Major Attaway, who succeeded Tony winner James Monroe Iglehart as the Genie in Broadway’s Aladdin, brings down the house nightly with Alan Menken and Howard Ashman's showstopping “Friend Like Me.” The hit Disney musical, which currently features Telly Leung in the title role, marks the Broadway debut for Attaway, who originally stoodby for Iglehart before taking over the role full-time in February 2017.
We recently asked Attaway, whose regional credits include Hot Mikado, Stagger Lee, Hands on a Hardbody, Little Shop of Horrors, and Ain't Misbehavin', to pen a list of his favorite theatregoing experiences.
The Lion King cast 1999
I’m including the entire cast in this first choice because it was my first Broadway experience. I still remember sitting in the ninth row on the aisle when the elephants made their entrance. I knew then that I wanted to do this for a living. Seeing those beautiful people let me know it was a viable career option, and I’ll be forever grateful.
Brian Stokes Mitchell in Kiss Me, Kate
A show within a show! It doesn’t get much more Broadway than this type of show. Mr. Mitchell showed me strength, charisma, comedic timing, and vocal technique. He was and is a living example of things I’d learned in theatre classes. He even had an effect on my posture. Who doesn’t love Cam Winston [Mitchell's character on TV's Frasier]?!
Heather Headley in Aida
I get emotional simply recalling her performance. The first Tony won by a performer in a Disney show, she single-handedly added another goal to the bucket list. After witnessing “Easy As Life,” I knew I wanted a character written for me one day. Her storytelling is effortless, and her voice can pierce your soul.
Adrienne Warren in Shuffle Along…
Where do I start? With minimal stage time she not only presented us with two completely different nuanced characters, but also stood out amongst a cast of Broadway heavy hitters. I know I said something nonsensical to her at the stage door because I really couldn’t find the words to express my gratitude clearly. She is a force.
Daniel Breaker in Hamilton
I’ve been a fan of his work since Passing Strange, but this was my first time witnessing his brilliance in person. Even though he tells us the outcome, I was still on his side even as he pulled the trigger. He brought so much comedy to a heavy story that even though I’m familiar with the material, I was anxious to see how he’d arrive at the same destination. Masterful storytelling and vocals like butter. His performance was so nice that I’ve seen it twice.
James Monroe Iglehart in Aladdin
The GOAT [Greatest of All Time], the OG, my personal pioneer! He changed the game for the Big Black Man. I not only shared the stage with him as his standby, but I got to watch him put on a clinic when it comes to explosive energy on stage. I remind myself often that I got to replace a Tony Award winner! Well, actually I’m reminded daily by a little 14-minute “Friend Like Me” scene. I’ll be a fan and friend for life.
Audra McDonald, Cedric Neal, Norm Lewis, Phillip Boykin, Joshua Henry, and Nikki Renée Daniels in The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess
I was overwhelmed with this show. I was in the city for 36 hours supporting my brother Cedric as he went on for Sportin’ Life. He’s been singing riffs I can’t decipher his whole life. Audra was in her normal rare form giving us flawless vocals from a pained physical position. The same goes for Norm, a soulful performance pretty much given from his knees. I didn’t know I wanted to sound like someone until I witnessed Phillip Boykin sing Crown. This was also my introduction to Joshua Henry, who has inspired constant growth in my vocal pursuits. We still discuss Nikki Renee Daniels singing “Summertime” amongst friends. I’ve never witnessed such a seamless blend of opera and theatre.