Adam Jacobs’ workday begins at 7 p.m.
After eating dinner with his wife, Kelly, and getting their 8-month-old twin boys ready for bed, Jacobs leaves his Sunnyside, N.Y., apartment and heads into Manhattan on the 7 train. “One thing I love about working in this business is that I get to spend the entire day with my family,” he tells Business Insider.
He typically arrives at work — the New Amsterdam Theatre in the heart of New York’s Times Square — between 6:30 and 7 p.m., and immediately grabs a coffee and some fruit. Then, he says, he “really gets to work.”
Jacobs plays the lead part in Disney’s “Aladdin” the musical, which premiered on Broadway in March 2014. Prior to landing this role, he starred in “Les Miserables,” “Mama Mia!” and “The Lion King.”
Each night before the performance, Jacobs squeezes in a light workout.
“I have to be pretty naked in the show,” he jokes. “It’s important that I maintain my look. So when I first get to the theatre, sometimes I’ll stop in the New York Sports Club that’s across the street from the stage door and warm up for 15 minutes. Or, if I’m feeling ‘warm’ enough, I’ll just come into my dressing room and do some asymmetric exercises. I have a whole mini gym set up in there, with dumbbells and TheraBands, and other equipment like that,” he explains.
After a quick workout and a brief juggling session — “it’s a form of meditation for me,” he says — Jacobs begins making his daily transformation into his character, Aladdin.
Most nights the house curtains open promptly at 8 p.m., so he begins getting into his makeup — which consists of “just a little bit of eyeliner and bronzer” — around 7:15 and then waits for the hair department to finish Jasmine’s wig before coming to help secure his hat. “Sometimes I have a little time before they come in, so I’ll play something like ‘American Ninja Warrior’ on my TV in my dressing room just to get into the ‘one jump’ mood. Or I’ll have the TV on the ESPN channel on mute.”
Once he’s in costume, Jacobs heads down to the “deck” to hang out with his costars, including Courtney Reed, who plays Jasmine, and Tony-away winning performer James Monroe Iglehart, who plays the Genie.
“Usually everyone is warming up and stretching. We greet each other and ask how everyone’s days were. Sometimes I’ll go visit other people’s dressing rooms before going down. And then at 8:00 or 8:05, the downbeat starts.”
Jacobs has been performing his whole life. The Half Moon Bay, California, native starting playing the piano at age 5, and shifted his focus to musical theatre in middle school — but every time he hears the downbeat (the music that plays at the start of every show) Jacobs still gets a “little flutter” in his stomach.
“But I like that, because it tells me that I’m excited,” he says. “I get nervous when I’m not nervous.”
Jacobs says those butterflies, combined with the knowledge that there are 1,700 people in the audience — some who have never seen the show, and young kids who are seeing a Broadway musical for the very first time — is what gives him energy each night. “I don’t want to disappoint anyone. That’s what motivates me to do my best.”
During the performance, Jacobs is “in the zone,” but allows himself to have fun and enjoy the experience of starring in a Broadway show.
“I know it’s silly to say, but I really love when things go wrong,” he tells Business Insider. “When you do a show eight times a week, in order for it to not feel rote, you sometimes have to think of moments in the show and do something different with them, just to keep it fresh. And sometimes people will screw up a line and they will have to improvise something. Even though this is Broadway, it happens. But that’s what makes it exciting.”
Luckily, he says, these mistakes are trivial and the audience rarely notices. But he recalls one gaffe that was “less funny and more embarrassing.”
During the show, Jacobs has a quick change. “At one point, Genie says ‘You’re a prince,’ and as ‘Aladdin the street rat,’ with the Fez and all that, I spin around and I’m suddenly in this white outfit with a white turban and a big cape. One time early on, I sang the whole number and upon getting off stage, I realised that my fly was completely down. So I’m singing the big Act I number and one of the lines is, ‘Look at me! I can’t believe it! Look at me!’ And I’m thinking, ‘Oh wow, they were definitely looking.’ So that was kind of embarrassing.”
During intermission, Jacobs makes a quick costume change into “Prince Ali.” “Sometimes Courtney (Jasmine) will come in to hang out, and we’ll talk about fashion, because she likes to talk about that. We have a very brother/sister-like relationship. We’re very competitive with one another — but it’s fun.”
