Please welcome to the blog Adam Jacobs, who kicked off previews this week at 5th Avenue Theatre of Aladdin - a world premiere musical destined for the bright lights of Broadway.
Adam was nice enough to chat with us a little about his experience as an actor, working on a world premiere show, and how he keeps his sometimes-long-distance relationship strong when jobs take him on the road... check it all out!
Christopher Michael, Hunk du Jour: This isn't your first role in a Disney musical, did your appearance as grown-up Simba in The Lion King give you some Disney street cred that helped you land the part of Aladdin?
Adam Jacobs: Playing "Simba" in The Lion King definitely helped me get the role of "Aladdin." After seeing my performance, the heads of Disney Theatricals thought I'd be right for it and brought me in for a workshop. At the time I didn't even know it was in the works so it was quite a surprise to get that call. That went well enough that they decided to go ahead with the current production in Seattle. I also had played Cinderella's "Prince" in the national tour a while back so that might've added to the Disney street cred too.
HDJ: When you take on these iconic roles that can be so familiar to audience members, does it affect how you approach the role?
Adam Jacobs: I use the original characters from the animated films as a starting point, and then really just try to make bold choices based on the script and on how I feel the character would act and react. That way I'm staying true to the original vision but still bringing a large part of who am I to the role. There are special moments in all the Disney shows that every audience member loves, like the moment when Cinderella's glass slipper is placed on her foot by the prince, or when Simba ascends Pride Rock. As an actor, it can become daunting because you know how important those moments are, but if you fully commit to it and play the truth of the scene, you can help the story transcend to where it needs to go.
HDJ: Do you have any young relatives that plan on coming out and seeing the production?
Adam Jacobs: My sister Arielle, who recently played "Nina" in the musical In The Heights here in Seattle and also on Broadway, will be coming out to see me at some point.
HDJ: I did get to see you onstage in New York in the Broadway Revival of Les Miserables -- fantastic work there! What an amazing Broadway debut amongst some heavy hitters in the cast. What was that experience like for you?
Adam Jacobs: Thanks! That was amazing. I remember sitting next to Gary Beach at rehearsals having just watched him in The Producers movie and thinking, wow I'm pretty lucky right now. And then getting to work with the original creatives, John Caird as well as Cameron Mackintosh, and have them recount stories and anecdotes from the original staging was pretty cool too. It was inspiring to be sharing the stage with so many Broadway veterans and I learned so much from them. it was an experience I'll never forget.
HDJ: Are there any moments or stories from that production that are now permanently etched into your memory?
Adam Jacobs: I remember hearing the downbeat of the overture on opening night and feeling more nervous and excited then I've ever felt in my life. We were dressed as convicts and waiting in the wings while my heart was beating a mile a minute. And then there were many onstage bloopers, such as the time the fence I had to climb over became unpinned and went careening toward the orchestra pit while I was straddling the top... That was a scary one.
HDJ: In Aladdin, The Lion King, and Mamma Mia your costumes have had a distinct shortage of fabric above the waist -- is shirtlessness a feature you seek out in roles, or has it just been happy coincidence? Is it now in your contracts? :)
Adam Jacobs: I know, right? It's as though I'm known in the industry now as that "shirtless wonder" or something. I've now done three shows in a row in that have required me to be bare-chested. When I started on the first one, Mamma Mia, I worked out like crazy and was able to put on about 20 pounds of muscle. I guess the casting directors took notice after that. But it's a funny thing about being exploited for your looks-- it simultaneously inflates your ego and also knocks you down a peg or two. I don't mind it though. I figure I'm not going to look like this forever so I might as well take advantage of it!
HDJ: How do you stay so fit with what can be a grueling performance and rehearsal schedule? Does the show keep you active enough to where you can slack off at the gym for a bit, or do you find ways to work out while in production?
Adam Jacobs: In The Lion King, I never had to do cardio because I got that while doing the show. That cut my gym time down to where I was able to get in a good weights workout in about 25 minutes. I also had a set routine I did before every show at the theater involving a Theraband, basic isometrics, and pushups. Now that I'm in Aladdin, I'm doing a more regular routine of hitting the gym around 3-4 times a week, working different muscle groups, etc.
HDJ: New musicals mean lots of changes to adjust to throughout the creative process. How do you plan on coping/copewith any changes and adjustments that occur to the show throughout the Seattle previews and performances?
Adam Jacobs: Because this is a world premiere and a brand new show, we're getting script changes almost daily. That means you have to be able to adapt and not get too married to any line that's in the script. Even after the show opens we'll still be rehearsing during the day, tweaking and refining. But it's the creative process that really has me jazzed right now. It feels like play time every time we rehearse.
HDJ: Your wife, Kelly, had been touring for two years with another Disney show - Mary Poppins. Obviously touring with a production means a lot of time away from home - what advice do you have for other performers who may be far from their partners during show runs?
Adam Jacobs: I highly recommend Skype or using whatever video messenger you may have. We also had a rule last year of not going apart for more than three weeks. Even though we might have been only to see each other for 24 hours on a Monday, we made it work it for us. Another suggestion I tell people is just to always make sure you know the next time you're going to see each other. So that way when you separate, you know how long you have to wait until next time. It gives you both something to look forward to and helps the time apart seem more tolerable.
HDJ: A project you participated in during your youth was as a young Harvey Milk. How did that affect your perception of the gay community as a young person? Are you involved in any GLBT causes as an ally?
Adam Jacobs: Doing the documentary opera of Harvey Milk left a great impression on me. I was 17 at the time and it opened my eyes not only to the hardships and history of oppression, but more importantly to the strength and resolve of the gay community. I mean, we were in San Francisco performing on the anniversary of his assassination and you could hear a pin drop in the audience. It was such a powerful moment in theater. Ever since then I've always supported GLBT causes when I can.