Adam Jacobs: A Disney prince, twice over
If you were a young boy in the early 90s, chances are you wanted to be Aladdin and Simba. Heck, if you were a girl, you may have wanted to be them too, or at least marry them. Only one person on this earth has been both Aladdin and Simba; his name is Adam Jacobs.
Although Jacobs is the only person who can carry the honor of being the first to do this, he is an example that the rest of our childhood dreams still can come true. Naturally, Jacobs was one of these children who wanted to grow up and be the street rat turned Sultan and lion cub turned king. He admits that his 10-year-old self would never have believed that by the time he would enter his late 20s, he would have played Simba in The Lion King’s national tour, the title character in Aladdin’s first theatrical production, and then Simba once again on Broadway, where he can currently be seen eight times a week. Disney really is the stuff dreams are made of.
Jacobs grew up in the San Francisco Bay area and earned his BFA in theater at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. He did some regional theater work and performed on cruise ships (where he was made to pull double-duty as a security guard, poking a metal-detecting wand through old ladies’ purses), but those gigs didn’t last long. In 2006, Jacobs made his Broadway debut as Marius in the revival of Les Miserables, which opened the door for leading-man roles.
Aside from feeling ecstatic when receiving the offer to play Simba on Broadway, Jacobs noted that his other main emotion was relief. “I had been touring in various shows for almost five years,” Jacobs said, referencing his runs in Cinderella, Les Miserables, Mamma Mia!, The Lion King, and Aladdin’s Seattle run. “The whole goal from the beginning was to come home to New York.” But before Jacobs could make roots in his new hometown, he would get to tackle his second Disney prince—Aladdin in the buzzed-about world premiere musical in Seattle.
For the production, which ran at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theater in July, Disney need only look at its current pool of princes for the right candidate. Adams was plucked from his Simba duties in The Lion King’s national tour to mount the flying carpet.
As if there weren’t enough reasons to be excited to be part of Aladdin in Seattle (Jonathan Freeman, the voice of villain Jafar in the film, recreated his role in the show! More on that in the embedded video), Jacobs would be directed by Casey Nicholaw, who had to fly to New York during rehearsals for Aladdin to accept a Tony Award for Best Direction for his work on the supernova hit The Book of Mormon. “[The Aladdin cast] dressed as Mormons to welcome him back,” Jacobs said. “He was so happy, but he was the happiest guy even before he won the award.”
VIDEO: Adam Jacobs gives the scoop on Aladdin and what it was like working with the original Jafar
On the subject of life after Aladdin’s Seattle run, and perhaps even a Broadway transfer, Jacobs feels confident in the show. “I think it’d be a good move for Disney if they did it,” Jacobs said. “I would love to come with it. Let’s do it!”
Jacobs won’t be donning the turban again just yet; now he’s got to rule over Pride Rock for a while in The Lion King on Broadway. “The overall grandeur is larger. There’s a little more prestige coming into the Broadway company,” Jacobs said on the differences between playing Simba on the national tour versus Broadway. Yet the role isn’t all glory. “It’s a lot of pressure and a lot to live up to,” Jacobs said. “That’s the thing about playing a cartoon character that is so iconic. People love the character so much that when you play him, you have to know that. So I have to bring myself to the role in a way that I’m going to get the audience to like me too.”
While Jacobs works on winning over audiences as Simba, he finally gets to give up the road life and settle down in New York with his wife, Kelly Jacobs, who also happens to be in the Disney family—she’s the dance captain and ensemble member in Mary Poppins. For years, the two juggled their relationship around both their touring schedules—not an easy feat, according to Jacobs. “I don’t recommend it. Both of us being out on tours was rough. We’d try to see each other at least once every three weeks,” Jacobs said. “Now that we’re both in New York, we get to commute to work together. It’s like a second honeymoon; it’s pretty fantastic.”
Jacobs will get to honor his Filipino heritage on November 7 at Lincoln Center, where he will be performing in the Philippine Development Foundation’s concert benefit Suites By Sondheim. The benefit will feature an all-Filipino-American lineup of performers, featuring Lea Salonga, T.V. Carpio, and Ali Ewoldt. Jacobs, Salonga, and Ewoldt all starred together in the revival of Les Miserables—Ewoldt playing Cosette, the romantic counterpart to Jacobs’ Marius. “It brings back a lot of warm feelings to be with them again,” Jacobs said. “I get to do a love song with Ali. We get to rekindle those on-stage flames again. It’s going to be great.”
The proceeds of Suites By Sondheim will go toward the development of science and technology in the Philippines in efforts to strengthen the economy. “There’s still a lot of poverty out there and we’re trying to help out the best we can, the only way we know how—with our talent.” Jacobs said. He will perform “Finishing The Hat” from Sunday In The Park With George and a medley from Sweeny Todd. The evening will also mark Jacobs’ Lincoln Center debut. Move over, Disney; Sondheim makes dreams come true as well.
Have you seen Adam Jacobs as Simba in The Lion King, Rushers? Do you think Aladdin should be mounted on Broadway? Are you excited for the reunion of Jacobs, Leo Salonga, and Ali Ewoldt during the Suites By Sondheim concert? Leave your thoughts in the comments below, and tune into this week’s episode of Stage Rush TV when Jacobs will give us the lowdown on the Lion King workout!