It was just announced that Disney is going to make live-action versions of both The Lion King and Aladdin, two animated movies that defined a big ol' chunk of our childhood. (Seriously: Soooo many long car trips were saved by listening to cassettes—cassettes!—of those soundtracks on repeat.) That's happy but not necessarily surprising news: Disney's already given us live-action takes on Cinderella and The Jungle Book; the real-people Beauty and the Beast is coming in just a few months; and a live-action Mulan is in the works, too.
But here's the thing about Aladdin and The Lion King: Fabulous musical versions of those stories are currently blowing up Broadway. And a HUGE part of their Great White Way success is due to the fantastic choreographic minds of Garth Fagan (Lion King) and Casey Nicholaw (Aladdin).
A scene from the musical version of Aladdin. How amazing would this choreo look on the big screen?? (Photo Deen van Meer/Disney)
Soooo, Disney: Can we get a little Broadway-Hollywood crossover action here, and bring Fagan and Nicholaw on board the film projects? That'd be a win-win scenario—the movies would benefit from the genius of these two world-class pros, who already have oodles of experience with these stories, and Fagan and Nicholaw's work would get large-scale exposure. Pretty please?
Anyone who’s seen A Chorus Line is familiar with the high-pressure, “I hope I get it!” process of a musical theater audition. Out of hundreds of hopefuls, you have to be the one whose skills are strong enough to catch the casting director’s eye. Then comes the callback, the workshop—and, most of the time, the “no, thank you.” But while rejection can sting, it happens to everyone, including the very best. We spoke with five talented Broadway pros who missed out on coveted gigs. As their experiences prove, audition disappointments don’t mean the world’s ending—or even that a role is permanently out of reach.
Current role: Freelance performer (Hamilton was her most recent Broadway show)
Roles that got away: Understudy for Amneris/ensemble member in Aida
In the fall of my senior year at Juilliard, I got a call from a casting director, Bethany Knox, asking me to audition for the first national tour of Aida. The team was interested in me as an understudy for one of the leads, Amneris. After singing and reading scenes, I received two more callbacks; the second was a dance call in front of the choreographer, Wayne Cilento. There were about eight other women in the room, and I felt very confident. But I wasn’t hired. A few months later, I was invited to another dance call for Aida, for an ensemble part. This time, I was immediately cut. I was so confused—and a little angry. I’d been invited, after all! But as I was leaving, Bethany pulled me aside to tell me the team was looking for incredibly specific traits. They’d wanted someone older than I was for Amneris; now, they felt I had the wrong look for the ensemble. It made all the difference to get that feedback. I learned that some decisions just aren’t in my control, because they’re not about my skills or performance.
Fiedelman (right) performing with American Dance Machine for the 21st Century (photo by Christopher Duggan, courtesy ADM 21st Century)
Rosie Lani Fiedelman
Current role: Ensemble member in The Lion King
Role that (almost) got away: Ensemble member in The Lion King
In 2008, when I was performing at the Tony Awards with In the Heights, I watched The Lion King cast do a special tribute celebrating the musical’s 10th anniversary. I’d never seen the TLK before, and by the time the number ended, I was in tears. I told my friend that I had to be part of that show. I first auditioned for TLK in December 2013. It was an Equity Chorus Call—required by the union, even if the show isn’t hiring. I was there for about five hours, but ultimately I was sent home. I tried to look on the bright side and convince myself that the show just didn’t need anyone. About five months later, TLK held another audition. The call was a similar all-day affair, and I made it through to the end. Ultimately, the directors asked if I’d be interested in doing the tour. I said “of course”—and then added that I’d prefer to be in the Broadway cast. I left that day wishing I’d stopped at a simple “yes.” Did I overstep a boundary? Turns out, I didn’t. The next day I got a call asking if I could make it to a costume fitting in four hours—for TLK’s Broadway cast. I couldn’t believe it. It was the role that had gotten away…but I got it! Just goes to show that it doesn’t hurt to speak up.
