BWW Interview: Korie Lee Blossey of ALADDIN National Tour
I recently had the great pleasure of interviewing actor Korie Lee Blossey, who at the time of our conversation was getting ready to start performances as the Genie in the national tour of Disney's Aladdin in Charlotte, North Carolina. He made his national tour debut as a standby for the role about two and a half years prior to this. A New Yorker by way of Michigan, some of Korie's previous credits include Kerchak in Tarzan, Oberon in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Caliban in The Tempest, and Audrey II in Little Shop of Horrors.
JK: To start things off, how are rehearsals going?
KLB: Amazing, it's so much fun. It's a lot of hard work though. I have the best team to work with and I'm fortunate to have been working with them for a little over two and a half years now.
JK: Yeah, because you've previously been a standby for the role of the Genie in the tour, and tomorrow you begin playing the role full time.
KLB: Yes. You've been in their rehearsal spaces and I'm just making it more of the Genie that I am. In the rehearsals, it's how it works with me, and the best part about playing the Genie is our personalities are what makes each individual Genie act their personality and their charm. And that's what makes each Genie sparkle a little bit different than anybody else.
JK: The story of Aladdin has been around for thousands of years. Disney debuted their animated version of it in 1992. Then, the Broadway stage adaptation opened in 2014. How did you first discover Disney's Aladdin?
KLB: When the animated film when it came out, it just blew my mind. I wanted to watch it before school. I wanted to watch it after school. I just really enjoyed the song and dance sequences, they really had a theatrical spectacular to it. It just impressed me.
JK: One of the things that helps set the Broadway show apart from the animated movie is that it is closer how lyricist Howard Ashman originally envisioned it. After The Little Mermaid, Aladdin was going to be the next Disney movie Howard was going to work on with composer Alan Menken. They had written a treatment and some songs. Yet, when Beauty & the Beast was struggling through its development phase, Aladdin was put on hold so that Ashman and Menken could help out with the former film. Though after their work for Beauty & the Beast was completed, Howard Ashman died of AIDS about 8 months before it was released. So when production on Aladdin resumed, Tim Rice was brought on board to write additional songs with Alan Menken, and a lot of Howard's ideas were scrapped. Would you mind talking about Howard's ideas that ended up in the Broadway show?
KLB: You get to know Aladdin a little more. You get to understand this journey a little more. He has three incredible friends that you get to know their journey and you get to see what life was like with Aladdin that the animated film didn't really get to delve into. We get to explain that story a little more about Aladdin and his mother and just trying to make his mother proud. And then you get those surprising humor of his friends being there and what they run into with their mischief. And no one can be Robin Williams. In the original version, they put big band brassy larger than life, Fats Waller type. So that's where we go with the Genie. We get a little jazzier with it. Trying to encompass everything that the Genie could do. Phenomenal cosmic powers, itty bitty living space.
JK: The role of the Genie was made so iconic by Robin Williams in the cartoon. James Monroe Iglehart helped reinvent that character for the Broadway show by working with Howard Ashman's original vision of this Cab Callaway/Fats Waller type of person. How do you make it your own?
KLB: Well, James created a phenomenal character. He got to have sparkle and pizazz and add a little bit of his term to the character. What's exciting is that I get to share that in the Genie with Aladdin. To be able to just show somebody "Oh my gosh, look at all these things I can do." As the character, that just comes shining out as the creative team is working with you. So in rehearsals, you start to find like things that jumps, fit your personality. And because we have such a great team of choreographers, directors, and music directors, as they're working with you and see what sparkles with you a little more, they focus on what makes your Genie shine for you. So I'm not trying to do James' show, I'm trying to do my show as the Genie.
JK: Tell us about working with your director/choreographer Casey Nicholaw. He just had four shows (The Book of Mormon, Aladdin, Mean Girls, and The Prom) running on Broadway at once for the second time in his career. What is he like to work with?
KLB: He's a dream from the second he walks into the room. It's almost it giving you the energy that he wants. When you see somebody like Casey Nicholaw coming into the room and like he's so joyous and so expressive and so ready to work, you want to work harder automatically just from his energy. You want to work with everything you have just to say "Hey, I want you to be proud of me because I am so excited to work for you. Like my hard work, I want people to be like 'Wow, Casey really does a great job with that.'" I want that to shine every day because he's one of the greatest people I've ever worked with. The personality, the hard work, and the choreography is a challenge. The scenes are a challenge because sometimes, the Genie is just talking to the audience. Aladdin is one of the only people that the Genie actually talks to in the show. So when you're finding that and you're working on that, and there's not an audience out there, it's just the director, music director, and choreographer. The fact that you're getting so much from the team and audience as you're learning that makes you give more.
JK: As Disney has been celebrating their 25th anniversary on Broadway this past year, they've achieved great success with Beauty & the Beast, The Lion King, Mary Poppins, Newsies, Aladdin, and more recently, Frozen. Is there any other Disney film you'd love to see get the Broadway treatment?
KLB: I know they just did Hercules at the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park. I wasn't able to see that since I've been out on the road, but that always sounded like a fun idea. Disney's animated films to me, that's why I've always been attracted to them. They always set them up like a great musical. When you see the animated films, they're like for me as a musical theatre actor, I'm like "Oh that would be great on stage. I'd love to play that part."
JK: Of course, credit definitely has to go to Howard Ashman and Alan Menken for really bringing that sensibility starting with The Little Mermaid.
KLB: Absolutely! They've been giving such great material and creating such wonderful characters that any actor would want to play.
JK: You're going to be in Durham for a month. What do you plan on doing in your spare time from performing?
KLB: I really enjoy seeing the city and seeing different things that aren't just around the theater. I really like to just get out around, go for walks, experience just the outsides and as well as local favorites, good restaurants, and good coffee shops. Just to experience the country, getting to see where the people that live in these cities like to hangout.
JK: What are some dream roles you'd love to pursue in the future?
KLB: I would love to play George Washington in Hamilton. I would also love to bring something new to Broadway. Something that's not out there already. To originate a role would be the next biggest dream for me.
JK: In conclusion, what advice would you like to give to any aspiring young performers out there?
KLB: I would say if you're willing to do the work, if you're willing to work as hard as you possibly can and not let anybody stop you from doing that work, you can do anything you want. When I was growing up, I didn't know that this could be a career. I didn't know that you can even go to college for something like this. And to be able to step into these shoes, you get to live this dream. I now look back and realize it's always possible. You just have to believe in yourself and push yourself and know that that's really what you want. If you really want it hard enough to do it, anything is possible.
JK: Korie, I thank you very much for devoting your time to this interview. It was great getting to talk to you
KLB: Thank you so much!
Be sure to catch the national tour of Aladdin. It will be playing at the Durham Performing Arts Center from October 2nd-26th. For more information, please visit: