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Disney's Aladdin grants Winnipeg performer's back-to-Broadway wish

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Winnipeg theatre export Jaz Sealey is the only Canadian in the 34-member cast of Disney's Aladdin that opens in Toronto Nov. 1 before it rides a magic carpet to Broadway next March.

The 26-year-old Lord Roberts resident -- a product of Grant Park High School's Performing Arts Program -- is returning to the Big Apple, where he made his debut in Jesus Christ Superstar last year.

"It is quite sweet, the fruit I am biting into," Sealey said over the phone from New York City where he is rehearsing. "To do it again is just as incredible. It makes me feel like I belong."

Sealey nabbed a position in the ensemble, where he will portray Prince Abdullah, a suitor for the free-spirited Princess Jasmine, as well as understudy Kassim, one of Aladdin's buddies. The musical, based on the 1992 film blockbuster, features music composed by eight-time Oscar winner Alan Menken, scenic design by six-time Tony winner Bob Crowley and lighting by three-time Tony winner Natasha Katz.

As opposed to Jesus Christ Superstar, which was a revival by Stratford Festival, Sealey this time is in on the bottom floor of the construction of a new adaptation of the famous brand.

"To be in the room with Oscar winners and Tony winners is a spectacular thing," said Sealey, who made his professional debut in Manitoba Theatre Centre's 2006 production of Guys & Dolls.

"I learned from Kimberley Rampersad, my first dance teacher at Rainbow Stage, to keep my eyes and ears open in the rehearsal hall, because everyone there has more experience. I'm constantly watching to see how its done and try to do the same. It's the best place to learn."

To get in that room, he survived an onerous audition process that started in Toronto last February with a dance call, and then got called back to read for Kassim. Then it was on to New York for two more days showing his stuff for a panel that had grown to 15 show officials.

"My thinking is that I would just try to be me," he said. "I sang Proud of Your Boy and I thought that's what I was trying to do, trying to make my mom proud of her boy. I think the honesty had something to do with me getting the job."

Sealey got the good news last April but had to keep quiet until the Disney announcement this week. His mother Debra was ecstatic but had to pull it together to keep mum, too.

"She is certainly proud of her boy," he said with a laugh.

Since last performing in Winnipeg in Suessical for Manitoba Theatre for Young People in 2006, Sealey has worked steadily in Toronto in the long-running Dirty Dancing (592 performances) and five Stratford shows, including Jesus Christ Superstar (116 Broadway performances). Highlights of his new York debut was the thrill of seeing the show's huge billboard in Times Square and performing at the 2012 Tony Awards.

The former Winnipeg hockey player looks forward to again being part of the recent parade of Winnipeg talent headed to Broadway. Sealey just saw Alexandra Frohlinger in Soul Doctor, which might not last much longer unless there is an immediate ticket-buying surge. A floor away from where Aladdin is rehearsing on 42nd Street, Winnipeg's Stephanie Sy is preparing to go out on the road with the first national tour of We Will Rock You.

"It's nice to have lunch breaks with a fellow Winnipegger and see a familiar face," he said. "It's pretty amazing so many of us are here."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 21, 2013 G3

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