Over the last few decades, Disney has very definitely made its mark on the theater world. As shows such as The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast have become stage classics, a new Disney musical adaption of a beloved animated film is arriving in Los Angeles for the first time.
Aladdin, which opened on Broadway in 2014, re-creates the 1992 film live onstage, with additional songs, scenes and characters to keep it fresh. With the production opening Jan. 11 at the Hollywood Pantages and running through March 31, Angelenos can finally witness firsthand everything they've heard about the show from the other coast. Not only that but L.A. audiences will get to see the Broadway actor who originated the role of Aladdin, Adam Jacobs.
"I originated the role and prior to that I did all the readings and presentations spanning back approximately seven years," says Jacobs, who also played Simba in Disney's The Lion King on Broadway. "It's been an amazing journey seeing it from the very beginning all the way until now." Jacobs decided to join Aladdin's first national tour so he can travel the country with his wife and twin boys, and also so he could play his hometown of San Francisco.
Reggie De Leon, who plays Iago on the tour and also did a brief stint as that character in the Broadway production, is similarly excited to play his hometown of Los Angeles. "I definitely consider L.A. my home town; I was actually born at the Kaiser on Sunset," De Leon says. Growing up in Santa Fe Springs, De Leon's frequent trips to Disneyland as a child helped influence his career path later in life. "As a kid, I always kind of dreamed what if one day I got to be in a parade or a show. That dream was realized when I got to open Snow White: An Enchanted Musical at the Fantasyland Theater in 2004," De Leon says. "From 2004 to 2015, I was working at Disneyland as a stage performer. To then have the dream continue and make it to Broadway, I really did get to rub the lamp and have three wishes."
So what can audiences expect from the show? Fans of the original 1992 film will definitely see everything they want to see – and more. "There's a lot of cool stuff that I think Disney fans will appreciate," Jacobs says. "It makes for a good, well-rounded story because we have 2½ hours as opposed to 90 minutes in the film, so we get to flesh it out and have some good character development."
He explains that the musical is actually closer to the filmmakers' original vision. "We've actually restored the original vision of the film, which was to make it sort of [a] 1920s roadshow feel. Then Robin Williams came in and sort of switched things around and made it his own, which was great, but the original idea was to have sort of a musical comedy feel, which is what we're doing," Jacobs says. "You can expect everything you know and love from the animated film, but then we've also added back in some songs and scenes that were cut." Jacobs also says that Aladdin and Jasmine's relationship is a little more grown-up. "It's a more of a young-adult romance as opposed to younger teenagers," he says.
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And as for Iago, well, he won't actually look like a bird. "I get to be a human in the stage show, which is fun and I'm assuming is a lot more comfortable than being stuffed into a bird costume," De Leon says.
Overall, Jacobs describes the touring cast as having a "fresh, new energy." He says Isabelle McCalla, who plays Jasmine, "likes to switch things up every night, which I love."
"You're guaranteed to have a good time when you come to this show. It's got amazing sets and costumes and music that you love from [composer] Alan Menken," Jacobs says. "It's the story that you know and love, but we've added a little bit more. You're going to be blown away. And the guy who plays Aladdin is amazing."
Aladdin, Hollywood Pantages Theatre, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood; Jan. 10-March 31; $35-$205. hollywoodpantages.com.