Below you will find the longest blog/bulletin I have ever taken the time to write. If you take the time to read it, I'm impressed and owe you a cup of joe or brew...
So, Aladdin has always been my favorite Disney cartoon and I always wanted to play the role of the man himself. I remember back in 2003 watching the Christmas Day parade and them cutting to a shot at Disney when they had these dancing Blue Genies announcing the arrival of their 45 minute stage show of Aladdin and I was stoked! It became my mission then to be in that show at all costs and I'm pretty excited to announce that starting Dec 14, that is exactly what will happen. I'm Aladdin!
This summer I was performing as Jean-Michel in the show LA CAGE AUX FOLLES. That was one of those roles I wanted to do after seeing it on Broadway. It was a great experience and I couldn't have asked for a better show to bring me back to the stage in a Musical! After working on the show for nearly 6 months, I was feeling pretty confident and caught wind of the Aladdin audition Disney would be holding at the end of July. I decided that it was time to grow the cojones and audition for the role that I've been wanting for a while.
I dug through some old music and found a song that I felt comfortable singing and brought it in to work on in my first vocal lesson with Rachel Lynn, which was the night before the audition. We worked on it and she coached me on the song and to be honest, I felt worse than I did about auditioning before my lesson. I got home and started to panic realizing that not only was I out of practice auditioning for musicals, but I had not put in the proper preparation on my song and felt that when put into the audition situation the next day, I would revert back to the way I was used to singing it. I decided that I wasn't going to audition. I then thought of what Queenie has said to me in the past when I was nervous about doing something that, "If you are afraid and don't want to do something, that is when you SHOULD do it."
So, I picked up another book of songs and found, "Santa Fe" from NEWSIES. I knew right away that this was the song I was going to kill that audition with. In my book, they are similar characters in their want for a better life and they were also written by Mr. Menken. By the way, I have never heard it played on a piano. I opened my Garageband, plucked out the first few bars on the piano to check if it was the same from the version Christian Bale sings in the movie and then I went to work singing it over and over. Looking back, I am surprised at how confident I felt going into the audition considering, that I was going to sing an entirely new song that I had never heard with accompaniment. Next, I picked out the brightest colored button up that I knew would bring out my "ethnic look" ;), got everything ready for the next morning and hit the sack.
I woke up, went for a run to get warmed up, ate a little breakfast, double checked to make sure I had everything and I set off at about 7:15am to get there early for the 9:45 sign in.
I pulled up to the audition studio and was surprised to see that there were already like 100 people waiting in line, most of which may I add looked like they could be my brothers and sisters. I parked my car, sang my song a couple of times and set out. As I was walking to the car, I recalled a golden audition tip someone had given me a while ago in situations like this when there were tons of people (Cattle Call). So I left my sunglasses on, took a deep breath, stood straight and gave the most confident walk to the front of a line with just a hint of a grin and in my mind I was thinking, "You guys can all go home, this part is mine." At first, I was a little nervous, but as I forced myself to keep walking forward, my nerves started to fade and I actually started to believe it, "fake it, till you make it" right? When I reached the front and "realized" there was no sign in sheet, I walked back smiling at people individually, but it was real this time because I felt great. It worked! I could sense the nervous energy coming from people and it fed me. (Funny tidbit, I remember seeing 2 guys in line who seemed in the zone and looked equally ready for their shot indoors...I ended up seeing them again in final callbacks...) I found my spot at the back, plugged in my headphones and started to read a book. I felt great, I felt ready and I finally had decided I didn't care if I was going to lose my job at the Apple store for being late to my 3rd day of training.
The sign up finally started and they guided us indoors. I got my number and realized that I would not be needed till about 2pm! So much for getting there early. In my opinion, the waiting around is where you win/lose a role. We always hear, "they WANT to cast you", or my favorite is that, "the role is yours to lose." I feel like that time in the outer office is where it happens. There were people nervously running through their songs, some were making last minute changes and shuffling through music to find a song they didn't just hear 4 times prior – it was crazy. I did the best thing I could do for myself. I left. I went outside, ran through my own stuff a few times to stay fresh and then went back in to…REST. I knew I was ready, granted I had not done it 250 times to know that I knew what I knew, but there was something about the state of its rawness that I liked. I had a tiny bit of an edge from it still being fresh and for the song, I PERSONALLY felt like that would work for me when it came time to perform it. I got up to refill my water, which kept my going to the bathroom every half hour where I would do few pushups to stay fresh and energized when I started to get hungry. I made a call to my vocal coach to touch base and she said to go grab some almonds and to remember that some of the best singers were known because they knew how to feel a song/lyric. I took that to heart.
