Interview with Disney's Frozen star Jelani Alladin
In celebration of today's digital release of the Original Broadway Cast Recording of Disney's Frozen (physical copies will be available in stores from June 8, 2018), we have decided to let it go, go ahead and publish our recently conducted interview with one of the top stars of the Disney's latest Broadway box office smash. At this week's Drama Desk Award nominees' reception, we met the ever-so-charming Jelani Alladin, who is currently making his Broadway debut as Kristoff at the St. James Theatre and enjoying a Drama Desk nomination for "Outstanding Actor in a Musical" for his efforts.
For those who have been living under a rock (that may or may not look like a troll) for the past few years and have not seen the animated movie of "Frozen," Kristoff is, of course, the slightly rough-around-the-edges mountain man, who flogs ice and has a reindeer named Sven as his sole companion... until he meets the lovely Anna, that is. Voiced in the movie by Broadway favorite and two-time Tony Award nominee Jonathan Groff, Jelani may have been a surprising choice for the stage version of Kristoff to some, but to others he is yet another example of Broadway's commitment to diversity.
We were curious to hear about Jelani's own journey with Frozen, his thoughts on diversity and what Disney Theatrical's next Broadway offering should be...
How is life treating you today, Jelani?
I’m doing quite well. It’s quite surreal to wake up and think “Wow! I’m going to a nominees’ reception, where I’m nominated for Outstanding Lead Actor alongside Joshua Henry!” That’s been a dream of mine since I was at college! It’s awesome, surreal and amazing!
And Frozen marks your Broadway debut, right?
Yes, it’s my Broadway debut and first Awards Season. There’s a lot of big things and big changes happening in my life and I’m trying to embrace them every day. I’m trying to keep my feet grounded and my heart in the air. It really has been an awesome time!
Ride the wave and enjoy it, sir. And long may it continue. Now, of course, everyone loves the animated classic “Frozen” but could you tell us a few things that spring to mind that might surprise audiences about the stage adaptation?
Well, the first thing that comes to my mind is the “Hidden Folk” that have replaced the trolls. They are a people from Scandinavian folklore. “Fixer Upper” is now this huge dance number where Kristoff actually gets to dance as well. That was something that I was able to bring to the beast because I have a history of dancing in other shows. [Choreographer] Rob Ashford embraced that and we took it and we flew with it. It’s been really cool to experience that moment every night where people are like: “Woah! Kristoff is busting out!” (Laughs)
When you attended the auditions to play Kristoff, were there actors there from all different ethnicities or was Disney Theatrical specifically looking for an African American to play the stage version of Kristoff?
So, the funny story is that I actually went to an EPA [union open call] for Frozen. That’s where my journey with Frozen began. And then when I went to the auditions where I got a call back for Kristoff, there were people of all kinds of color there. It’s awesome that Disney embraces that throughout its entire production. If you look at the ensemble, it’s filled with people from all colors and sizes. I think Disney is known for that and I commend them for going about it the right way.
It certainly is great to see how the big wigs of Broadway commit to diversity. Now, for our final question to you, Jelani, you’ll have to imagine you are your boss - Thomas Schumacher, Disney Theatrical President. From that immense Disney back catalogue, what would you produce on Broadway next and why?
Oooooooh wow! I would choose “Mulan” because I think it’s time for there to be more Asian representation on Broadway. I was at the Lucille Lortel Awards the other night and KPOP won Best Musical. To see Asian American actors up there flooding the stage was a beauty to behold. This is another community that needs more representation as well. Let’s uplift each other and continue to create work that breaks boundaries and includes all kinds of people, so I would produce Mulan.
Disney's Frozen Tickets are available now for performances through to March 9, 2019.