You will leave Disney’s Aladdin The Musical with songs stuck in your head. Spearheaded by the Academy Award-winning best original song “A Whole New World”, Disney’s 1992 film Aladdin was an obvious candidate to be turned into a musical.
Since making its Broadway debut in 2011, the stage version has been nominated for five Tony awards. All the Disney themes are there, from the struggle of good versus evil to princesses and magic.
Although Western Australia doesn’t feature in the original story, our state has a strong connection to the Australian production – the title lead Ainsley Melham is a graduate of the West Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA).
Nominated for the Helpmann Award for Best Actor by Live Performance Australia, Melham is the latest success story from a school whose alumni includes Hugh Jackman and Tim Minchin.
Aladdin began its three-month season in Perth this month and Melham is excited to be back.
“As soon as I started at WAAPA I knew it was the place for me,” he says. “I would just spend my weeks in dance class, singing training, learning music skills and acting, so it was just a place to explore, refine skills, learn new things and push yourself in a safe environment. And the brilliant thing about it is, because it’s situated in WA, it’s away from the whole industry in Sydney and Melbourne, so you can come here and work on yourself and go back and show them what you have to offer.”
After graduating from WAAPA in 2011, Melham landed a three-year role with children’s group Hi-5 a position he says provided a good platform for his new leading role.
“I see it as a boot camp for what I’m doing now, which sounds weird because a lot of people say performing for children is more vigorous than what I’m doing now, but it is not dissimilar,” he says. “It taught me a lot about how to handle myself as a performer. You’re on the road and you’re by yourself, so you learn very quickly what you need to do when the job needs to get done.”
Like most children, Melham grew up with the film Aladdin, and finds it surreal that he gets to play the character.
“It was something that you identify with as a kid, because you’re watching this young guy making mischief on the streets and running around,” he says. “So now to play the role of Aladdin is so bizarre and cool, one of those pinch yourself moments when you walk into the theatre and you see the big picture of you dressed as the character.”
Melham says that he still sees a handful graduates working in the industry and hopes to get back to WAAPA to visit current students while he’s in Perth.
“I remember when performers from shows would come and visit us when I was studying, so to have those roles reversed is bizarre, but it’s an important part of the training and to have insight when you’re studying,” he says. “I’m really excited for those people, who I worked with while I was studying, to see the show. To show them, ‘This is what I did with what you taught me.’”
Aladdin The Musical is showing at Crown Theatre Perth until October 19. Tickets available through Ticketmaster.