Seventeen years after the original Disney animated feature hit cinemas, Disney’s Aladdin celebrates five years on Broadway. Originally conceived as a buddy comedy, the romantic story of Princess Jasmine and Aladdin has been wooing audiences for almost two decades—particularly in its showstopping stage manifestation. No one could predict the production’s longevity on the Main Stem, but ten cast members who have been there since the beginning are sure thankful for it. The show officially opened March 20 at the New Amsterdam Theatre, and the cast will gather March 31 to officially celebrate.
Here, they share their favorite audience interactions, onstage mishaps, and surprises from their astounding Main Stem run.
Jonathan Freeman, Jafar
“I have never actually seen the show, except in bits and pieces in technical rehearsals. However... I do remember quite vividly seeing the carpet fly for the first time with sets, and lights, and actors in costume. ‘A Whole New World’ began, and the palace magically floated away as the carpet rose into the gorgeous Natasha Katz night sky, and it was thrilling! Real magic, in real time. Pure theatrical stagecraft!”
Michael James Scott, Genie (originally an ensemblist and standby for Genie/Babkak)
“The memory that stands out the most for me was the very first time I did ‘Friend Like Me.’ Everything that you hope doesn’t go wrong went wrong… My microphone went out as soon as the number started and I ended up getting hand-held mic and had to finish the number with it. My beard piece also fell off. My costume hooks came undone and my shoe strap also snapped. Needless to say it was a wild ride, but something I’ll never forget. Throughout the number I would see my amazing cast and crew trying to help from offstage. I was also so excited to be doing the number that I didn’t care, I was just focused on giving it my all. I got to the end of the number and it absolutely felt like I had just finished a huge marathon and the cast and crew were all giving me so much love on and off stage. I just remember thinking it was a dream. It was a memory I’ll never forget.”
Don Darryl Rivera, Iago
“My favorite memory was having my daughter Eloise, who's three, come see the show for the first time! She spent the entire show saying ‘Wow’ and ‘Hi daddy!’ She got to take pictures with some of the cast in costume and she even gave me lots of notes to improve my performance! It was the best!"
Brian Gonzales, Babkak
“The memory that stands out for me is opening night at Aladdin, when the cast did ‘Friend Like Me.’ The number finished, and the crowd went nuts and leapt to their feet. They stood and cheered for 30 to 45 seconds, maybe a minute, which is an eternity for stage. And [original Genie] James Iglehart, for whom Genie was a dream role, saw his wife in the audience crying, and then he started tearing up. It was such an emotional, satisfying moment in this journey.”
Ariel Reid, ensemblist and dance captain
“The first day of tech in Toronto when we all wore our costumes for the first time stands out for me. The costumes are gorgeous and the attention to detail unparalleled. When we saw each other in full make-up, costumes, and wigs for the first time, we were all blown away by each other! We were completely transformed, and all of a sudden it was truly a reality.”
Stanley Martin, ensemblist
“I was notified I was getting an initial offer from Disney Theatrical through the casting director on April 1. I was so excited and remembered midway through the offer to ask, ‘Wait a minute, are you joking?’ and they bewilderingly responded with ‘No...Why would be joking?’ Another memory that stands out was when I realized I could make all of my costume changes! Happy five years Aladdin on Broadway!”
Dennis Stowe, Razoul and understudy for Jafar/Sultan
“My most vivid memory of my journey with Aladdin is definitely the response we received after ‘Friend Like Me’ during our first preview on Broadway. I’ve been lucky enough to be in many Broadway shows, but I had never felt anything like that before. The audience was standing and applauding and screaming for what seemed like half an hour. It was that moment that I thought maybe we were going to be here for a while—and now it’s five years later!”
Jaz Sealey, Prince Abdullah and understudy for Kassim
“One of the most vivid memories that I have would be how this cast handles put-in rehearsals for new company members. To make the new member feel welcome we collectively theme our rehearsal attire to reflect something about them and we go full out! Since they will be in costume it's fun for us to participate too, whether it be dressing as boxers and ring girls for someone finishing Rocky, grasslands and giraffes for The Lion King, or just beachwear for someone joining as a vacation swing. It is just a fun way to bring a new member into this incredible family by taking the pressure off of what can be a nerve-wracking day.”
Mike Cannon, ensemblist
“My favorite memory is my kids screaming for my wife Jenn and I as we danced together in ‘Friend Like Me.’ I might have broken the fourth wall and smiled at them!”
Lauryn Ciardullo, ensemblist and understudy for Jasmine
“While performing in the show we all noticed this adorable little girl in the front row flipping out after every dance number. During the bows she shot up out of her seat to give a standing ovation and cheer with the rest of the audience. Some of us waved to her and she gasped, turning to her father and we could see her say, ‘Oh my goodness Daddy! They saw me!’ And she hugged her dad with excitement. It was the cutest thing ever and a big reason why we all love doing Aladdin so much. Her reactions were so amazing that we wanted to try and find her and give her a backstage tour. I found her in the orchestra and I said, ‘We want to bring you backstage! You were so excited throughout the whole show it helped keep our energy up after a long week of rehearsals!’ Her jaw dropped, and she couldn’t believe it. I took her backstage and all the ensemble girls met us to say hello and take pictures with her. She was speechless and amazed, it was like she was meeting Beyoncé. Her mother said, ‘Today is her birthday. We were trying to keep her more calm because she has asthma but she just loves Broadway so much, she was so excited.’ She was the sweetest ever and we loved it just as much as she loved the show.”