USA - As the first cast of Aladdin at Disney one wonders if now over twenty years later Disney can find Arab actors for Broadway's Aladdin. Broadway has already been a bit off when it comes to ratios of ethic casting. The need to bring attention to hiring non-traditional casting has been a top goal for many of my examiner.com articles, as you can read in the recent Les Miserables the movie review.
As Disney is one of the best places to start out as a performer, I recently shared an article on how to work for Disney. The part I played in Aladdin at Disneyland was written in special just for the first Aladdin musical and not in the movie. The newly written character of Hasson the Magnificient was a bad mind reader, who would Improv by reading palms in the audience. Now my mind reading tells me what twenty years did to get Aladdin to Broadway.
Disney marketed Aladdin the musical as "You might even become part of the show" one day I did bring up a young kid to do a magic trick I had learned as a Cruise Director on ships... the script changed daily as Disney was not ready for Improv. Disney had been set on scripts with no changes, so it had moments of frustration for a few of us in the Improv role, but sure gave us all longevity in the biz. Working as a performer for Disney in Aladdin landed me in a TV show called Virtuality, which was produced by award winning Bob Regan of GTE Main Street.
What stands out now is that all of the Aladdin cast were white except for a few Hispanic performers, two Asians and one was chorus. The very first three Aladdin cast at Disneyland had one Jasmine who was Asian, Julie Danao-Salkin (Yoko Ono in Broadway's Lennon the musical, with music and lyrics by John Lennon and book by Don Scardino).
The first Aladdin musical attempted to escape Jafar by ducking into Kazim’s place at Disneyland so the script was a bit different from the movie, although the Alan Menken songs were the same as the movie. Christopher Castillo who was one of three Aladdins may have been the only Hispanic in the role at the time. I am happy to say that all of the artists from Disney's first Aladdin musical are still working in the biz today, and even a few are on Broadway in Kinky Boots and Matilda. Disney did give us longevity in the biz just by having the Disney credit on our resumes.
Looking back Curt Skinner (Aladdin) was the first to go to Broadway in Rent where he understudied Doogie Howser - Neil Patrick Harris in the Los Angeles production of Rent. Another Jasmine to make it to Broadway was Tracy Miller Schell who played Penny in Hairspray. The Disneyland Aladdin cast members that are on Broadway today are Eric Leviton (first Aladdin Kazim) now in Kinky Boots and Lesli Margherita Stafford (Jasime in Disneyland's Aladdin and star of London production in Zorro - Oliver Award winner) who is now starring in Matilda.
Hopefully revamping the Aladdin version from the 1992 movie will bring as much success for all the new Aladdin musical Broadway cast for many years to come. It took twenty years to get it to Broadway but we all still feel like part of the Disney Aladdin family. We certainly have wonderful moments of Aladdin and Jasmine singing "A Whole New World" as the Jungle Cruise would pass the open area of the stage. Guess it was just a mirage as Aladdin was suppose to take place in the desert...
The first Disneyland Aladdin production allowed us to Improv with the live audience. It was one of the first shows that allowed that format in the Disney park. Robin Williams voice was used with a mechanical Genie that would appear with smoke, special effects and a few magic tricks. Aladdin also included the costumed Genie and Javar. The movie with Robin Williams had his voices changing using impersonations and topical comedy that made it a huge hit. The hope is that Disney keeps that same element in the Broadway Aladdin production as it is sure to bring in the same type of success.
The first Aladdin musical at Disneyland was dinner theatre style, where the kids would rub the brass lamp on their table, and make a wish. There’s was a puff of smoke from the lamp, and a “genie” brought you a chocolate Aladdin’s lamp filled with chocolate mousse. A highlight of the Aladdin experience. Aladdin’s Oasis opened in Disneyland’s Adventureland in 1993, replacing the beloved Tahitian Terrace. During two summers and on selected weekend days during other seasons, guests enjoyed the Aladdin’s Oasis feast and show. Now over twenty years later it comes to Broadway and as the first Aladdin cast we all wish them a magical carpet ride for many years to come.
What is certain is Mary Poppins is set to close in March 2013 at the New Amsterdam Theater and the all new Broadway production of Aladdin will be flying in after a Genie works some Disney, makeover, magic. Aladdin will open in spring of 2014.
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