Casey Nicholaw is the director and choreographer of TWO big musicals currently playing in Melbourne’s East End Theatre District: The Book of Mormon at the Princess Theatre and Disney’s Aladdin at Her Majesty’s Theatre.
“It’s exciting! It’s pretty cool,” exclaimed Nicholaw.
You couldn’t get two more contrasting musicals. The Book of Mormon contains offensive language and adult themes, and is not considered suitable for children. Aladdin, on the other hand, is a Disney production and suitable for the whole family. While the two musicals are clearly very different, Nicholaw says they are both very high energy and the love of musical theatre can be found in both of them, commenting, “It’s just that Aladdin doesn’t contain any bad words”.
The Book of Mormon had its Australian premiere in Melbourne in January and has been playing to full houses ever since. Aladdin premiered in Sydney in August last year and similarly opened to rave reviews and packed houses.
What has impressed Casey Nicholaw is the Australian cast of Aladdin. While he loves the musical itself, he particularly loves this current Australian production.
“I love it. I also really love it here,” said Nicholaw, emphasising the word ‘here’.
“You know, the company here in Australia is so good, it’s so strong and they all really took to the show and the energy of the show so beautifully. I really love the show here,” said Nicholaw, enthusiastically.
Leading the Australian cast is former Hi-5 member Ainsley Melham, who was clearly born to be on the stage. When Melham auditioned for the title role of Aladdin, Casey Nicholaw had no idea what Hi-5 even was.
“Isn’t he incredible?” said Nicholaw, with genuine enthusiasm before admitting, “I went to google him after we were casting and I was like, ‘Oh – that’s all?’”
Joining Ainsley Melham is Michael James Scott in the role of Genie.
“Michael James Scott is the only member who came over from New York and he and Ainsley together are just so great,” commented Nicholaw.
During the opening night of the Australian premiere of Aladdin in Sydney, Michael James Scott – and cast – received a thunderous applause and standing ovation after an incredible performance of ‘Friend Like Me’. What had the audience talking, long after the show had ended, was that this standing ovation came midway through the first act. Seasoned theatre goers were declaring, “I’ve never seen anything like it!”
Casey Nicholaw had attended previews of Aladdin in Sydney, but was unable to stay in Australia for the opening night. While he missed being part of this standing ovation, he has seen it before.
“It happened in New York for the first four months. It blew me away. The first time it happened I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, what is happening?’ It’s pretty cool,” said Nicholaw.
Despite a larger than life performance by Michael James Scott as Genie, Ainsley Melham manages to avoid being overshadowed, and delivers his own stand out performance that matches Scott.
“He does! And you know what I think is interesting, is it’s the first time we’ve had two guys that are also dancers play those two roles,” said Nicholaw.
“You have two people who are so in their bodies, and are so physical, that know energy and how to keep the show going – and that show moves like gang-busters, it really does – and I think a lot of it is due to the fact that the two of them are really good dancers,” Nicholaw explained.
Mind you, there is so much to see during Aladdin you probably need to make a return visit to truly appreciate this impressive choreography.
Aladdin is now in previews at Her Majesty’s Theatre in Melbourne’s East End Theatre District, ahead of the official opening night on Thursday 20th April.
For more information and tickets go to: http://liveshows.disney.com.au/aladdin-the-musical