Yesterday, on March 26, Examiner.com had the opportunity to interview, Courtney Reed, the star of Disney's new musical comedy "Aladdin," which is now playing on Broadway. Check out what Courtney had to say about her favorite numbers, the costumes, why this is a show for all audiences and how she first became passionate about theater. She plays Jasmine on the show.
How did you first hear of the role?
The first time I heard of it it was through my agents, they called me and said that Tara Rubin, the casting director, was selecting a couple of girls to do a reading for the character Jasmine, for the show "Aladdin." That was the first time I heard of anything being worked on at all. This was over two years ago, actually.
What was the casting process like?
Basically, my agents called and told me I had an audition for this, and I was so thrilled, I couldn't believe "Aladdin" was in the works, so I auditioned for it, and I got it! I started rehearsals for it a couple weeks later and it was a week long reading. Of course I met Adam Jacobs for the first time, and he's my Aladdin now. I met Jonathan Freeman for the first time, who plays Jafar, and is the voice of Jafar. It was so exciting that they decided to do the out of town tryout in Seattle and then they were only really wanting to license it for regional theaters and school theaters because they had such a high demand for that show. Then with the success of Seattle and the the workshops they did afterwards, they then announced it was going to Broadway several years later and now here we are.
Were you a fan of the original animated film?
I was pretty much obsessed with the film. I used to watch all of the Disney classics on repeat with my sister. I don't remember really watching anything else, while growing up, other than "Aladdin," "The Lion King," "The Little Mermaid," and "Beauty and the Beast," the classics. "Aladdin" was always my favorite, and it's funny because my mom painted this mural in our basement, it was the toy room at the time. She painted it with Abu and the Genie and we called it the Aladdin room where we would put our toys in there. It's just so funny now looking back, I had an Aladdin room as a little girl already and now I'm Jasmine. When I was a little girl, I played Abu in a children's theater, even though I really wanted to be Jasmine, they cast me as Abu. I was disappointed, but it was my first big role, so I was very excited.
What do you love about Jasmine?
She was always my favorite Disney princess, she was the first Disney princess who looked like me, and I thought I looked like. So I really identified with her, and she had a little more attitude and sass. She spoke her mind more than the other Disney princesses. I totally identified with her.
Speak about the musical numbers?
I think the biggest showstopper is "Friend Like Me." I haven't seen the whole show because when we rehearse I have to wait backstage for certain things, so I can't watch. But for this, I would always sit and watch the number and I would always notice something else. The ensemble is dancing their faces off and James is up there giving the most epic number of any number on Broadway right now. I just watch in awe, there's just so much happening, and the energy just never drops. It just keeps topping whatever is happening before. By the end, your jaw is on the floor, you're dying watching the number and thinking "Oh my gosh, I've never seen anything like this on Broadway ever." I always think "Wow, I'm involved with the show, it's such an incredible number" and then you have "Prince Ali," just a visual feast or parade of gorgeous costumes and then there's "Arabian Nights," the opening number, all these guys dancing - so manly, and the girls dancing all sexy and the lighting is just dim and beautiful. The numbers are just insane, especially the ones I'm not even in, I get to watch, I'm in awe of them every time I see it!
What is your favorite sequence to perform and why?
It has to be "A Million Miles Away" our new duet that Adam and I sing together. It's really the first time I get to connect with Adam and I discover something about him that is very similar to how I feel, and how we both get to connect in that way. I love that part of the show, it's kind of the first time that either of them feel that they might be falling in love, which is always very exciting, and I love working with my costar.
Tell us about collaborating with Adam Jacobs?
Adam and I have been doing the show since 2011, and a year before that, we were doing the reading together. So we've known each other for years now and it has been so great. He's been so great, he's been there for me every time I get emotional with how beautiful the whole thing is. The first time I saw "A Whole New World" in the studio, I burst into tears after singing it, and I couldn't even continue singing it because I was so overwhelmed. They have a video of me crying full out and he was consoling me. We did another show together and we would always go out on lunch breaks together and hangout and he's just such a great guy. We've gotten so much closer over the years and I couldn't be happier, he's so supportive of me and we play off each other well. Even if I need support on something that's not the show, he's always there, he's just down the hall from me. When we were in Toronto, he was right next to me and we hung out a lot, it's just so nice to have that. It could be really bad, but this is the best situation ever.
Tell us about the costumes and set production.
The costumes are incredible. You don't really fully see how gorgeous they are from the audience. When you see them up close it's very intricate, it's almost like an art piece, like a Monet or something. So much of it is hand beaded, and there are little designs within the designs on the hand beaded costumes. Some of my costumes have hearts on them, that you would never be able to see from the audience and it's just so girly and pretty. Even the fabrics, the layers of fabrics, Gregg Barnes, the costume designer had to match everything. Even in the rendering he uses sequins, and I wear Swarovski crystals on my face and everywhere on my costume. It really is the most incredible feeling, you feel like a princess just putting on the costume.
Where did your passion for theater come from?
My sister was also involved in community theater and she took dance classes when she was little when she was 7 or so. I wanted to do what my sister did so I started to take dance class. My first dance class was when I was 6, my first show was when I was 6 and I continued with that because I loved it so much that I played "Annie." After that I thought, I wanted to do this for the rest of my life, and then I guess I did!
What can attendees expect from the show?
People of all ages and ethnicities are going to identify with the show. The kids are going to love Iago. They're going to love his jokes and his physicality. They're going to love all of the visuals with the flying carpet and the Genie and how animated he is. The couples that are going to come for their special celebrations, really such a date night show, you're going to fall in love with Aladdin and Jasmine. Then again the guys are going to love the Genie, and he has a lot of jokes that are very current. My grandma came to see the show and she loved it, my parents loved it because they remember watching the film with me as a kid. People are just going to laugh and have a good time, and come to a show that represents what theater is all about. They're going to escape to the land of Agrabah, fly on the magic carpet with us, and have fun with the Genie and want to come back.
Vivian Chen contributed reporting.