I finally was close to going in so I, did some last minute pushups in the bathroom and waited in line. There were two people in front of me and at that moment, nerves started to creep up. I put my music down, took a couple of deep breaths and started to breathe through my eyes. I told myself that this was my time and then I was fine, that would end up being the last time they surfaced. Before I knew it, they were calling me in. I smiled when I walked in and was not shocked at all to see like 10 people in the room because I already made it a point to peek earlier to scope out where I would direct my song to. I walked over to the piano and felt like I was back in performance tech with Lamby. I took my time explaining where I wanted to start and how fast I wanted my song played. I also asked to hear the first couple of bars before I thanked him and hit my mark. No one said and word so I took my cue, slated my name, gave the title of the song with the author and then gave the ol' nod. Now this was when it started to get interesting, remember I had never heard the song played on piano so for a fraction of a second, it sounded off and too slow but I quickly remembered that the man behind the piano was there to accompany me so I thought SCREW IT and started to speed it up and sell it! I found a perfect moment to look at everyone which I've been told not to do, but screw it, this was my audition! It ended up being stronger than what I had blocked and felt that I found a good amount to work with in those short 16 bars. I finished gave a thank you and started to leave when they stopped me and asked me about LA CAGE. The casting director asked how it went and I responded and told him that it still was going and that it was going great. He said that he lived by the theatre and I told him to stop in to check it out. He then said that he wanted to bring me in for callbacks! I grabbed the set of sides and music from him and went out to sign up for a slot for the dance call! I finished, grabbed my bag and left with the same smirk I strolled down that line earlier in the day with. I got to the car and screamed out because I was so happy. I then realized that my callback was on a day I was off, but the dance call was going to be the next day which was going to be my 4th day of training at apple / 2nd day of missed work. I quickly thought about why I moved to LA and after telling myself it wasn't to sell computers, I headed straight to work to tell them that I would need to miss the next day. They actually took it well and I was now NOT looking forward to the dance call.
Now, I've seen clips of the show and I know that Aladdin is not a dancing role, but I started to worry. I had met some people at the audition who said, they had done the audition before and that it was not that bad…but to each is own. I mean, I don't have two left feet, I think I have decent rhythm and I've been told I have, "Good line" - whatever that means, but I was hoping it wouldn't be a big movement call for my good man Al. I showed up the next day and decided I would wear tennis shoes instead of the Jazz Shoes I had under my bed, and I through on my UFC Shorts and a Sleeveless T. I was dressed for the gym and the others were ready to audition for musical theatre LOL I just told myself that I would sell it with a nice confident smile made sure to start/finish strong. It was a little awkward at times, especially when I was in the front line of 4 potential Aladdin's and we ALL forgot the dance piece. There was only one guy who really danced the shit out of that thing and I'm not sure he was even being called for Aladdin. They told us, it was not going to hurt us, they just wanted to see where we were, or in my case how much I could do before forgetting. We said goodbye and headed off to prepare for the callback two days later.
After that, I was lucky to have Jay play the songs for me so I could hear and record and when I got home, I realized they hadn't been recording. So I got the idea that I would check youtube, and there it was a few people had recorded piano versions of, "A Whole New World!" I ran over the songs a few times because I'm sure that I was already solid with them after singing them for 10 years and then I just worked the shit out of my sides. I felt like I was on fire and COULD NOT WAIT!
It was callback day and I was deciding what to wear. I usually wear what I wore on the audition, so that was what I showed up in, but I wanted to have another outfit ready for the actual times I was in the room. I picked out an outfit that was one of those risk taking choices, but again I thought that this might be the last chance I had to perform this stuff, so they were going to have to deal with seeing me in a vest, baggy white linen pants and my brown chucks. You know how people say, not to go crazy for auditions, just wear something that is suggestive…well I was going for it all the way!
