Michael James Scott
Michael James Scott

Michael James Scott Celebrates 10 Years of Aladdin on Broadway

Disney on Broadway is popping the champagne for two milestone anniversaries! On March 20, the company will celebrate a decade of Aladdin, and a month later, Disney will toast to 30 years of bringing award-winning theater to the masses on The Main Stem. Entertainment journalist for Spectrum News NY1 Frank DiLella recently caught up with one of Disney on Broadway’s superstars, Michael James Scott (Genie in Aladdin), to talk this momentous occasion and much more.

Aladdin is about to celebrate a decade on Broadway! All these years later, it’s still doing big business at the box office. What’s the secret to its success?

I think it’s joy. The heart of the show is joy. Yes, there’s a love story and laughter, but it’s about joy. It’s such a classic tale that’s been a part of pop culture for years. But for me, it’s the joy.

What’s been your favorite experience performing the role of Genie? 

I think my favorite moment was opening night in Sydney, Australia. There was this electrifying energy. That country welcomed me with open arms. I played Genie there for almost two years. But on that opening night, when the audience stood on their feet in the middle of the show after “Friend Like Me,” they erupted because it was something they had never experienced before. It’s a moment I’ll never forget.

Michael James Scott and Michael Maliakel in Aladdin. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

You’ve been with Aladdin since day one. You were the Genie standby for the original production. I’ll never forget seeing the show during its out-of-town tryout in Toronto and driving with you and your husband to the opening-night party following the first performance. Aladdin in Toronto underwent a significant transformation by the time it opened on Broadway. I give full credit to your creative team. 

I’ve been blessed in this business. I’ve done a lot of Broadway shows and I’ve gotten to open a lot of Broadway shows and be a part of what I like to call “the blueprint” of a Broadway show. A lot of people don’t know what really goes on with the making of a Broadway show and what it takes and how long it takes — the village that it takes to make a show. And this show was no exception, with its problems and how to figure out what is the best version of this show. You know, you can do all the prep you want for a show, but until you get it up on a stage, you do not know what it’s going to look like. So to see what happened in Toronto and then to see what happened when we opened in New York City, it was a true testament of a team throwing away a lot of the ego, and it was a real assignment of faith with each other. And I got to experience that and watch that happen. Watching [director and choreographer] Casey Nicholaw put his vision on something and watching [composer] Alan Menken and [book writer and lyricist] Chad Beguelin put their musical vision on the show — it was true theater magic!

Speaking of magic, you were also part of a very magical moment in the fall of 2021 when Broadway reopened after the 18-month COVID-19 shutdown.

It was a life-changing moment. It was monumental in a sense that we had gone through so much as a country and still are — it was a reckoning and racial awakening, specifically with Broadway. The magnitude of coming back and being a leading man of color who is a proud member of the LGBTQIA+ community — to be a part of the historic reopening of Broadway and now with Aladdin, it was life-changing. It was about the representation — the little Black and Brown kids, LGBTQIA+ kids, any marginalized community that didn’t see themselves — I felt the importance of that moment, to be chosen to be part of the reopening and standing in that light for them.

You’re a major part of the Disney family. You were recently the grand marshal of the parade at Disney’s Magic Kingdom, and you’re an Orlando, Florida, native. Was that a dream come true for you?

I got to kick off Celebrate Soulfully, which is the Black History Month celebration for the Walt Disney Company. They asked me to be the grand marshal in the Magic Kingdom parade to kick off the festivities. It was a full-circle moment. I used to be a parade performer in high school at Magic Kingdom. That was my high school job. So, years later, to be asked to be the grand marshal in the parade was so surreal. I could barely wrap my head around what was happening.

The company of <i>Aladdin</i>. Photo by Deen van Meer.
The company of Aladdin. Photo by Deen van Meer.

This spring, Disney is celebrating 30 years on Broadway. I can’t not think of all the young folks who were introduced to theater thanks to Disney.

Disney on Broadway — they’ve been at the forefront of what representation looks like on stage from the very beginning. When Toni Braxton was Belle in Beauty and the Beast! The Disney magic of it all is real, and you pair it up with Broadway and it’s successful — the magic is major! Broadway is a tough community to come into; you don’t just walk into the Broadway community. That’s not how we do! We’re Broadway! For Disney to come in, you have to be on your game. And what Tom Schumacher [head of Disney on Broadway] did during this time is amazing. He’s allowed space for a lot of representation. Disney walks the walk. And it starts at the top, and that’s why it has lasted for all these years.

Do you have a favorite Disney on Broadway property — other than Aladdin, of course? 

Probably Beauty and the Beast, because it was my first Broadway show. I was a senior in high school. I saw it at the Palace Theatre, and that’s where I made my Broadway debut in the musical All Shook Up.

Your name and your face have become synonymous with Genie. You’ve played the role all over the world. You’re on buses, buildings, billboards … What has Genie taught you?

Playing Genie has taught me to be authentically me. It’s taught me “the thing” that I grew up thinking was different or maybe too much for people at times, that could be considered “othered,” is “the thing” that’s a defining moment in my career. This real, unfiltered, authentic self and not apologizing for it. Genie has taught me that. And Genie has given me real permission to go for it.

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