BWW Interview: 6 Questions & a Plug with JC Montgomery of ALADDIN
Heading to the Orpheum to see ALADDIN recently after a long work day, I had not given much thought to it beforehand. I'd seen a Children's Theatre Company production years ago but mostly thought that this would be a nice show most likely but I had no expectations. I left realizing that I had a grin on my face the entire time I was watching this infectiously fun production. This national tour of ALADDIN is full of the same Disney magic that makes you feel like a kid again when you visit the Magic Kingdom.
It literally does have the Disney magic -- with stagecraft, colorful and vibrant sets and huge, fun choreography with dozens of dancers who wear what seems like a million different gorgeous costumes, ALADDIN is a feast for the eyes. It also has most of the fun elements you may remember from the film with a few twists (see below!). Delightful from start to finish, Genie is a huge hit (of course) and Aladdin and Jasmine are just as engaging.
Jasmine's dad, the Sultan, is played by an actor with a pedigree -- his resume includes such as SHUFFLE ALONG, THE COLOR PURPLE and THE LITTLE MERMAID among many, many others. I had the opportunity to learn more about JC Montgomery to share with you in this 6 Questions & a Plug (or maybe just seven questions). Read up and if you have not yet gathered the troops to go to this show, I hear there are tickets aplenty and it's a show that will leave you smiling and happy you went, so just go and let your inner kid out.
JC, let's start with ALADDIN -- most people are familiar with the Disney film, but can you
tell a little about the show, your character (Sultan) and anything that is perhaps
different than people may recall from the movie?
Aladdin is a show that is full of heart. Along with that, it is a show that is vibrant! It has
dazzling costumes, amazing sets, beautiful music, brilliant lighting and a super talented cast.
My role as the Sultan is much different than the movie. My character is a man rooted in the tradition of his ancestors and wants to pass that on to his daughter. Also in our show Iago is not a bird and Aladdin's sidekick is not a monkey. Instead he has three good friends Omar, Babkak and Kassim.
What is your favorite part of playing Sultan?
The love and compassion he has for his daughter Jasmine. I'm a father of two great boys so that was an easy connection.
Will there be some Disney magic (like flying carpets) on stage in this tour? What should
audience members watch for?
There is a lot of Disney magic and the only to experience it is to come see the show!
You've got a stellar resume with some of my personal favorite shows -- I loved SWING!,
PARADE (the Jason Robert Brown show that I think is brilliant) and THE SCOTTSBORO BOYS when I saw it at the Guthrie Theater -- some of these are really serious, heavy
shows, including THE COLOR PURPLE. The latter three deal with similar topics of race and issues that really happened. How important is it for you as an actor to take on those shows and roles and bring those stories to the masses, who may not have seen or heard about them before?
It's very important, but that is what theater has always done. Bring to light the subjects that people don't always want brought to the light. And as an actor it's always great to work on those type of projects.
ALADDIN is obviously a lighter fare. Do you prefer the "fun" fairy tale stories or is it a
nice change of pace for you? And what have been some of your favorite roles to date,
ALADDIN is a lighter show than some of my others but for ALADDIN to work it has to come from an honest place just like the more serious shows. I don't prefer one over the other because for me its all about the work. Each show takes you on it's own journey and taking that ride is part of the fun. As far as what show or role has been my favorite, I don't have one. For me it's all about the work. Exploring different characters. Researching different characters and time periods and then bringing them to life.
How did you get your start and end up on Broadway for such a long, successful career?
I started in high school like most people. I got my first paying job when I was a junior in
high school. I then went on to college to study acting and during summer breaks I did
summer stock. After college I did some regional theater. I then decided to move to New York and after being there for about six months I started doing extra and day player work on the Guiding Light. I then went on to have a recurring role on that show. I also did some work on Another World. I then met my future wife waiting tables at Rockefeller Center. She went off to play Cosette in LES MISERABLES on the first national tour. I went out to visit and ended auditioning for the show and booked it. I was the first African American to do the show back in 1991. Later she went off to Paris to do HELLO DOLLY and I went to Canada to do JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT with Donny Osmond. I then booked my first
Broadway show, SMOKEY JOE'S CAFE. After that, one show seem to come right after the other till one day I realized I had 11 of them. While doing all those shows I was able to also do a few TV shows along the way and about 25 national and regional commercials. I've always tried to be prepared for my auditions. I've always worked on my craft. Studying acting, voice and movement. It's also timing and some luck and I guess some talent. I been fortunate so far and I hope it continues.
I always end this column with a plug for your future work. You're obviously on this
tour for an extended time -- do you have a next project lined up after this, and if not,
what are some roles you'd love to tackle in the future?
Yes, I hope to be a part of this production for a while. It's a great show with a great cast,
crew and production team. For the first time in a while I haven't thought about my next job. It's great as an actor to breathe a little, but it's always fun to see what the next journey will be.
Tickets start at $39 at https://hennepintheatretrust.org/events/aladdin-broadway-tickets-orpheum-theatre-minneapolis-mn-2017/ with ALADDIN running through Oct. 8, 2017, at Minneapolis' Orpheum Theatre.
Photo: JC Montgomery (Sultan), courtesy of Hennepin Theatre Trust