Michael was a member of the original Broadway company of Aladdin in 2014 as standby Genie and Babkak, and has been critically acclaimed for his performance as Genie. His previous theatre roles include the original Broadway productions of Something Rotten!, The Book of Mormon, Elf – The Musical, The Pirate Queen, Mamma Mia!, All Shook Up and Tarzan.
Currently starring in the US Tour of Disney’s Aladdin as Genie, Michael has come to London for an exclusive, limited six week period where he will swap with the London production’s Genie, Trevor Dion Nicholas, to perform to West End audiences, whilst Nicholas goes to perform in his home town of Pittsburgh. He’ll be with us from 17th August – 30th September 2018, before heading back to the States for the next leg of the US tour.
Disney’s multi award-winning production of Aladdin is now in its third year in the West End and fifth record-breaking year on Broadway at the New Amsterdam Theater. Aladdin’s global presence has grown to six productions on four continents, and it has been seen by more than 7.2 million people to date.
This is your first performance on the West End stage in eight years, having performed in the Broadway transfer of Hair at the Gielgud Theatre in 2010. How does it feel to be back and what are you looking forward to doing in London whilst you are here?
Oh gosh, it feels amazing and wonderful to be back in London. I absolutely love it here, it is a beautiful city with such bustling energy. The West End community have been so wonderful to me, they were wonderful to me the last time, and so it’s great to be back, especially in a role and production that I am so proud to have been a part of across the world now. It’s really special to be able to bring this role to London, with all of its charm and history, it’s just such a blessing. I am also looking forward to having high tea because it was one of my favourite things when I was last here.
You have performed in some amazing shows so far in your career. What have been some of your highlights?
Definitely Hair in the West End and on Broadway. Book of Mormon was an insanely amazing group of people that got to create this little thing that then became the Book of Mormon. Of course Aladdin and getting to play the Genie will always be a highlight in my career because of the magnitude of the role and what the show means to so many people.
The role of the genie in Aladdin is iconic. What is it that attracted you to the role and how have you made the character different?
What can you not be attracted to? First of all, it’s love and light and you get to be a big kid. For me, I love that I get to embody this light of a character on stage and bring it to people who are so excited to see the Genie, which can be a lot to put on your shoulders, but it is a wonderful challenge that I have so happily taken on. I am happy that the team have allowed me to bring Michael to the role. The foundation from Robin Williams is still there but the show has made it our own.
For anyone who has been living under a rock and never seen the film or heard the story, what is Aladdin about?
Well, you know, I think to put it simply it is about a boy who wants to make his mother proud. Along the way he meets a Genie to help him find the right path to figure that out.
What has been the funniest or most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you on stage?
I played Jack Spector, the Disc Jockey in Jersey Boys and in the show there is a big cue where Jack introduces The Four Seasons to the world and I had one of those actor nightmare moments where I couldn’t remember what to say. That moment is a big cue for everyone – lighting, the actors who play the seasons, the stage manager – and I couldn’t remember what the name of the group was! I started the line ‘Introducing the four…guys’. The entire crew for a month after that would not let me live it down but I had to just keep going and now I will never forget The Four Seasons!
Apart from acting, what is your biggest passion?
Teaching. I love teaching young artists. For me, I had many angels for teachers who gave so much to me as an actor. I think it is so important, especially for inner city kids that may not have many opportunities to work with Broadway or West End actors. I am passionate about being able to go and talk to them and give them the advice that helped me when I was an aspiring artist.
We are living in a time where films are often being turned into stage plays and musicals. If you had to choose one, what film would you like to see adapted to the stage?
Oh gosh, well, two of them. One of my favourites was Clueless, they actually did do a workshop of it. Also, Coming to America, that would be wonderful.
If you could be the opposite sex for the day, what theatre role would you love to have a go at playing?
Mama Rose in Gypsy.
If you won the lottery and could stage one theatre show of your choice, what would you choose and who would be your dream cast, alive or dead?
I would do a production of Gypsy. I would cast Beyoncé as June, Aretha Franklin as Mama June and John Legend as Tulsa.
Why do you think people should come and see Aladdin whilst you are playing the Genie?
It is a show that is full of light, love and fantasy. In today’s world it is great to escape, sit down and laugh and let you heart just soar in this romantic story. I think it would be fun to see me play it in London because I think I bring some fun elements to the Genie and I am excited to share that with the London audiences.
Thanks for having Tea With Wilma