The Disney musical Aladdin has been good to Texas actors. Not only has Dallas native Brian Gonzales been appearing in the Broadway production since 2014 as Babkak, one of Aladdin's sidekicks, but in 2015 the Fort Worth-raised Major Attaway was called up as stand-by for the role of Genie, under Tony winner James Monroe Iglehart.
In 2017, the production's first national tour was readying to hit the road with another Dallas actor in the cast: Clinton Greenspan was playing a member of the ensemble and understudying Aladdin. Then, in 2018, something magical happened: Both Attaway and Greenspan assumed their starring roles full-time.
Now the real magic happens June 26-July14, when Aladdin comes to the Hobby Center for the Performing Arts. Greenspan is appearing as Aladdin, and Attaway has taken a leave of absence from Broadway this year (from February to September) to join the tour cast as Genie. Flower Mound native Annie Wallace is also in the ensemble and understudies Jasmine.
"It's a dream," says Greenspan. "I've had a few moments recently where I'm doing the show and scenes occur, and I start tearing up because I'm thinking about the fact that I'm about to perform on that stage. There's going to be a kid out there in the audience that was me at one time!
"Major and I have had a lot of conversations about what this really means to us right now. It's something that we've dreamt of. The fact that we can come back and perform something like this for our family and friends and hometown, to be doing this in Texas — it leaves me speechless."
Though Attaway and Greenspan each worked regularly on local DFW stages, they only ever appeared in one show together: The Hot Mikado at Theatre Three in 2015. Greenspan was in the ensemble, and Attaway appeared near the end of the musical as the Mikado himself.
"The Mikado is such a small part of the show that we hardly talked and didn't have many rehearsals together," says Attaway. "With that show, I knew everyone but didn't really get to know them. But now it's great to have a connection outside the energy of the show, to have someone you can easily relate to. Being from the exact same area adds to the trust onstage in a way that's automatic; there's an instinct about how each other navigates the show."
Based on the Academy Award-winning animated film, the stage version of Aladdin is a dazzling display of athletic dancing, sparkly costumes, and plenty of Disney magic (yes, there's still a flying carpet).
Expect to hear all the memorable songs from composers Alan Menken, Howard Ashman, and Tim Rice, including "Friend Like Me," "Arabian Nights," and "A Whole New World," along with some new songs written for the stage and others that had previously been cut from the film.
One of those songs is "Proud of Your Boy," where Aladdin expresses his guilt over thieving after promising his now-deceased mother he'd stop.
"'Proud of Your Boy' will always be a special part of the show for me, because I'm a mama's boy," says Greenspan. "I was an only child raised by a single parent, so we had a very close connection, and she helped me through so much. So to sing that song is very special to me. There are still moments where I get emotional about it, but I always dedicate it to her."
Since he's been playing the Genie for more than three years, Attaway finds it hard to pick a favorite moment. The iconic role was first made famous by Robin Williams and later awarded prestige by Iglehart, but Attaway has enjoyed putting his own spin on the character — including adding the high kicks he was famous for on DFW stages.
"Everything this character is required to do onstage is in my wheelhouse, from flexibility to improv," he says. "It's wild that there was a role that feels like it was written for my archetype, but then they also let me enhance it. Nobody else who's played the Genie does the high kick, and probably no one else will."