, The Producers, Jersey Boys, Ragtime, Parade
Some favorite classic musicals: Music Man, Sweeney Todd, Little Shop of Horrors, Assassins, The Wiz, Dreamgirls
Broadway or screen stars of the past you would most have loved to perform with: I would love to perform with Sammy Davis Jr. and Ted Ross.
Your vocal idols, living or dead: I would have to say, beyond a shadow of a doubt, two singers: Chuck Cooper and Brian Stokes Mitchell.
The one performance – attended - that you will never forget: I got to witness Brian Stokes Mitchell sing "Make Them Hear You" in Ragtime on Broadway. I was blown away.
Music that makes you cry, any genre: Gospel. Because I know how blessed I truly am!
MAC or PC? MAC
Most played song on your iPod: "Give Up the Funk" by Parliament Funkadelic probably. I'm a funkateer to my soul!
Most-visited websites: WWE.com and comicmovie.com
Favorite Tweeters: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Laurell K. Hamilton, Men's Humor and OMG facts
Last book you read: "Affliction" by Laurell K. Hamilton
Must-see TV show(s): "WWE Raw" and "Smackdown," "The Blacklist" and "Agents of Shield"
Last good movie you saw: "The Lego Movie"
Some films you consider classics: "Blazing Saddles," "Shawshank Redemption" and "Clue"
Performer you would drop everything to go see: Bobby McFerrin
Pop culture guilty pleasure: Pro Wrestling
Three favorite cities: Anaheim, CA
Las Vegas, NV
Monterey, CA
Favorite sport/team/player: Don't really have one.
First CD/Tape/LP you owned: CD: Barbara Weathers' "Master Key"
Tape: LL Cool J's "Bad"
LP: Bootsy Collins' "Player of the Year"
First stage kiss: A Raisin in a the Sun. Her name was Showeshi Strickland.
Favorite or most memorable onstage role as a child/teenager: Charlie Brown in a You're A Good Man Charlie Brown
Moment you knew you wanted to perform for a living: My first solo in church at age five. I heard the applause and I was hooked.
How you got your Equity card: I got my Equity card from the national tour of Show Boat in 1998.
Favorite pre-/post- show meal: (note where) Usually grilled chicken of some kind and veggies or sushi from Kodama or that new Wasabi place on 7th.
Favorite liquid refreshment: Sweet Iced Tea
Pre-show rituals or warm-ups: Stretch, go over my big number and always a prayer.
Most challenging role you have ever played: This one! I love it but it's not easy!
Biggest challenge about this current project: Overcoming the fear of outside expectations! Once I did that, it was smooth sailing.
Most fulfilling or fun aspect about the project: I get to act a fool every night! I love being silly, that is my natural state of being and this role gives me the freedom to be as silly as I want.
Five favorite Disney songs, not from Aladdin: "Unbirthday" - "Alice in Wonderland"
"Pecos Bill" - "The Legend of Pecos Bill"
"When You Wish Upon a Star" - "Pinocchio"
"Bare Necessities" - "Jungle Book"
"Zero to Hero" - "Hercules"
Some other Disney characters you'd like to take a crack at:

I would love a crack at Baloo the Bear from "Jungle Book." He was my 1st favorite character. Philoctetes aka Phil the Satyr from "Hercules" just because I love his song.

Condorman, a very obscure Disney super hero from an 80's movie of the same name starring the soon-to-be Phantom of the Opera Michael Crawford. I loved this film as a kid and I would love to do a funny remake of it! (putting it out there!)

Worst flubbed line/missed cue/onstage mishap:

I was in the show Memphis playing the role of Bobby and the line is supposed to be, "Hey kids it's time for Huey Calhoun's after-school television program and he's letting me be on it!" Well the night before, I had gone to see Pee Wee's Playhouse on Broadway. I loved it by the way and was raving about it all day.

But when I got on stage that night I said, "Hey kids it's time for Huey Calhoun's after-school...(blank stare)...PLAYHOUSE!...(blank stare)... Right Now!"


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And I just ran off stage as fast as I could and fell on the floor laughing. The cast was shaking with laughter. It was so bad but so fun!

Worst costume ever:

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. The whole cast wore a multi-colored one-piece unitard covered in specific places with Velcro, so we could change the entire look with different accessories. But uhhhh... who wants to see me in a one piece unitard!?

Worst job you ever had:

I worked at a machine factory that worked with industrial diamonds. It was dirty, it was loud, it was hard, it let me know I really wanted to work hard in college so I could be an actor and not work in a factory. I'm big but I'm dainty as well.

Craziest audition story:

I don't really have a crazy audition story but I do remember my first professional audition outside of college for American Musical Theatre of San Jose and finding out what "thank you" means in professional theatre. I was 19. I had just come off a successful run of Jesus Christ Superstar at my school where I had played Jesus. So I thought I was pretty hot stuff. I was auditioning for Once on This Island and I sang my song and then read my sides.

The director said a "thank you," and I went back to the hall way to sit down. I waited for someone to tell me what else I had to do. No one did. I waited a good 15 minutes. Then I finally asked a fellow actor what was next. He asked what I had done. I told him.

He asked what they had said. I told him they told me, "thank you." He just gave me a "oh you naive thing" look and said, "Well they said thank you. Sooo that means you're done. You understand?"

I nodded then walked to my car and cried all the way home. I never knew what "thank you" meant until that day!

If you could trade roles/tracks with anyone in the show for a week, who would it be? Probably Jafar. He's so deliciously evil, to quote Stewie Griffin from "Family Guy."
Leading man role you've been dying to play: Harold Hill in The Music Man
Leading lady role you'd like a shot at: Mama Rose
Something about you that surprises people: How much I love, and my knowledge of, Pro Wrestling.
Something you are incredibly proud of: My marriage of 12 years!
Something you're embarrassed to admit: I get real emotional during father-son scenes in shows and movies. I cried at "The Goofy Movie!"
Career you would want if not a performer: American history or creative writing teacher
Three things you can't live without: Food, wife, laughing
"I'll never understand why…" … people choose to air their dirty laundry on Facebook!
Words of advice for aspiring performers: Believe in yourself, because if you don't believe you can make it, no one else will either. Also laugh a lot, find the humor in life. It truly helps.