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214 West 42nd Street, New York, NY 10036

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2014 Tony Winner

2014 Tony Winner

Aladdin is exactly what you wish for!

NBC New York

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Open Book: ALADDIN's Chad Beguelin Finds A Whole New Way To Deliver An Old Favorite

OPEN BOOK is BroadwayWorld's series placing a well-deserved spotlight on some of the least appreciated of theatre artists, those who write the books for musicals.

ALADDIN, based on the Disney animated feature, has a book by Chad Beguelin, who also wrote lyrics for songs written especially for the stage production. His Broadway credits include being co-bookwriter and lyricist for THE WEDDING SINGER, lyricist for ELF, and contributing the lyric of the title song for the Michael Feinstein/Dame Edna Everage revue, ALL ABOUT ME.

"I originally went to NYU for acting," says the Illinois native, "but quickly realized I was horrible at it. I took a playwriting class that was taught by Doug Wright and he encouraged me to apply to the Dramatic Writing Program. I ended up getting a double major in Drama and Dramatic Writing and staying on to get my Masters in Dramatic Writing as well. While I knew I had a passion for musicals, I originally thought I would just be a playwright. However, I kept writing musicals and found that the basic tenants are the same. Character, obstacles, plot and subplot. Of course, the major difference being that in musicals you use song and dance to advance plot and reveal character, as well as just dialogue."

Beguelin began his appreciation for musical theatre books in the 6th grade as an ensemble member of a community theatre production of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF.

"I remember specifically telling my mother that she would be amazed how often Tevye gives in to his daughters. This was a long time ago, before I knew about spoiler alerts."

Later on, he became a "huge fan" of the late Howard Ashman's book for LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, which has music composed by his ALADDIN songwriting partner, Alan Menken.

"First of all, the subject matter is outrageous and it shouldn't work at all, but it does on so many levels. The characters could have slipped into cartoons, but we actually feel for them because they are so specifically drawn. It's also tightly plotted and as Seymour's morality begins to fail him, things spin out of control at a maddening pace."

Courtney Reed and Adam Jacobs in ALADDIN
(Photo: Deen Van Meer)

One thing those two musicals have in common is the first and foremost element Beguelin looks for as the source of a good musical, "a character or set of characters with a burning desire."

"This desire has to be so powerful that it allows them to burst into song. Traditionally there is an 'I want' song early in the show and that song/need is the motor for the rest of the piece. In Jack Viertel's excellent book 'The Secret Life of the American Musical,' he points out how important social upheaval can be as well. If you have both, you have the potential for great conflict. But, of course, the biggest question is does it sing to the people creating the musical?"

Beguelin met his THE WEDDING SINGER, ELF and ALL ABOUT ME composer, Matthew Sklar, through the now defunct Musical Theater Works.

"I had sent them a musical I wrote in college. Andrew Barrett was the literary manager at the time and introduced me to Matthew. Our first musical was based on 'Maurice' by E. M. Forster. We wrote the entire show in three months and had a staged reading before we realized that the rights to the novel weren't available. We had just assumed the book was in public domain. It was a tough lesson to learn. Determined not to make the same mistake again, our next musical (WICKED CITY) was based on Oedipus, since we were pretty sure the copyright had expired."

"I usually start with an outline first. Whether it's an original musical or a project with existing songs, the main goal is to make sure that the musical moments are advancing plot and revealing character. As I mentioned, it's always a good idea to decide what the 'I want' song is early on in the process. In ALADDIN, there was a song cut from the musical called 'Proud of Your Boy' that became Aladdin's 'I want' song and drove him through the rest of the show. For ELF, we knew that Buddy's desire to be part of his father's life had to drive the show, so we wrote a song called 'World's Greatest Dad.'"

James Monroe Iglehart in ALADDIN
(Photo: Cylla von Tiedemann)

"If it's a musical with a lot of dance, the bookwriter usually works very closely with the choreographer to find moments where dance can advance the plot. I've been lucky enough to work with amazing director/choreographers like Casey Nicholaw and Jerry Mitchell and they have an uncanny ability to know when they can advance the story through dance and movement. There have been moments when both of them have said to me, 'I can handle that story point with dance.' And they always do something amazing."

With three Broadway musicals based on popular films, in an age where people can easily watch them over and over again, Beguelin acknowledges there's always a chance that an audience's familiarity with the source may influence their enjoyment of the musical.

"It's always a tricky line to walk when you're adapting a well-known source. You want to make sure you live up to the audience's expectations, but you also can't just give them a carbon copy of the source material. The challenge is always to discover ways to deliver the characters and story they know and love, yet in a whole new way. For ALADDIN, there were cut songs from the movie that we wanted to incorporate, so the musical had no choice but to stray from the film. Though at first it was tough to figure out how to fit these great songs into the story, I think it is ultimately what makes the musical so special."

"I'm always a little petrified at the first preview. I'm never ready when the houselights go down and I fight the urge to shout out, 'Give me a minute!' Previews are where you really learn what you've got. Tom Meehan (Tony winner for ANNIE, THE PRODUCERS and HAIRSPRAY) told me once that you have no idea if your show works until you get it in front of paying strangers. Truer words were never spoken."

"The show can play like gangbusters in a studio run-through or at a final dress rehearsal. But a paying audience is the true test of a show. You know immediately if a joke isn't funny and you can palpably sense when they're bored or you've lost them. Previews are the toughest part, because anything that doesn't work is jettisoned immediately. And it's always a surprise. The thing you think won't work at all brings the house down. And the moment you are sure will work, falls flat. That's why previews are so important. If you listen to the audience, they'll always tell you what works and what doesn't. It can be brutal sometimes, but it's the only way to improve the piece."

Disney's Aladdin, the hit Broadway musical, is now in its third smash year on Broadway at the New Amsterdam Theatre (214 West 42nd Street).

Aladdin opened to critical acclaim on March 20th, 2014 and quickly established itself as one of the biggest new blockbusters in recent years, already welcoming over 1.5 million people and breaking 11 New Amsterdam Theatre house records. Its global footprint expands with productions in Tokyo and Hamburg and upcoming productions in London, Sydney and the recently announced North American tour. NBC-TV raves "Aladdin is exactly what you wished for!" New York Magazine calls it "Musical comedy wish-fulfillment!" while The New York Times hails the show as "Fabulous... Extravagant! It defies expectations," and the Daily News declares, "Seriously, it's amazing!"

Produced by Disney Theatrical Productions, Aladdin features music by Tony Award and eight-time Oscar® winner Alan Menken (Beauty and the Beast, Newsies, Sister Act), lyrics by two-time Oscar winner Howard Ashman (Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid), three-time Tony Award and three-time Oscar winner Tim Rice (Evita, Aida) and four-time Tony Award nominee Chad Beguelin (The Wedding Singer), with a book by Beguelin, and is directed and choreographed by Tony Award winner Casey Nicholaw, who makes history this spring as director-choreographer of four concurrent Broadway musicals.

Article reprinted with permission from

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4 reviews, average rating: (4.9 Stars)

Mayra: “Favorite Broadway Play So Far”

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Fantastic show, beautiful lighting and costumes and wonderful performances ... more

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