5 Questions from Over the Pond: Aladdin's Trevor Dion Nicholas & Michael James Scott
Ever since May 2016 the Prince Edward Theatre has been welcoming guests from London, from the UK and from lands afar to experience "A Whole New World" of colourful theatricality, courtesy of the West End premiere of Disney's Aladdin. These opulent "Arabian Nights" are set to continue until the end of August of this year, before making way for a certain magical British nanny (who's practically perfect in every way) to make a long-awaited return to the West End. Yes, we're talking about Cameron Mackintosh and Disney Theatrical's West End revival of Mary Poppins, of course, hot off the (clicking) heels of her silver screen comeback in "Mary Poppins Returns" (with Emily Blunt in the title role) last December.
Sticking with cinema for a second, it's going to be a packed year for Disney fans, as the mouse is preparing to bring us not one, not two, but three live-action/CGI remakes of animated classics. Kicking things off is Tim Burton's re-imagining of "Dumbo" next month, whilst Jon Favreau (who previously delivered a delightful remake of "The Jungle Book" in 2016) brings us "The Lion King" in July. Sandwiched between these two sure-to-be box office smashes, however, is Guy Ritchie's live-action take on "Aladdin" with a May 2019 release date, and a recent trailer unleashed an online sandstorm with the first look at Hollywood star Will Smith as Genie.
One of Disney's most cherished characters, Genie has been on quite the (magic carpet) ride himself over the years. Of course, magnificently originated in the 1992 animated classic by the late great Robin Williams and then (after a couple of pre-Broadway tryouts) originated on stage in the 2014 Broadway premiere at the New Amsterdam Theatre in New York City by James Monroe Iglehart (in a Tony Award-winning performance, no less), the road to Mr. Smith's cinematic portrayal has been filled with a number of ubertalented actors, working their own brand of wonders.
For this edition of "5 Questions from Over the Pond," we've brought together a couple of fabulous Genies in celebration of this fan favourite character. Trevor Dion Nicholas originated the role in the West End in 2016, whilst Michael James Scott originated the role "Down Under" at the Australian premiere in Sydney later that same year. Both men began their respective Genie jounreys as the Broadway standby and both have starred in the show's North American Tour. Mr. Scott began performing full-time as Broadway's new Genie just two weeks ago, on 15th February, so it's safe to say these two are bona fide Disney Theatrical veterans by now.
I attended a recent performance of Aladdin in the West End and it was nothing short of astonishing how Trevor Dion Nicholas is still raising the bar for this production, so far into its run. His charisma is infectious and the way he injects pace into the production and keeps energy levels high is an overriding factor in the show's global success. He will certainly be missed after the West End production rubs that iconic lamp for the very last time at the end of the summer.
So, we've taken the opportunity to give the current West End and Broadway Genies the shining, shimmering, splendid opportunity to ask each other any five questions of their choosing. And without any further ado, here are Trevor Dion Nicholas' responses to his Broadway counterpart:
1) Michael: What was the feeling when you finished "Friend Like Me" for your very first time?
Trevor: The very first time I finished FLM I let out a genuine “Well alright!!!!” loudly over the mic! It was such a moment of triumph and self acknowledgment. That song, and this show, and this character were a goal I had set for myself after seeing the performance on the Tony Awards in 2014. So then, not even a year later, to be up there living that dream is almost unfathomable. It was definitely a full body exultation! I don’t usually allow myself much space to celebrate accomplishments, I like to keep moving the bar higher so that I always have more to push towards, but on that day I jumped with absolute joy.
2) Michael: You’ve worked with multiple Aladdins… What’s your process for building the bromance at the centre of the show?
Trevor: Honesty in communication. I think my total "Al Count" is now at 11, which is a lot of different spirits to connect with and vibe with. It’s always been important to me to feel the Aladdins out as human beings before we start to find that honesty on stage. Of course with some it has happened quicker than others; Clinton Greenspan and I for example immediately found ourselves landing on the same page of life and love and experience. Kindred spirits if you will, phantom brothers. I have to feel affection for these dudes number one, and I’ve been lucky enough to have an insanely talented bunch of great people to bounce a performance off of. Once we become actual friends it’s so much easier to trust and ride this thing out together, to find moments of sincerity in each others performances. That friendship is paramount to the characters being believable together, so it’s paramount for me as an actor first and foremost.
3) Michael: Where were you and what were you doing and what did it feel like when you got the call that you got the role of the Genie?
Trevor: When I got the call I was standing in line for an attendant attempting to get on a flight out of NYC to get me back to Florida for a performance the next afternoon while every flight was getting delayed and cancelled because of a massive snow storm hitting the entire East Coast. HIGH STRESS TIMES! My phone rings and I answer to my agent, first checking to see if the flight situation was going to work out, then saying “Just so you know, you got it.” I respond with “I got what?”. He pops back “The Genie!” and I immediately burst into tears in the airport. High stress to high elation in the blink of a teary eye. With that phone call my entire life changed, and I’m thankful for it every day.
4) Michael: What’s it like being a Black American living and working abroad?
Trevor: It’s not easy, baby, as I’m sure you know. With all the steps that we see towards equality globally, we bare witness to slick and systematic opposition at the same time. I am happy to be part of such a diverse cast of people from all over - Agrabah is truly a rainbow on stage! I plan to do everything I can to push for that type of prejudice-free casting for not only my future productions, but all over the West End. People of color have unique stories to tell in an authentic way that I believe can only be told properly through our own voices and bodies. Yes, I believe the entertainment industry has made strides towards equality, but there is still so much more work to be done.
5) Michael: What’s your favorite junk food and song to get you hyped?!!
Trevor: I love the juiciest and cheesiest of burgers I can get my hands on after a show, and anything by Earth Wind & Fire or Hall & Oates before a show to get me hyped! I love beef, cheese and an ampersand apparently!
Check out Trevor Dion Nicholas' 5 questions for Michael James Scott on our New York Theatre Guide sister site!
Disney's Aladdin Tickets are available now.
(Photos by Deen van Meer)