It seems that 1992 was a big year for James Monroe Iglehart. “I was 17, the movie Aladdin came out, I first started watching the Tonys and here I am,” recalls the actor. Fast forward to 2014, when Iglehart not only stars as Genie in the Broadway staging of Aladdin, but he is also nominated for a Tony award (as well as Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle awards) for his performance. Could he have had his own wish-granting genie?
“This is what I dreamed about when I was 17-years-old. All I ever wanted to do is be on Broadway,” says the showstopper. “My wife and I cried and cried.” The dream of the stage started when Iglehart first fell for performing after singing a church solo in his native Hayward, California when he was just 4. “I heard the applause and thought, ‘I have to hear that every day,’” he says. He made his Broadway debut in 2007 in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, followed by a three-year run in Memphis from 2009 to 2012.
Here, Iglehart walks us through an exciting day being a newly minted Tony nominee, sharing the highs and more highs of a jam-packed day that included a Tony nominee reception, two Aladdin performances and some killer Peking duck.
It was the day after I got nominated for a Tony. When I opened my eyes, I was still thinking, I can’t believe yesterday happened. Did that really happen? What a blessing. I had to get up early because a car came to pick me up at 8:15, so that I could get to our theater (the New Amsterdam) in time to change my clothes and look dapper and nice. I live across the river in West New York, New Jersey. Usually I take the ferry over, but because it was so early in the morning they were sending a car to get me.
The first thing I do is feed my cats Zoe and Hissy. They are my girls. Then I showered to get the rest of the makeup off. I shower after a show, but I also shower in the morning just to remove the excess glitter.
The car took me to the Paramount hotel for the Tony Awards Meet the Nominees Press Reception. I got there by 9:30 and met my publicist, Michael Strassheim, from Disney. He took me around to everybody who had a camera and a microphone.
I saw Harvey Fierstein in the hallway, totally lost my mind, and fanned out completely.
I saw Idina Menzel and fanned out, completely. I geek out because although I am on Broadway, I’m having the best time of my life meeting all these Broadway heroes. I was just thinking, oh my God.
Tony Shaloub came in like at 11:00. I fanned out.
Time went by so fast. I realized, oh yeah, I still have a show to do. It was pouring down raining, Michael and I got in the car and rushed back to the New Amsterdam Theater. I ran upstairs and by 12:45, had put on my sweats and then began to put on my Genie makeup. It’s a two part thing. I put on my first part of the Genie makeup: regular base and eyeliner, I put in my little earrings. I warmed up — doing my kicks to make sure I was all limbered up. I have a big vocal warm-up before the show. If I’m just talking or doing an interview I basically go over words like red leather, yellow leather, red leather, yellow leather, just to get my lips and tongue moving, so I’ll have a voice when I speak. I have a whole different ritual when I’m about to do the show, including vocal singing exercises and the most important part: I go through the entire number “Friend Like Me” in my dressing room before every show, just to make sure the words are in my mouth and my body’s ready for all the dancing.
When we opened the show, I could tell that the audience had realized that 1) our show had gotten nominated for a Tony, and 2) they knew I had gotten nominated. The audience response was a lot bigger then it usually is.
I came off stage, and went back to the makeup chair. The makeup people put on all the glitter, sparkles and my bigger set of earrings to make me look like the Genie.
I ran upstairs, put on my Genie costume and got ready to do my song “Friend Like Me.”
I went back down in the elevator and popped out of the lamp. For 15 minutes straight, I acted like a complete and utter nutcase on stage during the “Friend Like Me” number – telling jokes, doing laughs and cartwheels. The audience went nuts, and then it was intermission.
We started the second act, which just blew by.
The show ended and I was dead tired. I called my favorite Chinese restaurant, Peking Duck, and had them bring me roast duck over rice. It’s the best in the world. That was beautiful. My wife had been in my dressing room waiting for me.
While my wife did work, I took a nap, on her. The wife chair. She said, “Take a nap baby, you’re okay.” So I took a nap. I fall asleep so easily.
I got up and by 6:45 started the Genie process all over again. I put on my makeup, put on my small earrings, got in my beginning Genie outfit and started the show.
l had some family, cousins from my mother’s side, in town, came to see the show. It was great. They came backstage and I gave them a backstage tour. Afterwards, I put them in a car.
I left the theater. I thought that the fans had left, because I’d been onstage showing my family around so long. But there were still about 30 high school kids outside waiting for me, and it was raining. I signed their autographs, and it was the best feeling. They said, “We’re not leaving without meeting you, Genie.” Seeing them, I remembered being one of those 30 people. I remembered waiting outside for people in shows like Avenue Q so they could sign my program.
I got in a car service to take me home and arrived at my house around 11:30. My wife and I got out of the car. And she looked at me and said, “I am not cooking a thing.”
We got a Zipcar and went over to Houlihan’s for dinner. I had this wonderful, crisp scalloped risotto with asparagus. It’s the most amazing thing in the world. We basically sat there quietly saying, you got nominated for a Tony. You got nominated for a Drama Desk award. You got nominated for Outer Critics Circle Award. And we just sat there staring at each other.
We went back to the house got in bed and decided to watch Maury Povich. But we fell right to sleep. The Maury Show is a guilty pleasure of mine. You watch normal people acting so badly. It’s the one show that puts everybody, every race, every creed, all on the same level. Everybody is just as stupid as everybody else. We fell asleep right in the middle of him say “You are not the father,” of somebody. What a day!