Did you watch the Tony Awards® last night? Well, then you might be interested in this.
What seems like a lifetime ago, this Disney Dad had aspirations of becoming the “next big star” of the Great White Way; as a kid, I had the pleasure of working with some of the best actors in the state of New Jersey in various performing arts groups in my area, and one of the fine actresses in which I got to know during this period, Ms. Daisy Hobbs, recently made her Broadway debut in Disney’s Aladdin. I could not be more thrilled for this talented and dedicated artist.
Aladdin has hit the Broadway scene with more fanfare than Prince Ali arriving in Agrabah; and to provide her personal experience, cast member Daisy Hobbs has graciously agreed to sit down with me and share her unique insights into this magical production exclusively for WDW Radio Blog readers.
Disney Dads and Moms out there, pay special mind to the lessons learned from this dauntless performer; clearly Daisy’s family was a special resource for her. And Disney fans: note the production-specific details Daisy shares with us — and only us!
I hope you all enjoy reading Daisy’s insights as much as I did!
(Note: Disney Dad= “DD”; Daisy Hobbs = “DH”)
DD: Daisy, as a member of the Ensemble of Disney’s Aladdin, can you sum up the roles you play and the various numbers in which you perform?
DH: I am a member of the ensemble. We have 7 onstage female dancers and 2 female swings in the show. I perform in all of the ensemble numbers, including big production numbers like “Friend Like Me” and “Prince Ali”, where I am running offstage and changing clothes like a mad woman.
DD: We see this is your Broadway debut. Obviously this is a dream-come-true for you. What has been the most surreal or unique moment of this experience for you to date?
DH: To say this is a dream come true would be correct. I have wanted to be on Broadway since I was a little girl growing up in NJ, so to go to work everyday and be able to perform in such a magical show with such great people every night is a joy and nothing short of a blessing. My favorite part of this experience is the interactions I have with people. From signing autographs after the show and meeting fans to being able to reach so many aspiring young performers through the classes I teach, I love that I can inspire a new generation through my work and my passion. To mark a specific moment to date that stands out, it would be opening night, hands down. I have been a part of the show since the beginning, so I’ve seen the whole journey up until that night. To finally have that curtain rise and know that everyone who truly loves me was out in that audience and they were happy for me because they knew all I had gone through to get to this point, it made it all worth it for me. All the years of hearing no, the rejection, the blood, sweat and tears I had put into my work, it was all for that night. At the party, I had all my people there. My mother, my boyfriend, and my 2 best friends since childhood. We danced the night away and it was such a surreal night. I felt like Cinderella at the ball.
DD: Can you relay your history with this production of Disney’s Aladdin? From audition to rehearsals to tours – if any – and performances.
DH: I have been with the show since the beginning. We did an out of town tryout in Seattle in 2011, where we stayed for 10 weeks. We realized there what a great show we had, and saw the potential it had. There were some other workshops of it that I could not be a part of (I was touring the country with Memphis), and then auditioned again to do the show in Toronto and on Broadway. We were in Toronto in 2013 where we changed a lot from the Seattle production, and stayed for 3 months. Then we finally returned to NYC and began the final preparations for Broadway. In these final weeks and during previews, we changed a lot! It really is amazing to see a show go through such a journey, and I’m grateful to have been a part of such a unique experience.
DD: What was it like making your Broadway debut with an accomplished, Tony Award®-winning director-choreographer like Casey Nicholaw?
DH: As accomplished as Casey is, he is one of the most down to earth people I have ever met. He really acts like one of us. He’s goofy, light hearted and genuine, and pays just as much attention to us in the ensemble as he does with the principles, which I appreciate. Casey used to be a performer in the ensemble, so he totally gets the hard work we put in and doesn’t take it for granted. He makes sure to always keep the atmosphere positive. There isn’t enough I can say about Casey. He’s a wonderful man and very deserving of all the success and accolades he has received.
DD: Were you a fan of the original film? If so, how have your experiences with the film influenced your participation in the stage production?
DH: Growing up, I did see Aladdin and loved it. I loved Robin Williams and “Friend like Me”, which is why it’s my favorite song to do every night.
DD: This interview is being conducted for the WDW Radio community – in other words: Disney nuts. Many of them have seen Disney’s other Broadway productions and can identify how these shows exemplify Disney’s ability to convey “magic.” In your opinion, what aspect of Aladdin best conveys this Disney signature magic?
DH: While I can’t say much about the specifics of the magic in the show, I will say you won’t be disappointed. My favorite magic section is in “A Whole new world”, but the show has lots of magic sprinkled throughout.
DD: What are some of the most notable differences and/or similarities between the theatrical version of Aladdin and the original 1992 animated film?
DH: The main difference is probably the change in some of the characters. Instead of Abu and Raza and other animal characters, we have three hilarious characters: Aladdin’s best friends, Babkak, Omar and Kassim. I have never heard anyone say they miss any character depicted in the film after they see the show. You have to come to the show with an open mind. Expect to be entertained, and don’t expect a carbon copy of the movie put on the stage.
DD: Can you articulate that one moment you enjoy the most while performing in this show?
DH: Without a doubt, my favorite moment in the show is the ending of “Friend Like Me”. We get a standing ovation, which is pretty unheard of in the middle of a show. Seeing people freak out and jump to their feet screaming feels awesome.
DD: Knowing that theatrical productions evolve over time as performers and directors adjust to all sorts of factors, most notably audience reaction, what would you say is the most dramatic way in which the show has changed since you began with the production?
DH: We made a big structural change in the show once we returned from Toronto. The Genie used to not appear until an hour into the show. Casey realized the energy really explodes in his reveal, so if we brought him in earlier and let him sort of narrate the opening and welcome us into this world, the energy would already be up from the start. That was a big change, and one that I think definitely works.
DD: How can people find out more information about you? Do you have a website? Are you connected to social media?
DH: My website is www.DaisyHobbs.com
DD: Daisy, I think I can guess who your favorite Disney character was growing up. It was Donald’s girlfriend, wasn’t it?
DH: You got it! 🙂
DD: Yeah, we got it, Daisy. Thanks for your time. We all can’t wait to see you in the show!
Disney’s Aladdin is playing at the NEW AMSTERDAM THEATRE
214 West 42nd St., New York City. For tickets, call 866-870-2717, or visit http://www.aladdinthemusical.com.
Special thanks to the Disney Theatrical Group for their assistance in this interview, and of course, Daisy.
Photos courtesy of photographer Deen Van Meer; thank you.
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Richie McNanna is an 8th grade teacher from Westfield, NJ. He has been a self-proclaimed Disney nut since the age of seven when his parents convinced him that real ghosts lived in the Haunted Mansion, and his goal in life is to retire one day and become one of the Dapper Dans. Richie’s wife, Helene, is the most understanding woman on the planet for putting up with his Disney obsession and owed a great deal of emotional payback. His son is one year old and already owns several sets of Mickey ears.