Kevin Ray Johnson
I would like you to meet the wonderful and talented Alicia Charles. This newlywed will be returning to the ensemble of Aladdin at The New Amsterdam Theatre. I first met this amazing artist while we were both performing in a production of Guys and Dolls at The Asolo Repertory Theatre (Directed by Josh Rhodes). Before making her Broadway debut in Aladdin, Alicia performed in the 2010 National Tour of West Side Story as well as regionally for major theatre companies such as the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia, Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey, and Theatre Under the Stars (TUTS) in Houston.
I feel very fortunate to have the chance to interview this positive and beautiful spirit before her return to Agrabah.
How old were you when you knew you wanted to be a performer?
My mom put me in dance when I was 5, and I instantly fell in love with performing. At age 11 we kicked my dancing into high gear and switched to a competitive dance school, Robin Dawn Academy. I was dancing six days a week and competing about once a month. In the summers we would go to national dance competitions out of state, some of which were here in NYC. My dance teacher Robin loves Broadway; so many of our dances were set to songs from Broadway musicals. I was exposed to a lot of shows and taught by various New York choreographers. My love for theatre began to grow exponentially.
Where did you train? Are there any mentors that truly helped make you the performer you are today?
My dance teacher celebrated my stage presence and expressed how it couldn’t be taught. I wasn’t the most technical dancer in my studio, so I didn’t necessarily win many awards, but she said I would be the one to get the jobs. One judge after watching my Big Spender solo number noted that he saw a future for me in Musical Theatre. The late Frank Hatchett spotted my energy in his class one day and had me perform the combination for everyone saying, “Watch out people, give her some room”! The late director/producer Phil Oesterman encouraged me to pursue a career in theatre while attending his theatre camp one summer when I was in high school. I then decided to start exploring this and taking private voice lessons.
My senior year I was cast in a community theatre production of Merrily We Roll Along, and it was the first time dancing was stripped away, and I was storytelling solely through singing and acting. I was out of my comfort zone, and it was such a scary feeling but also an incredible rush. I knew at that moment that I wanted to pursue this as a career seriously. I moved to New York and attended Marymount Manhattan College and was a dance major, musical theatre minor. In college, I found my voice and gained courage and strength.
How has your time been in “Aladdin” on Broadway and do you have any favorite moments in the show?
Aladdin has been a dream come true! I was such a Disney kid growing up in Florida just a short drive away from Walt Disney World. Aladdin was one of my favorite movies so being a part of the show is very surreal. It’s a gorgeous production with incredible costumes, sets, lighting, music, and tons of Disney Magic! The cast and crew are so kind and extremely talented. I feel very fortunate to be part of such a diverse company. Aladdin is a melting pot, and it’s really beautiful to see! I love so many parts of the show. Casey Nicholaw’s choreography is electric and feels so good to do. If I had to pick one moment, it would be “Arabian Nights”. It’s the opening of our show and the first time everyone is on stage together. The energy is through the roof, and it really sets the tone.
Are there any shows (other than “Aladdin”) that you have done in your career that will always be near and dear to your heart?
West Side Story will always have my heart. I was cast in the first national tour that ran for two years. I understudied Anita and was able to go on many times and grow into the role. It was my principle debut. That experience was terrifying and incredible and changed my life and how I saw myself as an actor. I was stretched in ways that I never could have imagined.
What advice would you give young performers who want a career in this business?
My advice would be to work really hard! Surround yourself with a positive support system. Take class, go to as many auditions as you can, say yes to opportunities no matter how big or small they may seem, and be kind to yourself and others!
For more information on Alicia’s current show Aladdin please visit – www.aladdinthemusical.com