Arturo Hilario El Observador
I caught Philippe Arroyo while the “Aladdin” tour stopped in Portland Oregon, and although he said it was (as is kind of typical there) a rainy day, it didn’t hamper his mood about the work at hand. That work, that has kept him busy for the last few years, is performing in “Aladdin” as the character of Omar, a good friend of the titular character and a role which was originally conceived for the animated film.
A Carnegie Mellon graduate, Arroyo is now on his second national tour out of college, his first being “Into the Woods”, where he played the character of Jack. In the following Q&A, he reminisces on what “Aladdin” has meant to him since its opening shows in Chicago, and how the show compares to the pioneering film from 1992.
Can you give me a rundown of your path to the stage? What was your inspiration?
It was when I was young, I was really young, my parents were super supportive of me trying many things when I was a kid, a lot of sports camps, or like fishing camp, things of that nature. One year they put me in a drama camp and they noticed that I attached to it quickly and every year after that I’d always ask if I could go to some sort of drama camp. I got to the point where I was like a little older now and I could start auditioning for the community theater productions around my hometown, and I was able to do it and my parents let me do it and I began just really loving it as a I got older. Then, I went to high school and did the high school productions there, and then I ended up applying for schools and got into Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh, and that’s kind of my story. The rest is history.
What is your role as Aladdin’s friend Omar? What does that entail?
I’m one of a trio, and as one of the trio members we’re kind of Aladdin’s sidekicks, his best buds, through thick and thin. We’re there to be a part of his journey and there are some ups and down throughout our relationship but we’re always there to pick him up. We’re there for him, there to support him, and to support the show.
In terms of the story of this production, how similar or different do you find it compared to the original fairytale and the Disney film?
It’s definitely mostly based off the animated feature, but we’re proud that it is its own thing. When the audience comes to see the show they’re gonna see a lot of surprises and they’re gonna see new characters. I’m a new character that’s not in the animated feature. But I am a character that was conceived for the animated feature, and some of the new songs that are in the musical were conceived for the animated feature, and then they chose not to do them for the movie, and they put them away in the Disney vault. When they announced that they were going to do this Disney production they wanted to pretty much do what was in the movie but add some new elements to it, so they unlocked some things from the Disney Vault, such as my character, along with songs that you now hear, that are in the musical. There’s a lot of direct correlation between the animated feature and the movie. It’s supposed to be very similar, but it’s supposed to stand on its own as well, and I think it totally does.
For you Philippe, what would you say is your favorite song to perform, or moment to see within the show?
I’ve seen the show a couple times, and every time the genie comes out of the lamp for the first time, I think that’s such a magical moment. Every time you get to hear the genie sing the song “Friend Like Me”, it’s such an exciting, exciting song. It almost feels like you’re waiting for that moment. We all know it’s going to happen. Everyone’s so excited for it to happen because it’s so fun when it does. There are other moments in the show which I think are just as fun, for other reasons. There’s a song I get to sing called “High Adventure”, and it’s my favorite song in the show to perform, for myself. There’s sword fighting involved, it’s a very rogue, heroic song that is all about the joys of adventure, so I think that’s really great.
For those out there curious about this show, why would it be a great idea to check out “Aladdin”?
It’s an easy show. We’re here to show you a good time, to show you a story full of heart and soul and magic. And all you do is sit back and relax and enjoy the show. It’s such a wonderful spectacle as well as it’s a story we all grow up on as children. It came out in the early 90’s, and we kind of all grew up on this story. For a lot of people, it’s a favorite movie, I know for me it is. So, I would say come check it out because it’s such a, “Broadway Show”. It’s such a magical show, unlike any other show that I’ve ever experienced. Disney really gets it right. And since the theme is supposed to be magical, they do not miss. Some of the elements in the show, I know how they work, and I still think to myself, “Wow, it’s so magical.”
“Aladdin” runs from April 10 – April 21 at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets are available on Ticketmaster. More info at broadwaysanjose.com.