The Broadway national tour of Disney’s “Aladdin” is making its way through cities across the country bringing a whole new world to the Hippodrome starting Nov. 13.
As the show approaches its second anniversary, five new cast members have been added, including newcomer Kaena Kekoa, a native of Hawaii who was discovered at a Disney on Broadway open casting call in Honolulu. She will make her professional theater debut in the iconic role of Jasmine this fall.
Born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii, Kekoa grew up singing in church and in her local musical theater community. But before she won the coveted Aladdin role, she was a schoolteacher.
“I didn’t get into theater until I was about 11 when I did a community production of ‘Fiddler on the Roof.’ That’s when fell in love with acting and dancing as well as the musical theater style of singing,” Kekoa says. “Before I landed this role, I was teaching for about seven months. It all kind of all happened to me so fast. I purely went to the audition for fun. I went in with no real expectations, but then I got it. ”
Now that she has landed the part, it has stirred up a whirlwind of emotions. She admits that she has “all the feels” playing a character that is so well-known and well-loved by anyone who grew up with Disney. “This isn’t just my first national tour. This my first big professional show. I’ve never done anything like this before at this level,” she says.
“Right before I walk into the theater, I have all these emotions bubbling up, mostly I am feeling nervous and anxious,” she says. “But, as I walk onto that stage, it all goes away. Because this is what I’ve been dreaming about since I was a little girl. All of that nervousness tends to go away when I put on the crown and the costume and when I start singing.”
A new rendition
While many remember the ’90s Disney film, the stage version of “Aladdin” has new songs and characters, Kekoa says adding that it’s still the same story about Aladdin, Jasmine and the genie.
“But we’ve also added a couple of new characters and a couple of new songs to add depth to their stories,” she says. “Jasmine’s even got a new song, which I’m really excited about.”
“You can expect to see all the characters you know and love, but also a couple of new ones that you will continue to fall in love with as you watch the show,” she adds.
Kekoa also has some advice for those coming into the business. It’s in her motto: Always be kind.
“Obviously, you can never stop working on your craft, but I would say the most important thing is to be kind,” she says. “There are a lot of people working backstage, not just on stage. There are your management team and your crew. There are your props, there are the fly people that make sure things aren’t going to fall on your head when you’re on stage. So, just saying thank you and being kind, it’s important.”
“It’s easy to get in your head and for your ego to blow up in this business,” she adds. “But if you remember just to say thank you, this career will be a lot better for you and it’ll last longer. I always say it’s a blessing to be here.”
“Aladdin” at the Hippodrome, Nov. 13-Dec. 1, times vary. Tickets start at $52. france-merrickpac.com.