After a stint as Simba on the national tour of Disney's The Lion King, Adam Jacobs recently roared into the long-running musical's Broadway production. This has been a Disney-filled year for the young star: He also originated the title role in the mouse house's musical adaptation of Aladdin in Seattle this summer. Broadway.com recently chatted with Jacobs, who made his Broadway debut as Marius in the 2006 Les Miserables revival and toured with Mamma Mia!, about returning to New York, showing off his buff bod on stage and his hopes to see Aladdin's magic carpet fly to Broadway next year.
Has it been easy to jump back into the role of Simba after some time away from The Lion King?
It’s partly muscle memory. You have to get your cardio back up. The cast here has been very welcoming. There are a lot of veterans who have been in the show for years and they’ve seen a lot of Simbas come and go, but nevertheless they’re very supportive and they have my back.
Does performing the show on Broadway feel different from doing it on the road?
Definitely, there’s that little bit of prestige that comes with it. The audiences here are so diverse. Every time I come out of the stage door, I hear at least four different languages from people wanting my autograph or a picture, so you get that melting pot effect. The feeling of being able to commute to work and home is a big deal to me. My wife [Mary Poppins ensemble member Kelly Jacobs] and I are both lucky to have jobs on Broadway right now, so we’re here in New York to stay, and it’s great.
After starring in the premiere production of Aladdin this summer at Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre, you’ve become well versed in the Disney catalog.
It just sort of worked out that way. My wife is working for Disney, my sister [Arielle Jacobs] did High School Musical, and now I’m working for the mouse too! It’s all been working out for the best.
How was your Aladdin experience?
It was fantastic being in Seattle at that great time of year and getting to work with [Tony-winning The Book of Mormon director] Casey Nicholaw. He’s a genius in terms of comedy. He gave us so much freedom. It’s such a fun role. I got to be a more of a goofball than any of the other shows I’ve done.
The show featured some new material and songs that didn’t end up in the original 1992 movie. Did you feel like you had to cater to audiences' memories of the film?
I pretty much tried to do my own thing. Casey was great in helping me be loose with the character and not be afraid to try different things. The audiences loved it. We had a lot of Disney fans come out, and they were very receptive. I think the creative team took notice and we’re hoping that next year they might consider moving it [to Broadway]. We’re all crossing our fingers.
Are there any other Disney characters you’d like to play someday?
Mowgli from The Jungle Book. I loved him as a kid because he looked like me: skinny and dark. That would be fun, but I think I’m probably a little too old to play him now!
So Aladdin, Simba and Sky from Mamma Mia! have all required you to perform shirtless. Do you just like taking your clothes off on stage?
Yeah, yeah [laughs] I don’t know how that happened! For Mamma Mia!, I tried to work on my body knowing I’d have to wear a swimsuit, and then after that it was easier to keep it up. I guess casting directors took notice and said, “Well if he’s willing to do that, maybe he’s willing to do this.”
Would you and your sister like to work together?
Yes, but it's tough, now that I'm here and she's settled in Los Angeles. Funny side note: My sister was up for the role of [Aladdin’s love interest] Jasmine! She stepped aside when she found out I got it. That would not have worked!
You’re also participating in the November 7 Suites By Sondheim concert at Lincoln Center to benefit the Philippine Development Foundation.
We have so many fabulous Filipino-American Broadway artists coming together. I’m half Filipino, and I’d like to try to help the economic situation in the country and rid the poverty over there. I feel a little bit of a family obligation towards it. I haven’t really had the chance to give back in a way that would be meaningful, so this is a chance for me to do that. I’m excited to work with Lea Salonga and Aly Ewoldt, who was my Cosette in Les Miserables. We’re singing “One Hand, One Heart” from West Side Story. It’s going to be a great night.