Why Disney never wishes upon a Star.

About a month ago, I did an article that got a lot of views about Disney Theatrical’s out-of-town tryout strategy.  And a few months before that, I did another one about their new customer service ticket exchange policy.

Since I’m not one to break the rule of threes-threes-threes, I thought it was time I did another one, this one inspired by the recent 100% sold first few previews of Aladdin.   

I was in high school when Aladdin hit the big screen, and I remember every dark-haired-wanna-be-Broadway-star (including this guy) dreamed about flying on that carpet one day if the show ever made it to the Great White Way.

So naturally, when the Broadway show was announced a couple of decades later, this dark haired (now peppered with some grey) guy was curious as to who would play the lucky “street rat” who meets a princess and a genie . . .  all in the same day!

And that actor is . . . Adam Jacobs!

You don’t know Adam?  Well, that’s ok, not a lot of people do.  I happen to know him, having seen him in a bunch of stuff, and I’m a super-sized fan.  But let’s face it, Adam doesn’t fall under the definition of a “bona fide star” (that’s the lawyer-y phrase used in a lot of Broadway contracts), as I’m sure he’d agree.

The lovely Jasmine, played by the fantastic Courtney Reed, isn’t a BFS either . . . yet.

No one in the cast really qualifies (although how awesome to have creepy-voiced Jonathan Freeman reprising his role from the movie twenty years later).

A quick look through the Disney catalog of Broadway musicals will find a similar casting trend in every single one of their shows . . .

Sure they’ve had some Broadway names, like Adam Pascal and Sherie Rene Scott and Terrence Mann . . . but no big ol’, mainstream-audience attracting stars when they open new shows.

They know the stats as well as you and I do (and if you forget, take a look at this blog) – the longest running musicals of all time didn’t open with a star.  The shows are the stars.

Now yes, Disney gets a little help from having super-human sized brands that make me drool at the mouth with envy, but still, they know to focus on the content, not a celebrity’s Q-score.

The epilogue of this story is that when you focus on getting the best actor you can instead of casting a star, you can end up making a star instead.

And isn’t that much more exciting?

I bet Adam and Courtney think so.  And I bet you’ll be hearing a lot more from them in the future.


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Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.