The Arty Semite

How Adam Jacobs Became a Disney Prince

By Curt Schleier

  • Print
  • Share Share

Adam Jacobs has a 1,000-megawatt smile that would put the young Donny Osmond to shame. And he puts it on constant display at the New Amsterdam Theatre in the heart of Times Square, where he plays the title character in the latest Disney megahit, the well-received “Aladdin.”

The son of a Filipino mother and Jewish father, Jacobs sings and dances up a storm as he makes the transition from street ragamuffin to successful suitor for Princess Jasmine’s heart.

Jacobs spent some time recently with the Forward to discuss how he became the go-to actor for Disney royalty, the difference between taking over a theater role and creating one, and balancing princely and fatherly duties.

Curt Schleier: This is not your first shot at Disney royalty, is it?

Adam Jacobs: Not if you count Simba [a role Jacobs played in “The Lion King”] as a prince, even though he’s a lion. He’s the king of the pride. Now I’ve stepped into the role of Aladdin who becomes Prince Ali. I didn’t go into this career knowing that was going to happen, but I’ll take it.

It seems to run in the family.

I have a sister named Arielle. She originated the role of Gabriella Montez in [the theatrical production of] “High School Musical.” And my wife, Kelly, was the dance captain at this same theater in “Mary Poppins” when the show closed. So we’re a Disney family.

Given your credentials, did you have to audition for the part?

Actually when they first did the New York workshop I didn’t have to audition. I was playing Simba on the national tour of “Lion King” and Thomas Schumacher, president of Disney Theatricals, saw me in the show. Shortly thereafter I got a call that they wanted to fly me in [to New York] to do developmental work on the show. I didn’t even know they were working on the project. And they wanted me specifically. That never happened before.

I imagine there must be a significant difference between stepping into an established role such as Simba, and creating a role.

It’s always an actor’s dream to create a role on Broadway, and the fact is that this show came at the right time for me. Actors like to say timing is everything. Had it come a few years later I would have been too old. The show has been in development for five years. I did the New York workshop and the Seattle run [where the show premiered at the Fifth Avenue Theater]. I’ve been with the project for three-plus years and watched it grow into this magnificent show. I love the process, of seeing all the changes and how everybody adopts to the changes, the little tweaks here and there that make it cleaner. It’s been really interesting.

What’s the difference between assuming and creating a role from an actor’s point of view? Is it more dangerous to be first?

You have more freedom when you’re creating a role. I’ve been working through this whole process with Casey Nicholaw, who is a brilliant director of comedy. Together we were able to find out where Aladdin lived, where his character should be in the show. Obviously, when creating a role there’s more room for error, but when you have a brilliant director working with you it makes it a lot easier.

Did you watch the animated movie?

I grew up with it. I watched it countless times as a boy. “Aladdin” was one of those movies that stuck with me; that, and “The Lion King.” So it’s kind of ironic that I got to play both those roles, especially Aladdin. He was one of those characters who called out to me. He was struggling to do better and to become the person he knew he could be despite his [impoverished] start. It’s kind of a Cinderella story for a guy. There are not a lot of Disney movies where the boy is the main character. Usually it’s the princess.

This has been a big couple of months for you — your debut as Aladdin, and as a dad.

Yes, twins. They’re seven weeks old. It’s a lot. A bit overwhelming. Luckily we have a lot of help. My wife’s family has flown in, so we’ve been able to sleep at night.

Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Musical Theater, Theater, Interviews, Aladdin, Adam Jacobs

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.