Aladdin’s Tony-Winning Genie Gets Ready to “Make History” in Hamilton

Cabaret & Concert News   Aladdin’s Tony-Winning Genie Gets Ready to “Make History” in Hamilton
 
James Monroe Iglehart takes over the roles of Lafayette and Jefferson April 14.
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James Monroe Iglehart

Tony Award winner James Monroe Iglehart sums up his switch from Broadway’s Aladdin to Hamilton in a phrase: “I used to make magic,” he said, “and now I make history.”

On April 14 Iglehart, who created the role of Genie in the Disney musical and played it for most of the past three years, takes over the double role of Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson, which were originated by another Tony winner, Daveed Diggs. Iglehart will now deliver “The Story of Tonight,” “What'd I Miss?,“ “Washington on Your Side” and the “Cabinet Battle,” among other landmarks in the Tony- and Pulitzer-winning score.

Rehearsals have been “really awesome, I’m juiced every night,” Iglehart said. Nevertheless, there have been ample challenges in the change. For one thing, he said, the strong physical differences between himself and Diggs meant changes in timing and even characterization. “You have to use your stature,” Iglehart said, “He [Diggs] was tall and lean; I’m tall and stocky. It definitely finds its way into your character. The key is to bring your own style to it. The material is the same, but I’m going to bring my own swagger.”

Iglehart and Diggs sometimes perform together in the rap group Freestyle Love Supreme, so he’s well acquainted with his predecessor’s style.

Hamilton is a much more tightly choreographed show, which keeps Iglehart constantly on the move. “I just try not to get in people’s way. I try to make sure that I fit into the puzzle piece that is Hamilton. That’s the biggest challenge.”

Playing two roles—one Hamilton’s friend and one his enemy—also forces Iglehart to connect with a lot more characters. “With Genie, I realized that I basically only spoke to Aladdin. In Hamilton I’m interacting with so many more people.”

In preparation for the role, Iglehart spent several nights watching the show from the audience. One night he found himself sitting next to a 10-year-old girl. He asked her what part of the show she was most looking forward to. “She told me the Cabinet Battles, when Hamilton and Jefferson go head-to-head. That’s kind of cool!”

He said. “I am so excited to be a part of Hamilton. It’s going to be a wonderful season.”

Throughout his tenure in Aladdin, Iglehart often answered the call to perform at fundraisers and showcases, and to host theatre-related events. Switching to Hamilton slowed but didn’t stop that practice. Iglehart has two club appearances scheduled at Feinstein’s/54 Below. On May 8, he will perform as part of 54 Celebrates The Muppets, and he will co-star with Lillias White June 19 in The Funkentine Rapture, a concert version of a musical portraying the 1970s battle between disco music and “true funk.”

Iglehart also continues to provide the voice of hero Lance Strongbow in the Disney Channel cartoon Tangled: The Series.

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