Thursday, January 16, 2014
NEW YORK (AP) — Adam Jacobs is an actor with a wide smile and a lot on his plate.
He's about to star in the title role of the new Disney blockbuster "Aladdin" on Broadway. He's also a new father — of twins.
"It's going to be a big year," he says, laughing. "It's just mind-boggling to me how everything is working out right now."
His wife, fellow Broadway veteran Kelly Jacobs, is just a few weeks from delivering twin boys. "Aladdin" starts performances at the New Amsterdam Theatre on Feb. 26.
It's a good thing Jacobs is an easygoing guy with a California-bred cool. "I think it'll be good to just take things as they come," he says. "That's one of my fortes."
Jacobs has paid his dues since graduating from New York University, including singing on cruise ships, being a Broadway replacement for Simba in "The Lion King" and Marius in "Les Miserables," and being part of four national tours.
"It was grueling," he says. "I got to learn all the tricks of making Top Ramen in the coffeepots."
Now he's the star of a new show that he helped create from the ground up.
"To be able to take a character and really make it your own was one of my dreams I always wanted to do as an actor," he says. "Now I'm getting to do it so it's pretty cool."
He'll be joined by James Monroe Iglehart as the Genie, Courtney Reed as Jasmine and Jonathan Freeman as Jafar. All were part of the show's out-of-town tryout in Toronto.
"Aladdin," based in the 1992, Robin Williams-voiced animated version with songs by Alan Menken, is directed and choreographed by Tony Award-winner Casey Nicholaw, whose previous hits include "The Book of Mormon" and "The Drowsy Chaperone." Bob Crowley, who has a Tony for "Mary Poppins," designed the sets, and Chad Beguelin wrote the story and additional lyrics.
Beguelin, who also wrote the book and lyrics for "The Wedding Singer" and the lyrics for "Elf," has been impressed by Jacobs' instincts and his willingness to try anything, including learning to juggle and ride a "magic carpet" with aplomb.
"He just seems to take it all in stride. He's got such a positive outlook on life that I think he only focuses on the positive," Beguelin says. "It's refreshing. There's no neurotic-actor-thing going on with him. You feel totally confident that he can carry the show and have twins and juggle and tap dance on the side."
Jacobs was raised near San Francisco in Half Moon Bay, the son of a Filipino mother and a Jewish father of Polish and Russian descent. His younger sister, Arielle Jacobs, is also a rising musical theater star, with a Broadway credit for "In the Heights."
A gifted pianist, young Adam studied at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music for eight years and flirted with the idea of becoming a concert pianist. His love of soccer and a desire to be a normal kid won out.
He fell in love with musical theater after seeing the Filipino-American actor and singer Paolo Montalban on tour as the Prince in "Cinderella." His response? "I think I can do that." He found his mixed ethnicity useful in landing all sorts of parts.
"I'm a mix and I think that's really helped me play a lot of different roles," Jacobs says. "I think the landscape has changed in terms of nontraditional casting. It's changed for my benefit for sure."
He met his future wife in 2001 while playing Santa Claus in a Christmas show in Hershey, Pa. He was in a fat suit and she played a ballerina and his waltz partner. They soon bonded offstage, spending hours talking beside a fireplace over free hot chocolate.
The couple kept their romance warm while he was touring in "The Lion King" and she was in the road company of "Mary Poppins." They were married in 2006.
"We had a rule that every three weeks we would try to see each other at least for 24 hours, which is tough to do. But we made it work," he says. "And we stuck through it and now we have that foundation and gotten through those tough times. Now we can get through the next tough time."
In a weird twist, Jacobs' wife was in the Broadway company of "Mary Poppins" when it closed last year at the New Amsterdam Theatre, the new home for "Aladdin."
"It's kind of wild, right? When does that ever happen?" says Jacobs. "I said to her, 'Keep the seat warm for me.'"
Now the couple may be in need of a magical nanny of their own as they prepare for what Adam calls the "two little Aladdins on the way."
"It's not going to be a cakewalk, I know that. It's going to be challenge," he says. "But it's something we've wanted for a while so we're up for it."
Mark Kennedy can be reached at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits