When Disney’s Aladdin brings its adventure and sweep to the Hobby Center for the next couple of weeks, it might be appropriate to ask: Is it possible to have too much of a good thing?
The live-action version of the film opened last month, with Will Smith replacing Robin Williams in the Genie role. And there are surely parents (and possibly a few millennials) who’ve got the original on DVD or their streaming services. Still, Major Attaway, the Fort Worth native who’s taking the Genie on the road with this national tour, scoffs at the idea of Aladdin fatigue.
“I’m doing [this character] every day,” he says, laughing. “Will’s check has already cleared.”
What he loves, instead, is that people can see multiple versions of the show, each with their own personalities.
“For our show, we began with the premise that the Genie is modeled after [jazz legend and comedic performer] Fats Waller,” he says, a characterization that is much less present Will Smith’s Genie and only partially realized in Williams’. “That was always the idea for the character, before the original film.”
This choice provides ample foundation for a musical that expands on the original film, incorporating new songs, as well as a tweaked story. On stage, look for Aladdin to have a couple of pals who assist in his thieving, only to decide they want to be street musicians as a way to go legit. Aladdin also has a mom here, and the Genie, who in the movie could shape shift in any number of characters amid Williams’ celebrity impersonations, now inserts a plethora of pop culture references.
In all, the show should prove familiar enough to those who love its source, as well as new and different to provide its own experience.
“It’s a romance, it’s a bromance, it’s a search for your authentic self,” says Attaway. “It was always those things, and it will always be those things, no matter how we tell the story.”
Attaway, who was as standby for the role on Broadway and stepped on stage for the first time in it in March 2016, is excited to bring the show and his stamp on it to his native Texas. The 30-year-old performed extensively with the Casa Mañana, which presents musicals and has a dynamic children’s theater component, and has been heard in TV commercials and video games. He’s also been on stage with the Ft. Worth Symphony.
“I love having all of the people who supported my work before Broadway see the fruits of their labor,” he says. “Texas is where I honed my work ethic.”
And despite his familiarity with the role, Attaway still says that playing the Genie has changed his life. In particular, he notes, it’s altered his idea of patience and possibility.
“Sometimes we don’t dream big enough,” he says. “The majority of people set their own limitations. But look at the Genie, right? His power is only limited by imagination.”
Jun 26–July 14, Tickets from $50. Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, 800 Bagby St. 713-315-2525. More info and tickets at hobbycenter.org.