He says he’ll also eat a few more pieces of fruit during the break. “I like mangos and papayas and apples. Courtney jokes that I am just like Aladdin because I eat a lot of apples, which is actually kind of true, and pretty funny.”
After the second act of the show, which usually ends around 10:30 p.m., Jacobs gets out of costume, wipes off his makeup, and greets fans.
If celebrities are at the show, he’ll sometimes stay in costume to take photos. “Aladdin is the hot new show in town, so we have a lot of high-profile people come see it. We’ve had Paul Stanley, Phil Collins, Whoppi Goldberg, and Meredith Vieira, just to name a few. Sometimes during the show you’ll look out and say, ‘Oh my God, I recognise that face!'”
He says the very best part of the job is greeting the fans at the stage door as he leaves, “because we have people who loved the movie, and people who are seeing a Broadway show for the first time, and it’s people from little kids up to grandparents. Just to meet the fans and see the impact that we have on them is so fulfilling for me.”
He also loves watching the audience while he’s on stage.
“It’s so fun to look out at them and see their enraptured faces,” Jacobs says. “People don’t realise that we can see them sometimes; it’s almost like they think they’re watching TV. But if you actually look at them, like if they’re on their phone or something and then they look up and make eye contact, they usually look like a deer in the headlights and they put it away. Or you’ll see couples making out. I’ve seen all kinds of crazy stuff!” The best, though, is seeing smiles from the audience, and kids singing along, he explains.
“There’s nothing else like the theatre because it’s a live experience. And when you have that connection between the audience and the actors on stage, it’s electric. And that’s sort of what got me hooked to it when I was a kid.”
He says that excitement gives him an adrenaline high that takes time to come down from.
After greeting fans, Jacobs hops into a cab or walks to the subway and heads home. “I need time to unwind after a show. I can’t just go home and go to sleep.”
When he arrives home, he’s usually hungry again. “Everyone is asleep in my house, so I’ll usually make myself a big meal — maybe some salad and some chicken — then I’ll watch Jimmy Fallon or I’ll just stay up for a little bit on the computer. Sometimes I’ll watch something on Netflix, or play some games on my phone, like Words With Friends. And I actually play chess. Sometimes I’ll even go into the neighbourhood and play chess with the guys around here, and it’s kind of a nerdy thing, but I learned from my dad how to play, and now it’s a hobby.” He says he tries to get to bed by 1 a.m.
Jacobs’ post-show routine has changed since his sons, Jack and Alex, were born in January — coincidentally on the first day of rehearsal for “Aladdin.”
“In previous shows, I used to hang out with my cast mates more, but now I usually just come home,” he says. “If it’s a Sunday when we do an earlier show, I might hang out for a little bit afterwards. But generally I like to go home and see my wife and kids before they go to sleep.”
When he wakes up in the morning — usually around 10 a.m. — Jacobs’ day is like anyone else’s. (Well, anyone who doesn’t have a day job.)
He says his wife wakes up with their boys around 6:30 a.m. and after their first nap, she’ll bring them in to wake Jacobs up.
“It’s really cute,” he says. “I love seeing them in the morning, and they’re just trying to crawl on me.”
After getting out of bed, Jacobs makes breakfast (cereal and eggs) for he and his wife. “We have nice mornings. We eat, play with the babies, put them down for a nap, and then maybe clean the house, do laundry, and pay bills. And when it’s nice out, we’ll go for a walk.”
After dinner and getting the boys ready for bed, he does it all over again.
Being a Broadway star can be physically exhausting, he says (“It’s like running a marathon every week!”), but the job offers a healthy work-life balance.
“It’s nice because I have pretty much the whole day with my family and to get stuff done,” he explains. “If I had a typical 9-5 job, the boys would be going to bed right after I got home, and I wouldn’t necessarily have the time to spend with my family.”
He says when a show first opens, his free time is more limited, but “once all the press dies down from Tony’s and all that, and once we’re sort of settled in the show, I can spend a lot of time with my wife and kids and it’s wonderful.”
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