Kevin Ray Johnson
I’d like you to meet the talented Jelani Alladin!
Jelani is currently making his Broadway debut as Kristoff in Disney’s Frozen on Broadway (which recently earned 3 Tony Award Nominations including Best Musical). His performance earned him a Drama Desk Award Nomination. He has performed Off-Broadway in Sweetee (Signature Theatre) and Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope (York Theatre). Regionally he has performed at TheaterSquared, Studio Theatre in DC, Marin Theatre Company, Palm Beach Dramaworks and Asolo Repertory Theatre. Throughout his career, he has earned a San Francisco Critics Circle Award for Best Leading Actor in a Play for his work in Choir Boy.
My first time seeing Jelani perform was in a reading of Boy Meets Girl (written by Eric Schaeffer) at The New York Theater Barn last year and I was blown away. One can only imagine the fantastic feeling Jelani must have felt when offered the role of Kristoff in Frozen. “I know this will sound cliché, but it truly has been the most magical experience of my life thus far," he said regarding his experience so far with the show. He also added that “Working for this company, with this group of artists has been so inspiring and eye-opening.”
Jelani was about 16-years-old when he made the decision that he wanted to be an actor. “I originally played sports because I was required to do an afterschool activity at my high school." At the beginning of his Sophomore year, he refused to football and auditioned for the fall musical instead. He ended up landing the role of The Cat in the Hat in Seussical. Though it was tough in the beginning (he even contemplated quitting after Seussical) it wasn’t until he saw In the Heights that he truly trusted and believed that there is a place for him in the industry.
I was interested in knowing was his feelings about the opportunities for actors of color and if he feels its getting better. Jelani stated, “I’d say yes. I feel as though there is a keener sense of awareness coming from those in power that it is their duty to uphold inclusion and diversity in everything they do. Though there are few roles on Broadway now, it is increasing each and every season.”
He also stated that he thinks it is magnificent to be playing a role that was initially designed as a white character but is excited for the day to get to tell a story about his people, for his people, by his people that brings in 2 million or more at a Broadway Box office. “That will be the day we can say things are better."
As artists, we all have our favorite moments in shows we perform in. For Jelani in Frozen, he admits it is any moment that he shares with Patti Murin. “I have never had such a generous scene partner ever! She is my spark of creation, my friend and my source of joy! I couldn’t have created my role without her!”
Another performance that sticks near and dear to his heart is when he played Flick in Violet at the Clarence Brown Theatre. That particular production changed his life. Jelani stated, “It renewed my faith in myself as a musical theatre artist. It had always been on my bucket list and I was thrilled to put my stamp on the role."
Jelani ended with this amazing advice for young performers, which I couldn’t agree more with. “People associate a career in theatre as just Broadway but let me be clear it is about so much more than that. Great work can happen anywhere! It is about the standard that you hold yourself to as artists. With hard work anything is possible and you can never lose your vision."
He also added one of his favorite quotes, coincidentally from one of my favorite movies, Halloweentown, “Magic is really very simple. All you have to do is want something, and then let yourself have it."
If you have the chance to see this amazing actor in Frozen, I strongly suggest it. Jelani is truly a great energy and a positive spirit inside and out.
(Photos by Deen van Meer)
For more information on Jelani and Frozen on Broadway, please visit – www.frozenthemusical.com