Aladdin The Musical is set to be one of the biggest stage productions to ever come to Adelaide and it is also the first time one of Disney’s big theatrical musicals is arriving on our doorstep.
The production takes around 180 people to run each performance, from the actors and crew to the front-of-house venue staff. The show itself promises to be a spectacle like no other, featuring more than 150 moving lights, 337 costumes, 84 special effects, 40 tonnes of flying scenery and a mind-boggling 500,000 Swarovski crystals on stage.
We had a chat to the three main stars, Graeme Isaako (Aladdin), Shubshri Kandiah (Princess Jasmine) and Gareth Jacobs (the Genie), about what it’s like to be a part of such an iconic show, particularly for Gareth who has to compete with the memory of legendary comedian Robin Williams as the original Disney genie from the 1992 animated film.
“You know what?” he admits, “It’s a bit of a challenge. It’s a challenge every day but it also is so much fun. I get to jump around the stage for three hours a night and be a giant kid. How many people can say that’s what their job is? I get to make people laugh!”
“I love the show and I love the songs,” Shubshri adds. “Knowing who the character is but putting your own person in that as well, I love it.”
“…and being a touring company,” Graeme pipes in, “we always have resident directors that guide us and help us through, ensuring the audience are getting the best quality performance. And us, as actors, and the way we connect to each other, may be different from yesterday so [the show] is always different, always fresh.”
Gareth took over the role of the Genie in December 2017 after Broadway actor Michael James Scott stepped down. He was previously Scott’s understudy for the part. Shubshri joined in April this year for her hometown season in Perth, while Graeme is psyching himself into his upcoming debut as Aladdin in Auckland, having understudied the role since the beginning of the Australian tour.
“Adelaide is very special to me,” Graeme says, “because it will be my first leading role in Australia. The understudy does get to go on!”
One of Glam Adelaide’s Facebook fans wondered if Aladdin was to give one of his three wishes away, who would it go to. In true hero style, Graeme didn’t hesitate to say it would go to “someone very less fortunate to myself, whether it be someone with a disability or someone without a home or someone who wasn’t living their dream because they didn’t have access to education.”
Another Glam Adelaide fan was curious about how the cast maintain their level of fitness, noting that the energy required to put on a show like Aladdin made them seem more like athletes than singers and dancers.
“Mine is a four-shot coffee in the morning,” the show’s Genie jokes before talking about how our bodies adapt to give us the required stamina, aided by a lot of rest, water and a good diet.
“Mental health is just as important too,” Graeme advises. “Ensuring that you’ve got really good support systems around you because you are tired at times, away from family when you’re on tour… that’s just as important as your physical body.”
Shubshri agrees, stressing the importance of taking time out from the show as well: “Everyone goes to the gym or yoga or pilates, but it’s about making sure you take time to do things for yourself.”
One of those things is trying to see the cities they visit on tour.
“On our weekends, we get Mondays and Tuesday off,” Shubshri says. “On those days we tend to get out and do a bit of sightseeing. I haven’t been to Adelaide before so it’s going to be nice to spend a good amount of time here. I’m from Perth so I really like the laidback vibe of smaller cities. I’m really, really looking forward to coming here. I’ve heard lots of beautiful things about Kangaroo Island and I’m a bit of a foodie so I’m looking forward to the Central Market.”
“I did The Mikado here in Adelaide in 2009,” Graeme says, “but it was a brief couple of weeks. I got down to Glenelg and did a winery or two, but that was it. I’m excited to come back and explore more of this beautiful city.”
It seems the Genie however, has been popping in and out for a while.
“I have been here a few times to come and see the Adelaide Fringe,” Gareth recalls. “My friends and I are very big theatre geeks so we love coming down to see all the independent theatre here knowing how amazing the arts community is here in Adelaide.”
While the cast is looking forward to spending time in Adelaide next year, their most immediate focus is, of course, on the show. This begs the question of whether there’s any particular moment in the show that they especially look forward to each night.
“My favourite moment is definitely the opening of the show,” Gareth says with obvious excitement in his eyes. “It’s when I get to welcome everyone and give them a taste of what the next two and a half hours is going to hold for them. It seems like a simple opening but that’s when it all reveals itself and you can see the excitement on everyone’s faces, and you know that they have realised what they’re in store for. That for me is so wonderful to see.”
“I think my favourite scene in the show is the rooftop scene where Jasmine and Aladdin sing a song that was written for the stage show, A Million Miles Away.” Shubshri says. “It’s just Aladdin and Jasmine on stage in a really small space and they’re singing about their hopes and dreams and I love that intimate moment. It makes me really happy.”
“And to ride off that,” Graeme says, “is their love story, and to ride a magic carpet with Jasmine every night is just so special, and everyone is looking for that, especially those who loved the animated film. They want to see that. They know there will be a magic carpet. The fact that we get to do that every night… because people are really, really investing in that moment… it’s really special. And the music that’s with that is unlike anything else.”
As for the secret of the magic carpet flying on stage, only the Genie offered some kind of hint: “Let’s just say Tinkerbell is using a lot of fairy dust!”
Aladdin The Musical is on at the Adelaide Festival Centre from 6 April to 8 June. For times and tickets visit aladdinthemusical.com.au.
Interviewed by Rod Lewis