The much anticipated Broadway musical Disney’s ‘Aladdin’ has opened at the Lyric Theatre QPAC. Two of its leading cast members Hiba Elchikhe (Princess Jasmine) and Ainsley Melham (Aladdin) caught up with Simone Gorman-Clark between performances for a quick chat.
The words ‘Disney’s Aladdin’ immediately evoke vivid and joyful childhood memories for millions. What are some of your memories of Aladdin growing up?
Hiba: Glitz and heart and joyful childhood memories. I remember Aladdin being the first Disney movie I watched really and the princess looked like me and she was feisty and fiery and so that would be my first memory of the film.
Ainsley: I remember watching the film as a child and being excited by the mystical and exotic nature story. Evil Sorcerers, Magic Lamps, and Genies, were elements that blew my mind as a kid. It was very cool also to see a character that looked like me on the screen, singing, dancing and making mischief.
How would you describe winning the role of your character who is loved by so many?
Hiba: It was honestly a dream come true. It was a long audition process and when I found out I got if I cried.
Ainsley: Honestly, a dream come true. I’ve loved performing ever since I was young, and I remember saying to my mother that I would perform on stage one day in a big beautiful musical. The fact that I get to do that day in, day out and portray a Disney Prince is one of those ‘pinch yourself’ moments. I was speechless when I first got the call to say I got the role.
The costumes, sets and dance routines in Aladdin are absolutely spectacular. What is it like riding the magic carpet and how do the audience react from your view?
Hiba: Wow the magic carpet is truly magical. I love riding it every night! We always hear the audience gasp and clap and without giving too much away we truly fly on stage it’s epic.
Ainsley: It feels like you are really floating up there, and because all the lights go down you loose all depth perception and it feels like the world disappears for a moment. When the carpet first takes off your can hear the audience gasp, some in excitement, and some in disbelief. It’s very entertaining from our perspective.
Without giving too much away, is there a scene or song you would call your favourite?
Hiba: I love a new song in the show called ‘Palace Walls’ where Jasmine decides she is going to go out into the world herself and find out what she wants and discover new things. It’s when we see Jasmine’s strength and how independent she is.
Ainsley: Yes! There is one very small scene between Aladdin, Jafar and Lago. It is not long and not very much happens, but it is one of the few times I get to spend time alone with these two characters onstage and we spend the whole scene trying to suss each other out, and trip each other up. It’s very funny… to me anyway.
When you are not performing in the theatre what music would we find you listening to at the moment?
Hiba: At the moment I’m listening to Bruno Mars and Dua Lipa but I also love a good show tune I’m listening to the Hamilton soundtrack and Dear Evan Hansen soundtrack a lot.
Ainsley: At the moment I’ve circled back to some Stevie Wonder. He was one of the first artists I fell in love with as a kid. His music just makes me want to strut down the street with absolutely no care for how ridiculous I look.
If the Genie could grant you one wish, what would be up next for you after Aladdin?
Hiba: That’s tricky! The ultimate dream would be to one day play Elphaba in Wicked but I would love to dabble a bit more in film and tv.
Ainsley: I would love to have a little break and do some travelling, I love performing but I also have a huge passion for travel. It’s a want of mine to see as much of the world as possible. What comes after that? Who knows…but definitely more performing on the horizon.
Disney’s Aladdin must close on Sunday 3 June so don’t miss out as tickets are selling fast. You can purchase your tickets here through QPAC.