Current role: The Acrobat in Matilda: The Musical
Role that (almost) got away: Swing in American Idiot
I went to see American Idiot when it first opened, and it spoke to me in such a powerful way. It had to be my Broadway debut. I auditioned for a swing track that also included understudying the character “What’s Her Name.” During the audition, it seemed like the entire creative team was rooting for me. It came down to me and just a few others, but I didn’t get it. I was heartbroken—like sobbing-in-my-room heartbroken. Months later, I was called back in to audition for the role of Heather. I got to do some fight choreography, and I sang “Last Night on Earth.” I made it to the top two or three contenders again, and I thought this was my moment. It wasn’t. Devastated, I told myself to put my dream away. But a few months later, I got a call: The woman who’d been hired for the original swing position was leaving, and though I wasn’t a perfect fit for “What’s Her Name,” the directors were going to customize the swing track for me so that I could understudy the Heather role instead. It was an amazing ending to a process that had been so painful for so long.
Nicely (center) in Something Rotten! (photo by Joan Marcus, courtesy Boneau/Bryan-Brown)
Beth Johnson Nicely
Current role: Ensemble member in Something Rotten!
Role that (almost) got away: Swing in Young Frankenstein
When I read that Young Frankenstein was coming to Broadway—and that Susan Stroman was choreographing—I knew I had to be in it. I’m a tall dancer, just Susan’s type, and I’d long dreamed of working for her. I auditioned to be an ensemble member and got a callback. But after the entire audition process, I was put “on hold” for the role for almost a month, just waiting to hear a “yes” or “no.” Finally, my agent let me know I didn’t get it. It was such a letdown. Then, a year and a half later, I got another phone call: A swing position had opened up, and the Young Frankenstein team wanted me to audition. There were five of us up for the role this time, all similar in height, but I ended up with the gig—I was exactly the same size as the original woman, so her costumes wouldn’t need to be altered. Later, I asked my agent what went wrong the first time. Apparently, the issue was that I was just too young for the ensemble. Casting a show is like putting a puzzle together, and I didn’t fit with the group. The experience was proof that it never hurts to go for it—because you never know which piece of the puzzle might be missing.
Current role: Ensemble member in Aladdin
Role that got away: Shark in West Side Story
Early in my career, I performed in a bunch of regional West Side Story productions. I’d done so many that I felt like it was my show. So when I heard it was coming to Broadway, I figured there was a good chance it could be my big debut. I went to the open call, then another callback. Finally, it was just me and two other guys up to play one of the Sharks. But disaster struck halfway through the final dance call: I fell and tore the meniscus in my right knee. It was a serious injury, and I ended up missing out on the role. I was pretty devastated for a good six months. I think I might have gotten over it more quickly had I not also been hurt—my knee was a constant, aching reminder of my failure. I questioned my warm-up, my training, diet, everything. Ultimately, though, I learned that sometimes, injuries just happen. I decided not to blame myself too much, and that turned out to be the healthiest thing I could do.
It seems like only yesterday that Disney debuted its first Broadway musical, Beauty and the Beast. But that's just because time flies when you're having theatrical fun: Beauty actually opened in 1994—which means that Disney on Broadway turns the big 2-0 this year. And what would a Disney birthday be without a giant party?
The Newsies boys are ready to celebrate! (photo by Deen van Meer, courtesy Disney)
To mark the anniversary, ABC will air "Backstage with Disney on Broadway: Celebrating 20 Years" on Sunday, December 14. Hosted by Jesse Tyler Ferguson, aka The Greatest "So You Think You Can Dance" Judge of All Time™, the special will give viewers an insider's look at all eight musicals in the Disney canon.
There'll be especially fun footage from the three shows currently running: an actual performance of Aladdin's showstopping "Friend Like Me" number, a Lion King rehearsal and a look at life on the Newsies national tour. Disneytastic!
Birthdays: part of the cirrrrrrcle of liiiiiiiiife (photo by Joan Marcus, courtesy Disney)
What’s the danciest, happiest, magic carpet-iest new musical on the Great White Way? That’d be Aladdin, which brings the classic Disney movie to colorful life, eight shows a week.
