With summer in full throttle, there is a great deal to do throughout the Chicago region. Over the last decade the number of traveling Broadway productions have increased dramatically as major theatre companies have recognized the third largest market as a thriving city of theatre goers.

The Disney theatrical production of Aladdin has held its ground at the Cadillac Palace Theatre since April 11 of this year with an extended run until September 10, 2017.

Since its original Broadway debut on March 20, 2014, Aladdin has become one of the top-selling theatre productions around the world expanding to London, Hamburg, Tokyo and Sydney. Now in Chicago, fans from all age groups are enjoying the high-octane energy of the vibrant young cast members, including the starring role of the Genie, played by Anthony Murphy.

Counting down to its final weeks of entertaining Chicago audiences, the Defender talked in-depth to Murphy about his love for theater and bringing his signature style to such a favorite Disney character as the Genie. A native of St. Petersburg, Fla., he began to build his repertoire of work with theater companies including theatrical productions In the Heights throughout the state before taking the leap of faith and relocating to New York City.

How did you break into the business?

I started when I was much younger and my parents transferred me to a performing arts elementary school, and that’s how I caught the acting bug. Ever since then, I’ve always been in love with theater. Eventually when I was in high school, I told my parents this is what I want to do for a living. Thank God, I have very supportive parents. They said, ‘Alright, you want to do this? We’re going to do this strong and we’re going to do it big and we’re going to do it right.’ They started signing me up for summer intensives. I went to the Rutgers Summer Acting Conservatory and the Broadway Theatre Project.

Anthony Murphy as ‘Genie’ in the Aladdin North American Tour PHOTO:-Deen Van Meer

I understand you attended Otterbein University in Ohio to study theatre. Did you leave directly out of college to move to New York City?

I made the leap to move to New York from living at home. I said it was time to go and make that jump. I called my best friend and asked to sleep on his couch. I moved up there with a job and a few pennies in my pocket and I worked my behind off while I was there. I did some off-Broadway shows and some shows in upstate New York. After a year of being there, I was talking one night with a dear friend of mine, Ariel Jacobs, who was at the time playing “Jasmine” in the Australian production of a “Aladdin” and her brother, Adam Jacob, is actually “Aladdin”—he originated the role on Broadway.

She was talking to me and asked, “Why aren’t you playing the Genie? You’ll be so amazing at it.” I told her unfortunately at the time I was working a full-time job and didn’t have time to wait in line to audition. She told me to send her a video of me doing something with a resume and she’d send it to the people who need to see it. I did and she did. A few days later, I had an appointment. After a month of vigorous auditions and them calling—I was cast as a Genie in Aladdin. It’s amazing—overnight my life has changed. I went to a training program in California. I worked out six hours a day to get my body to do this show.

I love the fact that your parents were instrumental in making sure you had the resources to cultivate your art. Do you find that other young people may not have that same level of support coming up in theater?

I’ve definitely seen that. I’ve seen some of my close friends who haven’t had the support and it’s harder for them but it’s not impossible. If this is what you want to do and love to do—you will find a way to make it happen. I was just fortunate enough to have two loving parents to make my journey a little easier. It’s definitely a practice to do.

What makes Aladdin special from the previous theatre productions that you’ve worked on?

It starts with the company that is producing it. The Disney Theatrical Group is an amazing company. They have made this process so easy and enjoyable. They’re always there for support for us. In theater that doesn’t happen a lot. You don’t get work with these amazing large companies. The show holds a special place in my heart. I grew up watching the film with Robin Williams and it was such a part of my childhood to now doing this production, playing this iconic role and making it my own.

How do you like Chicago so far?

I love it. It’s amazing. I just recently started venturing out and exploring different neighborhoods so I’m excited to do more of that while I’m here. The audiences have been so awesome and welcoming. Everyone is so kind to us. It’s been an amazing place to kick off the tour.

There’s still time to see the Aladdin in Chicago at the Cadillac Theatre until September 10. For tickets, visit: BroadwayinChicago.com 

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