By John Szablewski

First Look: ‘Aladdin’ at Shea’s Buffalo Theatre

Disney Theatrical Productions under the direction of Thomas Schumacher presents Aladdin, the US tour, music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, book and additional lyrics by Chad Beguelin, opening night April 19 at Cadillac Palace Theatre in Chicago, starring: Adam Jacobs (Aladdin), Anthony Murphy (Genie), Isabelle McCalla (Jasmine), Zach Bencal (Babkak), Mike Longo (Kassim), Philippe Arroyo (Omar), Jonathan Weir (Jafar), Reggie de Leon (Iago) and JC Montgomery (Sultan) directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw

Millennials finally have disposable income, and when it comes to the nostalgia of yesteryear, we are first in line to see anything that will take us back to our childhood. The 1992 Disney film, “Aladdin” lives in nostalgia as one of those films that makes us feel good. It is funny, we remember the songs, and we love the characters. It is only fitting that one of the most successful Disney films of all time be made into a Broadway musical. A musical that will be coming to Buffalo, August 8 – 19.

When it comes to well known properties like that of Disney films, the audience has many expectations that need to be upheld. “Aladdin” is no different. “The show comes from well known source material,” says Jonathan Weir, who will be playing Jafar on the tour, “we talk about it in rehearsals that we have a certain responsibility as actors to uphold expectations and make sure that we give the audience a show that they will absolutely love.”

The National Tour of “Aladdin” is not a scaled down production, the Broadway show is literally delivered to every city it visits. “The production quality is awesome,” says Weir, “Nothing is scaled down. There are 350 costumes and tons of magic. Our audiences definitely get the quality of show that Disney is known for.”

Weir has a long history working for the House of Mouse, and was excited to get a chance to play another Disney villain. “I worked for Disney for the last 15 years, as a stand by for various tours and on Broadway. When I learned that they were casting for the National Tour of ‘Aladdin’ I walked my resume to the stage door of the New Amsterdam Theatre. It was very 1940’s of me,” laughs Weir. He was a standby for Scar and Pumba in “The Lion King.”

The North American Touring Cast of Disney’s “Aladdin.”

“Over the course of a few years, I had auditioned a few times, and I was offered the part of Jafar,” says Weir, “I was able to create the signature voice that is so well known.”

In a story that is so well known, one wonders if there are certain parameters that an actor needs to follow when working on a Disney piece. “We were encouraged to make the characters our own, and to bring our own humanity to them,” says Weir.

Weir laughs that he has been cast as two well known villains, Scar from “The Lion King” and now Jafar. “The two have certain similarities, they are both second in command, and they do whatever it takes to get power, but this also causes both of their demises. It is a joy to play the antagonist!”

Audiences are sure to enjoy this production. “This isn’t a children’s show by any means. Children love it, Millennials love it, everyone can find something to enjoy about this story. Nothing can replace the true theatre experience,” says Weir, “the power of laughter is magical, and there is a lot of magic in this show.”

“Aladdin” opens on August 8 and runs until August 19, 2018. It is performed at Shea’s Buffalo Theatre. For more information, click here.