BWW Interview: Clinton Greenspan Flies to New Heights as Broadway's Newest Aladdin
It's a whole new world for this Broadway newbie!
Greenspan, who made his Broadway debut when he took his first bow on September 13th, has previously been seen on stage in productions of Romeo & Juliet, Dreamgirls, Fiddler on the Roof and the North American tour of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
Below, Greenspan checks in with BroadwayWorld to tell us all about life at the New Amsterdam, how he fell in love with the arts, and so much more!
You've been in the show for about a month now... how has it been going so far?
It's insane that it's the same exact show, but so different because it's a different cast and it's the original setup. For the tour, some things needed to be modified. Now there are little differences that make it challenging but also give me the freedom of rediscovery. It has woken me up again. I feel like I've finally found a groove though. The people here are amazing, and it's all been an open arms safe space. I'm really getting into it!
Jumping into an already-running show is such a huge challenge. Do you think that coming from the tour helped you out with the transition at all?
Absolutely. The debut was for me, but I was also able to make it for my mother and my grandmother in the audience, without being completely terrified of what was happening. I had to be present, so that I was hitting all of the new marks and making the emotional connection. But it was also in the back of my mind that I was doing this special show for both of them, after them supporting me through my childhood in being a lead on Broadway. It was a really magical night.
Now that I've had a tiny second to gather what is ACTUALLY HAPPENING in life right now, it's time for a flashback to this boy's Broadway debut!!! ? Huge thanks to my family, on and offstage, for the love support! #dream #pinchme #happyboy #streetrat #aladdin #broadway
A post shared by a??ʟɪɴa??a??ɴ a??a??a??ʀɪa??a?? ɢʀa??a??ɴsa??a??ɴ (@clinton_patrick) on Sep 18, 2019 at 2:53pm PDT
What has been your history with the show before now? When did you go into the tour?
I was an original tour member. We started in Chicago in 2017, ran there for about a half a year before we left for Minneapolis. For the first year I was an ensemble member and understudy for Aladdin, so I got to cover Adam Jacobs here and there. It was awesome getting to be a part of the show and watching him make his magic every night. Then every once and a while I'd get to go on and give my own take. It was a fun year.
Then he left us after Los Angeles and I took over in Denver in 2018. There was definitely a transition with a whole new set of demands. It was definitely challenging, but I was so excited.
What an amazing way to make your Broadway debut! Not many actors get to take on a leading role right off the bat...
It's insane! Honestly, it didn't even hit right away. Even on tour it took a while for me to grasp that it was actually happening, and that I could settle and grow with this role. Then when I came to Broadway, I was just so stuck in the tour routine that it didn't even hit me. Then on the day of the debut, I was in the car, going downtown for Good Morning America rehearsals, and I started balling. It just happened- I don't think anything even triggered it. It was so built up, and out of nowhere I just lost it. Honestly, it still blows my mind.
I saw that you're from Texas. Was theatre a big part of your life when you were a kid?
The arts were always a part of my childhood because my grandparents were huge on the classic arts... classical music, traditional movie musicals, operas... they would always be playing when I came over the visit. I was actually a very committed gymnast for about six years though. It was my everyday routine... dreaming of going to the Olympics. That didn't work out because we lost a coach and there was nowhere else to go. So not being able to continue with gymnastics was kinda forced upon me.
Then my grandparents got me into community theatre. I took improv, tap, ballet, all of it. I just became obsessed right away. It became my comfort space. After a hard day at school, it was my safe place. I had a family there. I was excited to go there every single day. My love grew from there. I became so passionate about seeing touring shows and ballets with my grandmother.
Wow, that must have made her being there on your opening night all the more special...
Oh yeah. My family is very small and I was basically raised by my mother and my grandparents. After my grandfather passed, they were my two leading ladies. My grandmother always helped me keep going and my mother was always such a strong emotional support. They kept my heart in the right place. Being a single mother raising an only child, we've always had a very deep connection. She has kept me on the right track. I am very fortunate to have both of them in my life.
I'm sure that gives you something to think about when you sing "Proud of Your Boy" every night...
For sure. It is no exaggeration that every single time I sing that song I dedicate it to my mother, without a doubt. I think about what she has made of me. I never sing it without relating.
I'd imagine that Disney movies, especially the ones of the 90s have been a part of your life. Did you have any kind of relationship with this movie as a kid?
It's definitely a favorite. It's still on my TV stand in Texas! I remember always being such a fan of "One Jump Ahead." He's just this goofball, who really knows his way around the marketplace. Yes, he's a troublemaker, but it's all apart of his deal. He knows all the tricks, all the places to go... I found a lot of joy in watching that as a kid. And of course I was such a sucker for Robin Williams' take on Genie. I think it's a beautiful masterpiece of his.
How would you describe your Aladdin? What influences your interpretation of the character?
Of course, you want to respect what people know from the animated film, but you have no choice by to also make it your own. That's the freedom you get in the theatre. I connected to actual personal stuff too. This role has given me a lot of self-confidence and has triggered a lot of growth. Especially on the road, I faced some challenges, and this role helped me through everyday life. I try to keep it relative to my life, while also making it this character that is Aladdin.
Do you have a favorite moment in the show either that you are a part of or that you like to watch?
No lie, for every night during "Friend Like Me," I'm not faking the smile. It's such a killer number, but I'm lucky enough to do it side-by-side with Major Attaway, who is my brother from Texas. We are basically from the same hometown and our paths have crossed several times, so we have a history. But watching him do what he loves on a Broadway stage is awesome. He is such a brilliant performer. Every single show is fresh.
The magic carpet ride is a really special moment for people. What's it like being a part of that moment and taking in the audience reaction?
I mean, when the audience starts clapping... it's awesome. But hearing the kids gasp at the every beginning is by far the best part, no doubt. Sometimes there are even audiences that for whatever reason aren't as connected to a performance as you'd wish, but you can always depend on some kind of reaction at that moment. So that just fuels it for me. The song hasn't even started, but I'm like, "Alright, let's do this!"
Being on the carpet, you really feel like you are flying. It's darkness, but there is so much beauty in the house. We're experiencing the magic just as much as you are in the audience.
What are you most looking forward to in your run ahead?
I think it's just the realization that I'm going into year three. It's about letting go. I've gotten a chance to try a lot of things with this role. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't... but now it's time to let it go and have fun with it. I'm so ready to have fun. It's a mentality of, "Yes, I've made it." I don't want to be lazy, but I want to lay back and be true with it. I'm so comfortable with my partners onstage, especially Major, so I can just tell the story. I know i'm in a safe place, so I'm happy to relax and really get going with it.
Aladdin, the hit musical based on the Academy Award-winning animated film, opened on Broadway at the New Amsterdam Theatre to critical acclaim on March 20, 2014 and quickly established itself as one of the biggest new blockbusters in recent years, breaking 14 New Amsterdam Theatre house records; worldwide it has welcomed more than 10 million people and grossed over $1 billion. Its global footprint includes productions in Tokyo, Germany, London, Singapore and on tour across North America.
Aladdin, adapted from the animated Disney film and centuries-old folktales including "One Thousand and One Nights," is brought to fresh theatrical life in this bold new musical. Aladdin's journey sweeps audiences into an exotic world of daring adventure, classic comedy and timeless romance. This new production features a full score, including the five cherished songs from the Academy Award-winning soundtrack and more written especially for the stage.