The musical features powerhouse performances by James Monroe Iglehart as the Genie, Adam Jacobs as Aladdin and Courtney Reed as Jasmine. But it’s the soaring, tumbling, freewheeling dancers that make Aladdin truly sensational. Whether they’re twirling scarves in “Arabian Nights” or nailing a 42nd Street–style tap routine in “Friend Like Me,” these Broadway babies light up every moment of Casey Nicholaw’s gleefully over-the-top (and Tony-nominated!) choreography. They’re the muscle behind the magic.
That’s why we just had to feature four of Aladdin’s dancers on our cover. Unsurprisingly, ensemble members Daisy Hobbs and Ariel Reid and swings Lauryn Ciardullo and Jennifer Rias are just as brilliant in front of a camera as they are in front of an audience. Or as the song goes: More often than not, they’re hotter than hot—in a lot of good ways.
Can't get enough Aladdin? Click here for a look at what goes on behind the scenes!
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We ain’t never had friends like the four swings—Mike Cannon, Lauryn Ciardullo, Michael Mindlin and Jennifer Rias—who showed us the cave of wonders behind the scenes at this spectacular show.
Photography by Matthew Murphy for Dance Spirit
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In case you missed the best night on TV—a.k.a the live broadcast of the Tony Awards—Dance Spirit's got your back. Here's a rundown of the show's highlights, a couple of its more cringe-worthy moments, and some of our favorite (and least-favorite) red carpet outfits.
Hugh Jackman with the cast of After Midnight
(photo Sara Krulwich/The New York Times)
–Hugh Jackman as host. It's great to see Wolverine back on the Radio City Music Hall Stage, singing and dancing with the stars of Broadway. He even cut a rug with Dulé Hill and the fabulous cast of After Midnight. Sure, his opening number (with all that awkward hopping) wasn't as fabulous as NPH's extravaganza last year, but his serenading of the female best actress nominees—in both the play and musical categories—stole my heart.
Bryce Pinkham (center) and the cast of A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder
(photo Heather Wines/CBS)
–The performances, obv. After Midnight, Aladdin and Bullets Over Broadway were especially impressive—so. much. tap. dancing. And here's to genie James Monroe Iglehart's win for best featured actor in a musical. But I was especially enamored with the performance from A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder—the Tony winner for best musical. In case you chose to take your bathroom break during the number, you can re-watch it here. There's not much movement, but the witty trio really brought down the house.
–The crazy Music Man rap. My viewing party went pretty nuts when Hugh Jackman busted some rhymes from The Music Man—and then even more nuts when LL Cool J and T.I. joined in. The beats—commemorating the song "Rock Island" from 1957's The Music Man, supposedly the first-ever rap—came courtesy of Questlove of The Roots. (Pretty cool.) Here's the song in the 1962 film; compare it to the Tony Award shenanigans here.
Melanie Moore with Jennifer Hudson in Finding Neverland. (photo Heather Wines/CBS)
–Melanie Moore as Peter Pan. When Finding Neverland hits the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, MA, this summer, "So You Think You Can Dance" Season 8 winner (and DS cover star) Melanie Moore will get the opportunity to work with Mia Michaels again: Mama Mia will be choreographing the new musical. The full cast has been announced (helloooo, Jeremy Jordan!). Unfortunately, Jennifer Hudson, who sang in last night's preview, is not in the show.
Jessie Mueller (left) with Carole King. (photo Heather Wines/CBS)
–Jessie Mueller and Carole King together (again) on one stage. I certainly felt the Earth move under my feet during this performance. Jessie Mueller is fantastic as the iconic singer/songwriter Carole King in Beautiful, and I suspect she'll be fantastic in roles to come. Congrats on your Tony for best leading actress in a musical, Jessie!
–The dreamy Matthew Bomer announcing a new Tony Awards partnership with his alma mater, Carnegie Mellon University. Next year the Tonys will celebrate one elementary, middle or high school theater teacher who really makes a difference. Know someone who you think deserves special recognition? Read about the new award here.
Jenni Barber (left) and Christine Dwyer (photo Heather Wines/CBS)
The Missed Opportunities:
–Wicked's 10th anniversary performance. Yes, Christine Dwyer and Jenni Barber sang an amazing rendition of "For Good." But weren't you just a little disappointed that Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth didn't pop out to sing a line or two? I mean, we know Idina was there—she sang something from her new musical If/Then. Lame, Tony Awards. Lame.
