Marcus M. Martin, who plays the Genie on the national tour of "Disney's Aladdin," says it's "a pleasure and an honor" to follow in the — does a Genie have footsteps? — of his onscreen predecessors.
The late Robin Williams provided the voice of the Genie in Disney's 1992 animated classic; Will Smith played the Genie in a 2019 live-action remake. In creating his own version of the genial character onstage, Martin says, he wants to make the part his.
"I definitely want to honor the legacy of the role" and "'take' in each generation at least once, to show appreciation for the foundation" of the character, he says, but "to move on to my own."
Before starting the tour in October, Martin consulted extensively with Disney officials and the show's creative team.
"They don't want me to do a carbon copy" of previous Genies, he explains. "That's comforting to know."
What he strives for in his characterization, he says, is the Genie's humanity.
"There's the flash, the glitz, the glamour, the comedy, but there's a human side to him as well. He struggles with his emotions and figuring out who he thinks the Genie is."
The stage show is an adaptation, with added staging spectacle, from the animated Disney film, in turn based on centuries-old folktales from the "One Thousand and One Nights" compilation.
Aladdin (Adi Roy), a street-rat orphan living by his wits in the bazaar of a Middle Eastern city, encounters Jasmine, the sultan's daughter (Senzel Ahmady), who is slumming to see how ordinary people live. He protects her from the palace guards and subsequently learns she's a princess.
"Recruited" by the sultan's evil wizard/vizier Jafar (Anand Nagraj) to recover a magic lamp from a mystic cave, Aladdin accidentally releases the Genie of the lamp, who as part of three magical wishes he's bound to grant each succeeding master, agrees to turn Aladdin into a prince, equip him with an entourage and, although even a Genie can't make anybody fall in love with anybody else, help Aladdin woo the princess and her royal father.
The original animated film featured songs by Alan Menken in collaboration with lyricist partner Howard Ashman; however, Ashman died as the film was coming together, so noted lyricist Tim Rice (best known for his collaborations with Andrew Lloyd Webber — "Evita," "Jesus Christ Superstar" and "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat") stepped in. The film won Academy Awards for Best Original Score and for the hit song "A Whole New World."
Apparently, however, Menken, Ashman and/or Rice wrote more songs than 1992 filmgoers actually encountered.
"A lot of the songs in our show were cut from the original film for time reasons," Martin explains, including one that Aladdin sings: "Proud of Your Boy." Several more songs were written specifically for the stage musical.
Martin says the stage show presents an opportunity for different generations to reprise their enjoyment of the movie versions — fans of the animated film, which is now three decades old, and youngsters who are fans of the more recent live-action film — as well as for folks who have no previous "Aladdin" background at all.
Martin is making his national tour debut with this show; he's a 2020 graduate of the music theater program at Baldwin Wallace University in Berea, Ohio, with previous regional theater musical credits that include Audrey II (yes, that's the carnivorous plant) in "Little Shop of Horrors" (another Menken-Ashman collaboration), the Lion in "The Wiz," Enoch Snow in "Carousel" and Marcellus Washburn in "The Music Man."
He concedes that the Genie is probably most folks' favorite character, based, among other things, on the number of theater patrons who approach him at the stage door.
For folks who ask him for three wishes, however, he always responds, "I'm still waiting on my wishes."
WHO, WHAT AND WEAR
◼️ A total of 205 people in 18 different shops worked on the construction of the 236 costumes, from 2,039 fabrics and trims from Morocco, Turkey, India, Uzbekistan, China, Tahiti, Japan, Guatemala, Mexico, France, Italy, England and Germany.
◼️ There are 77 pairs of custom-made shoes hitting the stage.
◼️ During each performance, 38 costume changes take place in under one minute.
◼️ There are 8,644 crystal rhinestones on each gold finale costume in the musical number "Friend Like Me."
◼️ Jasmine's wedding dress weighs 18 pounds, primarily because of all the crystal beading.
◼️ The touring show uses more than 150 lights.
◼️ Suspended above the stage: More than 15 tons of scenery and lighting.
◼️ It takes 75 people — actors, stage crew, musicians, dressers, hairstylists and makeup artists — to put to each "Aladdin" tour performance onstage.
◼️ Nine 53-foot-long trucks transport costumes, set pieces and other materials from town to town.
What: North American tour. Music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman, Chad Beguelin and Tim Rice, book by Beguelin, based on the 1992 Oscar-winning animated film.
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Friday, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, 1 and 6:30 p.m. Feb. 5
Where: Robinson Center Performance Hall, 426 W. Markham St. at Broadway, Little Rock
Information: (501) 244-8800; CelebrityAttractions.com; Ticketmaster.com