Disney’s Aladdin the Musical Live at National Theatre

During a recent interview on “Listen In With KNN,” an award-winning sports talk podcast and radio show, executive producer and host Kelsey Nicole Nelson sat down with special guests actors Marcus M. Martin, J. Andrew Speas, and Adi Roy in a sit-down virtual interview. The trio is currently appearing in the hit Broadway musical “Aladdin.” The thrilling production was produced by the producer of “The Lion King” and features all your favorite songs from the film with new music written by Tony® and Academy Award® winner Alan Menken.The show was directed and choreographed by Tony Award winner Casey Nicholaw. Nelson recently had a chance to watch the show live at the National Theatre in Washington, D.C. on opening night.

Martin plays the role of everyone’s favorite blue genie that helps Aladdin along his journey. J. Andrew takes on several roles in a stand by capacity as the Sultan, Babkak, and the Genie. Finally, Roy plays the lead role of the main character of Aladdin.

To begin the interview, Nelson asked the trio to describe what it felt like to be a part of a Broadway production 30 years after the release of the full length feature film from Disney. The first to answer was Martin who said “It’s such an honor. The legacy of this show and this story is so rich and legendary. It means so much to people. So many people have fond memories of watching the movie with their grandparents that are now departed, so when they come see the show, they are bringing a piece of their ancestors with them. So, it’s an honor, but it’s also a responsibility because so much is required to carry the Disney mantle.”

Martin was born and raised in Akron, Ohio. He recently graduated from the Musical Theatre program at Baldwin Wallace University in May of 2020. He moved to New York City in January of 2021. His other performing credits include The Wiz (The Lion), Little Shop of Horrors (Audrey II), Carousel (Enoch Snow), and The Scottsboro Boys (Andy Wright).

Speas was the next to answer Nelson’s question. Speas said “Being a part of this legacy, telling this story that is generations and generations is amazing. You have the animated feature, but it came from fantastic source material, and the people who created the characters set such a foundation for us, so we have to honor them. But, you also get the Broadway musical, which opened up a whole new world for people like myself, and Marcus.” 

Speas’ other credits include the role of Duncan Ellis in “Rat”, which is currently in post production, and Happy Clown Puppet in the short film “Sad Clown.” He also has several directorial credits such as an episode of the TV series “Hawthorne” (2021), and the short film “Brina” (2020). 

Roy was the last to answer Nelson’s question. He said “As an actor, it’s amazing to be able to be in the room with such amazing people, and an amazing legacy behind the show, so I just get to learn so much. It’s a feast of knowledge, I’d like to say.” Roy (full name Aditya Roy Kapur) works predominantly in Hindi films. He made his acting debut in 2009 with the drama film London Dreams. Roy had his first commercial success with the musical romance Aashiqui 2 in 2013.

Nelson’s next question was a follow up for Roy, in regards to his experience playing the titular role of Aladdin, and the response of the crowd in Washington D.C. He replied by saying “The crowd in D.C has been amazing. Their stage door presence has been amazing. It’s so great to see their faces literally light up when they see us. As for the responsibility, you know, it is a responsibility, but the creative team allowed us to put a lot of ourselves into these roles, and I get to do that wherever I feel I can without stepping on the toes of the character of Aladdin. It’s been so much fun, and it’s been received well.”

Roy was most recently seen portraying Phoenix in the reopening cast of Jagged Little Pill on Broadway. In the same year as Aashiqui 2, he starred in the romantic comedy Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani for which he won the IIFA Award for Best Supporting Actor and earned a nomination for the Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actor.

The next question that Nelson had was for J.Speas. Nelson asked how he hopes this production inspires a new generation of young Black actors. He responded by saying “Once again, it goes back to honor and responsibility. I was told so many times that I wouldn’t get to a point like this because of the way that I look, or that people that look like me did not have the ability to move or dance in a way such as this, so to get there and be able to show other plus size aspiring Black actors, or Black actors in general that they can do it, and that it’s possible. Representation truly matters.”

Speas is also a swing for two other characters in the show — Babkak and the Sultan — which means he has to learn the lines and be capable of filling either of those roles at a moment’s notice.

Nelson’s final question was for Speas, in regards to how he hopes this production makes the people of Winston-Salem (Speas’ hometown) proud seeing them all on the big stage. Speas replied with “Seeing the culmination of all the people that said I could in one room that got to see it happen was great. These people will get to see that if you just believe, you put your mind to it, and you work hard, you can achieve your goals.”

Aladdin, the Broadway musical is now in its eighth hit year on Broadway. It currently plays eight times a week at the historic New Amsterdam Theatre on 42nd Street in the heart of Times Square. To learn more about it, the cast, and get tickets, you can visit their website. You can follow Aladdin the Musical on Facebook, Twitter, and you can listen to this interview in its entirety by clicking here.

Nate Miller