–The absent-from-TV award for best choreography. Remember last year, when we got to see Jerry Mitchell accept his choreography award on TV? Apparently the producers forgot about that precedent, and After Midnight's Warren Carlyle received his award for best choreography during a commercial break. Boooooo! Maybe if we give his acceptance speech video a ton of online views, the producers will get the point for next year.
The Best Dressed:
The history-making Audra McDonald, who took home her sixth Tony Award. She also became the first performer to win in all four acting categories (featured musical, featured play, leading musical and leading play). Yeah, she's legendary—and stylish to boot, in this pretty printed gown. (photo Walter McBride/Broadway World)
The always effortlessly gorgeous Sutton Foster. She didn't leave with a win, but her performance for Violet was strong.
(photo Walter McBride/Broadway World)
And the Worst:
The flashy Fran Drescher. She may be on Broadway in Cinderella, but believe it or not, this over-the-top tangerine dress is not a costume.
(photo Walter McBride/Broadway World)
The weighed-down Kate Mara. This dress just looks heavy. Here's hoping Netflix turns "House of Cards" into a musical so Kate can redeem her look as a Tonys presenter next year.
(photo Walter McBride/Broadway World)
What did you think of the telecast? Which performance was your favorite, and who did you think was best dressed? Was any show or artist robbed of an award? We want to hear what you have to say!
The Tony Awards (airing this Sunday night!) recognize a lot of Broadway talent: actors, directors, sound designers, lighting designers, writers, composers, and our favorites, choreographers. But we all know that the true muscle behind every amazing musical is the dancers. And they rarely get Tony nominations. (Unless they happen to be the fabulous Karine Plantadit, who earned a best featured actress nomination in 2010 for her dance-heavy role in Come Fly Away.)
Enter the Fred & Adele Astaire Awards. Each June, the Astaire Awards recognize Broadway's best of the best—in jazz, tap, or character shoes. The 2014 ceremony was held last night in NYC, and the star-studded event didn't disappoint. Here are the best moments from the oh-so-dancey evening:
Jared Grimes in After Midnight (photo by Matthew Murphy)
1. Jared Grimes' performance. Grimes currently stars in After Midnight. He opened the show with a display of his signature lightning-fast tapping and hip-hop swag fusion that later earned him the Astaire Award for best male dancer. (After Midnight was the big winner of the entire evening: Plantadit and Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards tied for best female dancer, and lanky Englishman Warren Carlyle won the award for best choreography. Seriously, go see this show!)
2. Angel Inniss' stellar layouts in her jazzy solo "Mr. Paganini." Man, can this senior dancer from Spotlight Studio of Dance in Maryland work a stage! Angel took home the New York City Dance Alliance Foundation's Adele Astaire College Scholarship. Congrats, Angel!
3. The presentation of the Outstanding Contribution to Dance Education Award to Luigi, the father of jazz dance (and the father of "5,6,7,8"!), and presentation of the Douglas Watt Lifetime Achievement Award to Patricia Birch. You know Patricia Birch for this choreography:
Greased Lightning! John Travolta and company in Grease
And this choreography:
Steve Martin and Gilda Radner cut a rug in “Dancing in the Dark” on “Saturday Night Live”
Of course, these are just two small snippets of this choreographer's CV, and Patricia Birch hasn't stopped moving (to quote Luigi) or choreographing. Her work can currently be seen on HBO's "Boardwalk Empire." Which brings us to top moment 4:
4. Legendary actor (and star of "Boardwalk Empire") Steve Buscemi making a surprise appearance to pay tribute to Patricia Birch for her work on the show. Best of all? We got to see a stage rendition of one of the acts from "Boardwalk." Take a look at the number in this clip from the show, and see if you can find our gal Chloe Arnold. Spoiler alert: Jared Grimes also performs!
5. Nancy Chippendale's Dance Studio tappers big finale. These teen dancers—there were more than 45 onstage!—from North Andover, MA, sure know how to stay in formation, while flapping and tapping in perfect unison. Their number "Glam" was the perfect finish to a truly glamorous event.
Let's hope Sunday's Tony Awards (8 pm on CBS) includes at least half this much dancing!