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Adam Jacobs: ‘Aladdin is near and dear to me’

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Adam Jacobs, Broadway’s original Aladdin, is appearing in the tour at the Orpheum this month. (Courtesy Cylla von Tiedemann/ Disney)
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Adam Jacobs is back where he grew up, onstage as Aladdin, a role he created on Broadway, one that will likely define his career.

“I grew up with the film, watched the VHS, it was my favorite Disney movie. Aladdin was the cool one running away, he was my childhood hero,” says Jacobs, noting that the musical “Aladdin” at the Orpheum opening this week represents the first time he’ll be at the head of a show in The City. (He did play Marius in “Les Miserables” on tour, and later on Broadway.)

“It’ll be exciting to be performing for my mentors and friends and family members; it’s kind of coming full circle,” says Jacobs, who lived in Half Moon Bay and appeared as a teen in shows at his high school (St. Ignatius College Preparatory in The City), and with Peninsula Center Stage, TheatreWorks and American Conservatory Theater.

He was tapped to play the original Aladdin by the show’s developers who noticed his “ethnically ambiguous, mixed descent” look — his mother is Filipino and father is Jewish — and saw him as Simba in “The Lion King,” entertained by his high jinks in scenes with Timon and Pumbaa.

“There’s a lot of Adamness in the character,” he says.

More or less handed the role (he impressed Jonathan Freeman, voice of evil Jafar in the movie “Aladdin” and Disney executive Bob Iger in a presentation), he did have to audition for the show’s Tony-winning choreographer director Casey Nicholaw (of “The Book of Mormon” fame), who said yes.

“That sealed my fate,” says Jacobs, who adds that, having skipped the ensemble track, he’s been fortunate to have a leading man career. (At one point, he played Cinderella’s Prince on a non-union tour, defying advice given to him.)

He learned to tap dance to play Aladdin, also a vocally demanding role in a production filled with spectacular sets.

But he says the illusion of the magic carpet is secondary to the story of people falling in love. The Genie gets to have all the fun; it’s Aladdin’s job to make the audience care, he says.

While Jacobs says getting the role surprised him to the point of “feeling surreal,” and that it always will be near and dear to him, he’s now the old man on this national tour, the fifth in his career.

It’s the first time he’s traveling with his wife Kelly and 3-year-old twin sons, who were born on the first day of rehearsal of the Broadway production of “Aladdin.”

During the Bay Area run, the family is staying in his old neighborhood near Ocean Beach, taking time to have chowder and see local sights.

After the tour, they’ll be going to the Chicago area, where they’ve purchased a house and Jacobs says he’ll be “doing the family suburban dad thing for awhile.”

Speaking of family, he and his sister, fellow musical theater pro Arielle Jacobs (Jasmine on the Australian tour of “Aladdin”) are bringing their cabaret act “Sibling Disobedience” to the Venetian Room on Nov. 20, telling fun stories and singing favorite tunes.

“It’s all encompassing, personal. I think people will love it,” says Jacobs, who says “many moons ago” they appeared in the same summer stock show.

Noting that meaty brother-sister musical roles are slim, he adds that they thankfully have never had to play opposite each other, commenting, “That would be weird.”

IF YOU GO
Aladdin
Presented by SHN
Where: Orpheum Theatre, 1192 Market St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. most Tuesdays, Thursdays-Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. most Wednesday and Saturdays, 1 p.m. Sundays; closes Jan. 7
Tickets: $45 to $169
Contact: (888) 746-1799, www.shnsf.com
Note: Bay Area Cabaret presents Adam Jacobs & Arielle Jacobs at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 20 at the Fairmont Hotel, 950 Mason St., S.F; tickets are $65 at www.cityboxoffice.com.

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