I showed up to the callback and they brought us all into the room to tell us they would be pairing us up, but not before they played the music and we all sang to it. I had the sneaking suspicion that I was being watched, maybe it was because they heard a rumor about my callback costume LOL. Well we headed out with our "Jasmins" and some people started to nervously chat to their opposite, some didn't chat at all and went their separate ways and others…who knows what they did. My Jasmin and I actually had been chatting beforehand and when they announced we would be paired up it was great, because we got right to work instead of wasting time with getting to know you crap. We went through the song and made suggestions for movements and such and something was feeling off…I took a second and thought of the basics…We were not, "Playing the Love" which is HUGE in the song we were singing. I needed to have not only love for her, but more for the life that I wanted to be a part of. After that it all clicked. It opened up so many opportunities with the lyrics and I was amped! My Jasmin on the other hand was nervous as shit! I did my best to tell her that we were going to kill it, but at the same time I needed to keep my space so that I didn't pick up on her buzz. We finally were called in and killed it! They told us to talk amongst ourselves for a bit and then they said, "Ok thank you, Ace could you stick around for a little and Jennifer, we are all set with you, Thank you." Want to talk about awkward?? I walked out and didn't know what to say at all. I grabbed a drink of water and she came over and I thanked her and said that she was great, she thanked me and said she would see me later…
I caught wind that we would be going in to do Aladdin's song, "One Jump" so I decided it was time to make my costume change. The amount of looks I had as I walked out of the bathroom were amazing…and I felt like a tooooooolllll! I was contemplating changing back, but then thought I would look like an even bigger tool for that so I sat down and then realized that they were probably surprised that I had the cojones to do that. That is probably wrong, they probably just thought I was an idiot, but I just let the other thought sink in.
They called me in and I did my thing. They gave me some direction, like, "take the stupid costume off." Not really they just said they wanted to see me do the whole song, but without moving at ALL! I did and then they told me that I was singing a little behind the music so I made the adjustment and they told me to stick around. I wasn't sure what I felt about that visit into the room, I started to let those actor thoughts creep in for a second and was beginning to play it over in my head and thinking about the direction they gave on top of whether or not I made a huge mistake with my costume LOL but when I walked out, I was talking to two of the other Aladdins and they were telling me that they were a little nervous because during their duets, they TOTALLY went up and forgot the song! Not going to lie, this made me feel a little better, but I knew instantly they were interested in both of them because they were still there!
That callback went on for hours and there were like 8 rounds of cuts! We had to go in and sing with new people where they would make more cuts we went in and read our sides and they made cuts, they made cuts after someone passed gas…it felt like forever, but I kept going over my stuff and made sure not to tire or show it as George would say. Fast forward a few hours and there were 6 guys left for Aladdin and 4 girls left for Jasmin. At this point, I was excited to still be there, but was HUNGRY and I was starting to lose my edge. It had been close to 7 hours I think at that point and I saw way too many tears in that time. They made one last cut and had us come in AGAIN this time, to put us on tape! Thank god, I kept going over my stuff and kept doing my pushups (which by the way I probably did 1000 that day) because I was still feeling pretty energized. I finished my duet and they thanked me and told me that I would know in 1-2 weeks and they sent us all home. I knew that they were then heading to….NYC to scoop up all the triple threats floating around in NY which was not comforting, but I actually felt like I had a good shot. I mean I made it down to the final 5, I know I look the part, I made bold choices, took risks, surprised myself even and I felt like a pro from beginning to end. I was more than happy regardless of the outcome…so I thought…
Fast forward about a month and a half and I started to get defensive when people would ask about if I had heard from them. I realized that I was pissed off and it was bothering me more than I thought. A few weeks later I was fresh out of the closing of La Cage and knew that I was needing to get back out to audition and meet with agents and stuff and I had just gone in to meet with a prospective manager. I really felt like it went well, but found myself saying, so did Aladdin. LOL I was walking to my car thinking of some funds that I was not in possession of and looked towards the sky and said quite honestly, "I need some help." That was all…I went on with my day. I was heading home to take a nap, because I was exhausted when Erin came over begging for me to work out with her. I finally gave in and on the way received a call and for some reason I didn't hit ignore which I usually do when I don't recognize a number…I answer,
"Is this Ace?"
(I'm thinking telemarketer!) "Yes, it is why?"
"Hi this is BLANK from Disney."
(I'm thinking, great they told us there were scouts in the room for parade characters at the park, maybe my costume at the callbacks inspired someone to offer me a job as one.)
"Ok, hello BLANK."
"I'm calling and would like to first thank you for coming out and congratulate you for making it all the way through the callbacks."
(I'm thinking…YEA they are definitely going to offer me a parade character role because I sense a big fat hairy but lurking in her next sentence) "Thank you."
"Well we wanted to call and say that we are offering you one of the roles of Aladdin…in our musical at Disney."
"You did a wonderful job and we would like you to join the cast."
(I'm thinking HOLY SHIT!") "Great! Alright! What happened to 1-2 weeks notice??"
I didn't really ask that at that point, but I did bring it up later in the convo.
It was a crazy ride for sure, but one I am thrilled to have experienced. Tomorrow I begin the next phase in this adventure and can't wait to report back what fun/crazy times I will be having. I hope you can all come out to see it and can't wait to find myself in one of those funny youtube videos of the show. Stay tuned.. till then, you can find a little taste of what is in store for yo man, ACE below...courtesy of some other guys funny youtube video.