Aladdin on Broadway gives Disney fans a whole new world of magic and excitement: songs you haven’t heard in the film, amazing dancing, and performances from a super-talented cast. While filming the Aladdin on Broadway Disney Sessions (coming later this week), we had the chance to meet the cast and talk with them about their roles, passions, and involvement with Disney over the years. Here are ten things we learned about the actors who play Aladdin, Jasmine, Genie, and Jafar:
1. James Monroe Iglehart has been preparing for the role of Genie since he was a teenager.
If there’s anyone qualified to play Genie, it’s James Monroe Iglehart. “I saw the film when I was 17 years old in 1992 and I’ve owned every version of the film, I’ve had it on VHS, DVD … I know this show like the back of my hand,” says James. “I used to go to Disneyland to Disney’s Aladdin Spectacular, the 45-minute musical show in Anaheim, I even used to watch the Aladdin TV show.” His preparation paid off: He won a Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for his portrayal of Genie.
2. Before he played the role of Aladdin, Adam Jacobs was Simba in the touring and Broadway versions of The Lion King.
He really couldn’t wait to be king. Adam auditioned for the role of Simba for eight years before being cast in the production. He performed in the touring company of The Lion King for a year and then on Broadway for another year.
3. Jonathan Freeman was responsible for helping create the character of Jafar.
If you’ve ever heard the voice of Jafar in the original Aladdin film, the Aladdin television series, or even on Broadway, you’ve heard the voice of Jonathan Freeman. He auditioned for the role of the sinister villain in 1990, and that was the beginning of his career with Disney. “The villains that appeal to me the most are the ones that are done in by their vanity and ego, those just slay me,” says Jonathan.
4. Adam Jacobs had to audition in front of Disney CEO Bob Iger.
Initially, Adam was hand-picked to audition for the title role in Aladdin. However, as he advanced through the process and made it to the final round, he eventually had to audition for Disney’s CEO, Bob Iger. “He was there sign off on the project, so it was a lot of pressure. He had a whole entourage of people coming in … it felt like we were performing for the President!”
5. James is a member of hip-hop improv group Freestyle Love Supreme.
He can drop a mad beat, and in good company at that: James is a member of a freestyle hip-hop improv group alongside Lin Manuel-Miranda, Daveed Diggs, and Christopher Jackson, of Hamilton and In the Heights fame. At Freestyle Love Supreme shows, audience members throw words at them, and they riff off whatever they hear.
6. If Jonathan Freeman didn’t play Jafar, he might want to play Captain Hook.
While Jonathan would choose his character over any other, if he had to pick another to play, it would probably be the hook-handed Captain from Peter Pan. But no matter the story, Jonathan thinks it’s important to have a strong villain. “If you think about it, villains are kind of like the gasoline for the story; they fuel the story and make it move forward because it gives the hero or the heroine something to overcome.”
7. Courtney Reed, who plays Jasmine, is best friends with Ariana Grande’s brother Frankie.
Courtney’s first role was in Mamma Mia on Broadway, and Frankie Grande just so happened to join the company at the same time as her.
8. Jonathan Freeman has been performing on Broadway for forty years.
Jonathan took his first role on Broadway in 1975, and has performed with Disney on Broadway in Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Mary Poppins, and of course, Aladdin.
9. Courtney was in an episode of Law & Order.
When she’s not playing a princess, she’s a cop. Courtney told Vanity Fair, “I’m almost unrecognizable in the show; my hair is completely slicked back, in a really tight bun, most people wouldn’t even know it was me. I’m wearing jeans, a sweater, and a jean jacket—very low key. It was really fun.”
10. James considers himself a total Disney nerd.
James performed “Oogie Boogie’s Song” at D23 Expo this year, which he says was a dream come true. “I study things that are nerdy to me, and Disney is one of those things. When Tim Burton and Disney got together and created The Nightmare Before Christmas, I was instantly intrigued. Ken Page is the voice of Oogie Boogie, and he is one of my heroes because he was in Ain’t Misbehavin’ and The Wiz, and is such a legend on Broadway, so to have my two worlds of Disney and Broadway come together was amazing.”
Now that you’re an expert on the cast of Aladdin on Broadway, get ready for Aladdin Disney Sessions made by Oh My Disney, premiering this Thursday at 9 a.m. Think you can guess which Disney songs the Aladdin cast will perform? Comment below!