London Aladdin Star Trevor Dion Nicholas on Standbys, Friendship & Loving London

first_img View Comments The Disney musical Aladdin has hopped a magic carpet to London for what looks set to be a long run at the Prince Edward Theatre in a West End premiere that has made a star out of American performer Trevor Dion Nicholas as the Genie. An alum of the ongoing Broadway production, where he was the standby for three roles (Genie included), Nicholas was clearly relishing his much-deserved moment in the spotlight when caught up with him one recent afternoon. You’ve been part of Aladdin for 18 months now, but how did you first get connected to the show?I remember watching the “Friend Like Me” performance on the Tonys [in 2014] and thinking, “that looks like something I could possibly do—that could be in my wheelhouse.” Skipping ahead, I ended up later that same year getting an audition and the next week I was flying down to Florida to start rehearsals for The Wiz and flash forward to one day early in 2015 when I was asked to fly up to New York on a Monday to talk about the part and before I’d gotten on the flight, I had the gig: I replaced Michael James Scott when he went to do Something Rotten.But to cover multiple roles is different to opening in a starring part from scratch in London.Tell me about it!  I guess it was June or July of 2015 when I got a call from Disney asking whether I would consider going to London, and I just burst into tears. As a standby or understudy, you can feel overlooked or undervalued and here I was getting to open the show in the West End! My heart was more than full—it was overflowing. The interesting thing with Aladdin in Britain is how well-known the title is here from the traditional Christmas pantomime or panto.That’s right, which we don’t have in the States. I think it’s fantastic that tradition exists [here] and I’m delighted that we can give audiences something different—something that isn’t just the classic familiar panto. Your experience must make you especially sympathetic to your own standbys.Absolutely because I’ve lived that life and I know the difficulty of it. I actually have two standbys here, and both have got to go on, and I’ve enjoyed watching them enjoy their moment; I know what it feels like. Now that the Genie is yours, what do you particularly like about him?The joy of the Genie for me is the undying friendship and companionship that he is there to provide. Also, I mean, who wouldn’t want to appear on the stage swathed in Swarovski crystals—not to mention that I must have one of the best entrances: I love the way he’s revealed right at the top of the show! How does it feel to play with and feed off the audience?That’s so much fun! What’s great is that he exists both in and out of the story, so it’s as if the show for the Genie is just this large sandbox. Casey [Nicholaw, the director] has been so supportive of allowing me to make [the part] my own and for me to find my own legs. The honesty of the cast’s personalities is allowed to come through, which helps a show that’s so crazy and fun at the same time to have a sense of reality.I saw you online sharing a pretty terrific duet here with your Broadway Genie [Tony winner James Monroe Iglehart]. You know, that’s the first time we’d ever done that, and it was great that it was caught by the folks at Disney, who jumped at the opportunity of James being in London for us to have a go together at “Somebody’s Got Your Back.”Did you and James click from the get-go?Really, really fast because we’re both man-children! I’ve missed him a ton since coming to London, so it was wonderful having him here with his wife and family. Sometimes I think the two of us should do another revival of Side Show. If they ever feel like gender-flipping those parts, we’re in! Opening night here must have been unlike anything else.Oh my God, it was insane! My parents were in the audience and my family and friends, and I remember just finishing “Friend Like Me” and screaming “yes!” like this sudden affirmation. It was like, I’m here, it’s real, I did it, and it just felt like this amazing joint success. It was so exciting!How well did you know the film?I was obsessed with it, especially Jafar. I thought he was a fascinating villain and just so slick. What’s fun is that I have two young children and now they love the film: the oldest is two years younger than I was when I first came across the movie at age 10. It’s one of those animated features that transcends generations. Where do you see this experience taking you?I’m really keeping things open right now. It’s been a struggle at times and a fight to get to this place. Right now, I feel precisely where I want to be; so for me, it’s about just enjoying this definite sense of happiness. This is the first time in my career where I have really experienced something where I think, “OK, I can enjoy what I’m doing for now. This can be the center of my universe without always needing to look forward.” What are you loving about London?The food!  people warned me about the food, when in fact, it has been absolutely incredible. And I am really tickled, too, by the adoration [the British] have for the theater, which I think is vanishing more and more in the U.S. But it genuinely exists here, which is lovely to experience onstage and off.  Trevor Dion Nicholas in ‘Aladdin'(Photo: Deen van Meer © Disney)last_img