Here’s How ‘Aladdin’ Star Adam Jacobs Made It On Broadway
Had you told Adam Jacobs as a kid that he'd someday star in Disney's "Aladdin" on Broadway, his response would've been: "You're insane."
"'Aladdin' was one of my favorite movies growing up," Jacobs says. "But I never thought I'd be playing this part."
Many kids grow up dreaming of making it on Broadway. Jacobs shared with Business Insider how he did it.
Jacobs grew up in Half Moon Bay, California, with his parents, a nurse and a businessman, and his younger sister, Arielle, who is also an actress.
"My parents were always so supportive of us, but neither of them are in the industry," he says. "My mom is very artistic — but my dad, on the other hand, isn't at all, which is kind of funny. He's basically tone-deaf. But his mom, my grandmother, was a cabaret singer in Vegas, so I guess it skipped a generation."
Jacobs began performing when he was just five years old.
In middle school he got into musical theater — and as a high school student at St. Ignatius College Preparatory, he landed the leading roles of Billy Bigelow in "Carousel," and Che in "Evita," among many others, with the support of his mentor, Peter Devine.
"He was my English teacher and drama teacher, and he sort of took me under his wing," Jacobs says. "He also helped me come to the decision that I wanted to pursue this career."
Then, after earning a BFA in theater from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, Jacobs continued working in regional theaters, theme parks, and cruise ships. "I had to work my way up," he explains.
But his big break did come.
In 2004 Jacobs was cast as Marius in the national tour of "Les Misérables."
He eventually left to marry his wife, Kelly, whom he met while doing a Christmas show in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
"When I left, I wrote a letter to the producer and to the casting director, and basically said, 'I'm leaving, but please keep me in mind for the Broadway production.'"
In 2006, Jacobs was cast in the Broadway revival of "Les Mis."
"When it came time for auditions, I actually got to skip the initial rounds and go to the callbacks, where all the creatives were already there making the decisions," he explains. "It was me and the girl who played Cosette — and since we already knew the material, we went in there and we really nailed that audition. I got the part, and that was my Broadway debut," he says, proudly. "Performing on Broadway was always the goal. It's the cream of the crop; it's where you want to be in this business."
He played the part of Marius in New York City for 14 months. Then, things got tough for a bit.
"It was 2007, and it was a difficult year because I was looking for work," he says. "I thought once I hit Broadway it was going to be so easy, but it wasn't. I still had to audition and I wasn't booking anything, and I was getting a little worried."
But things turned around when Jacobs got the opportunity to go on the road with "Mamma Mia!" which he did for 12 months before landing a role he had been auditioning for since he had graduated from college eight years prior: Simba in Disney's "The Lion King."
"I had been wanting that role forever, but each time I auditioned I was just not right or the timing wasn't right," Jacobs says. "The casting director would give me notes and I would work on my audition and come back again and again. And then it finally just clicked, and the role was available, so they put me out on the road with 'The Lion King' for a year then on Broadway for another 12 months."
He says this is a common pattern in theater — going out on the road with a show, then coming to the Broadway production. "They sort of see that as you paying your dues. It's like a year-long audition."
"I was in Chicago and the producers of Disney Theatrical saw me and said, 'You'd be perfect to work on 'Aladdin,'' and so they actually flew me out from Chicago — they took me off the road for a week — and I had to come to New York to work on the first developmental lab reading of the show."
He says he didn't know "Aladdin" was in the works, but was thrilled the get the call. "To be hand-picked by the producers really made me feel like I had reached a milestone in my career. It was just so cool."
Once that week was over, Jacobs went back on the road with "The Lion King," and when he came back to New York to play Simba on Broadway, he continued doing "Aladdin" readings and presentations for Disney executives.
"We actually got to read for Bob Iger, Disney's CEO, himself — and had to have a lot of people sign off on the show. Then, I eventually did have to audition for the director in late 2011 or early 2012, because they decided to hire Tony award-winning director Casey Nicholaw from 'Book of Mormon.'"
Once he impressed Nicholaw, it was a done deal.
The show opened in Seattle in July 2011, then headed to Toronto. It wasn't until early 2014 that "Aladdin" finally debuted on Broadway.
"The process took a total of three years, but it was worth the wait," Jacobs explains. "The book writer would go to each place and work on it and try and fine-tune it before bringing it to New York. Disney was really smart in that way."
"My life is just a little different now," he jokes. "But being their dad is the most amazing thing in the world."
The "second coolest thing" to happen to Jacobs this year: He was invited to perform at the 2014 Tony's at Radio City Music Hall.
"It was my first time doing that, and knowing it was in front of millions of people watching on television, and all of these famous people sitting there, gave me a huge rush. The Genie, James Monroe Iglehart, won the Tony award later that night for his performance, so that was really exciting and we all cheered for him. The whole experience was just amazing."
"I'm really like everyone else. I've got my wife and kids at home and they are my priority. I love spending time with them, and what's cool about this job is that I do actually get a fair amount of time at home. I only have to be at the theater for, really, a total of four hours every day. So the rest of that time I'm free. (Except on two-show days, obviously, when I have to be there for longer.)"
The toughest part about his job: maintaining his health.
"People don't realize that doing eight shows a week is like running a marathon, and we are like athletes. We have to be disciplined. I don't drink alcohol except on a Sunday because my days off are on Mondays. I make sure I eat well and try to get as much sleep as I can, and I take my vitamins and all that good stuff. We have to pace ourselves, and be smart about not going out after shows."
Jacobs wouldn't comment on how long he plans to stay on Broadway, but says he "wouldn't mind eventually getting into teaching."
"I like working with kids and young performers. Maybe down the line my wife and I will open a performing arts studio, or do some voice lessons. But that's a ways away."
And finally, he says, his biggest piece of advice for aspiring Broadway stars is: don't let anyone take the passion you have for performing away from you. "It can be a tough business — and competitive. But if you work and train hard, and believe in yourself, and persevere, you will be successful."
- Here's Why You Shouldn't Panic About The First US Case Of Ebola
- Watch 2 Gigantic Container Ships Slam Into Each Other In The Suez Canal
- 'Aladdin' Actor Reveals A Typical Day In The Life Of A Broadway Star