Cinderella once famously sang, “A dream is a wish your heart makes.” But once you’ve wished it, how do you make that dream come true? Recently, Disney and Milk Life partnered to celebrate Citizen Kids, ordinary kids who dream big and then work hard to make their dreams a reality. As part of the initiative, they’ve featured some amazing young people on the Citizen Kid website who have harnessed their potential and accomplished incredible things.
We were inspired to seek out some big dreamers that once wished to be a part of Disney, and then made it happen for themselves, no matter what barriers were presented along the way.
First up is Adam Jacobs, who currently plays Aladdin in Disney on Broadway’s Tony-nominated hit show, Aladdin, eight times a week! Previously, Adam was Simba in The Lion King, and he recently became the father of two twin boys. We have no idea how he found the time to speak with us, but we’re extremely thankful that he did!
Disney Insider: Where did your path to the stage begin?
Adam Jacobs: When I was really young, I think five or six, I saw Yul Brynner in “The King and I,” and I just thought it was the coolest thing. My parents said that, because I sat through the whole thing and I didn’t fuss or cry, I was probably going to be an actor!
When did you realize that you wanted to be an actor?
It was in high school that it really came together for me. I had a really great drama teacher who also happened to be an English teacher, as well. He cast me in a bunch of musicals in high school that he directed, and he took me under his wing and became a mentor to me. He really instilled confidence in me and let me know that if I wanted to pursue a career in the arts, that I have a talent and that I could do it. He gave me the confidence to pursue it, and I decided that I was going to chase my dream from then on. I went to NYU after that and got a degree in musical theatre, and the rest is history!
What was the first performance you gave that felt like your dream of acting turning into a reality?
When I was only seventeen, I was cast as a young Harvey Milk by the San Francisco Opera, my first professional gig. We performed on the anniversary of Harvey Milk’s assassination, and we also re-enacted the candle-light march down the street before the show. It was there that I was exposed to the power of theatre. Theatre can be used as an instrument for social change, as well as entertainment. Seeing that power of theatre really solidified my desire to pursue a career in the arts.
What would your younger self think about the person you’ve become, and the career you’ve built for yourself?
I think they’d be sort of incredulous, and say, “Yeah right!” Even to this day, I have to pinch myself, and say “You’re playing Aladdin.” It’s such an iconic role, and it’s a movie that I watched growing up all the time. I never thought, watching the movie, that a show would then come to Broadway and I’d have a chance to do the role. It’s pretty amazing, and surreal, and I feel very lucky. And I also feel lucky that I got to play Simba in The Lion King. As a Filipino-American, playing Simba and Aladdin, both, is incredible.
How did you make your Disney dream a reality?
I auditioned for almost eight years for the role of Simba, which sounds crazy! From college up until the time I was cast, I was auditioning every year. Each time, I got a little bit better, but it just wasn’t right. They’d give me notes and say “you’re on the verge,” and each time I’d get a little better. Then, while I was doing “Mama Mia,” I worked out and I packed on a good 20 pounds of muscle, and everything fell into place after that. I had the voice, I had the acting down, and then when the opportunity arose again I got the part.
What’s the absolute best thing about your job?
Meeting the fans! Not only are there die-hard fans, but there are also new fans, seeing Aladdin for the first time, and I get to meet them at the stage door. There are a lot of girls dressed up as Jasmine, and a lot of young boys who are being introduced to theatre for the first time and enjoying it. It makes me feel good to see boys coming to Aladdin, because it reminds me of myself. I think theatre is just as important as doing sports, and this is a great opportunity for them to see what’s out there. It really warms my heart and fills me with joy. I spend all the time I can at the stage door and make sure I get every single person who wants to meet me and get my autograph or take a photo with me.
What’s the biggest challenge of being Aladdin?
Doing a show eight times a week is always a challenge. Your body can really get tired. In the show, I’m jumping off of buildings, and dancing, and doing other crazy things, so I have to make sure I take good care of my body. I also have to get lots of rest, which is difficult these days because I have two twin boys who are six months old! It’s a balancing act; I’m balancing on top of buildings and I’m also balancing in my life. Luckily, my wife, who is an actress as well, is being a full-time mom and she has been awesome.
What advice do you have for young people who one day hope to see their name in a Disney playbill?
I’d tell them to keep training, and never lose their passion for performing. It can be tough! It took me eight years to get Simba, and with other people it takes even longer. You have to be willing to grow into your type. Try not to get discouraged. Persevere, train hard, and keep a positive attitude. That way you’ll get a really good reputation and people will want to work with you, which can really get you far. Also, a little bit of talent helps too, but it’s those other three things primarily: Work hard, stay positive, and persevere!
Lastly, what’s your favorite number to perform in Aladdin?
“Proud of Your Boy” is my favorite to sing. I love that number and the music in it; Alan Menken is a genius. That song is so beautiful, and it’s orchestrated so well. It really grounds my character and carries me through the whole show. And of course I love flying on the magic carpet, too!
Before Aladdin ever met Genie, eating right and exercising were part of his strategy for finding success. Now that you’ve heard his story, tell us about the future Disney star in your life on Facebook, using #CitizenKid, and they could be featured on the Citizen Kid website. And remember, making dreams come true takes energy, so fuel your potential to be extraordinary by starting your morning with a healthy breakfast, including milk for good nutrition!