Last night, I went to see Disney’s “Aladdin” on Broadway. The show happens to be having it’s highest grossing week yet, and broke a New Amsterdam Theater record for sales, but that’s not why I went. The stage sets and special effects – including an incredible magic carpet – were amazing, but I wasn’t there for that. This costumes..they’re stunning, colorful, and oh-so-sparkly, but I wasn’t there for them. Walking in to the theater, I was there to celebrate Robin Williams, and his beloved character, Genie.
The New Amsterdam Theater is stunning. They didn’t roll out the red carpet, however – they rolled out a purple carpet! To my delight, the elevator operators were dressed exactly like those at the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. Merchandise tables screamed “Disney”. The theater itself was ornate, and large without lacking intimacy.
Paying attention to my surroundings, I didn’t hear any talk of the late Robin Williams. Many people purchased their tickets long ago, many were foreign travelers, and the theater was full of children. It felt like any other evening on Broadway. The Playbill included two handouts; a cast list for that evening, and “Friend Like Me” lyrics for a Post Show Sing-a-Long. It wasn’t until the end of the show that I realized the sing-a-long was a tribute to Robin Williams, and would only happen that evening.
Click below to hear audio of the introduction to the sing-a-long then click the video to watch a clip:
To that end, the show began normally. It wasn’t until “Friend Like Me” that James Monroe Iglehart, “Genie” let on that he was thinking about Robin. At the peak of the song and dance number, James preparing for the song’s finale dance and booming singing, James looked into the audience, saying “This one’s for you, Robin”. He proceeded to put all of his heart, energy, and voice into the number. Although it wasn’t the end of Act One, James and his cast were met with a standing ovation.
The show continued to amaze, sparkle, and dazzle. At it’s conclusion, after standing ovations for James Monroe Iglehart and Adam Jacobs (Aladdin), Iglehart asks everyone to take their seats. He’s a fast talker, and no doubt nervous to deliver such a personal message to a full house. His entire cast behind him, Iglehart recalls when he first saw Robin Williams (as the alien in Happy Days) up to seeing him as the Genie in Aladdin. He was 17, and knew that if he could just, somehow, do something like THAT…
He closed the show with a one time only “Friend Like Me” sing-a-long. Iglehart had the entire audience belting out the chorus, his cast singing and dancing behind him. And it felt really good, celebrating Robin in such a loud, energetic, and powerful way. It’s what his fans needed, and what he deserves.