Aladdin is playing at the Hyperion Theater at Disney's California Adventure. (08/26/2006)
Since it opened in 2003, I have seen the show dozens of times (which was easy, since we had an annual pass). So imagine my excitement when I learned that a friend of a friend had been cast as the Genie in the show! The friend of a friend’s name is Ryan Knowles, who’s the best friend of our pal Justin.
Of course as my luck would have it, he wasn’t cast as the Genie until after our annual passes expired. But when Justin brought up the idea that Ryan might be able to sign us into the park (not to mention put us on the VIP seating list and even get us into a meet-and-greet with the cast) I was on it like white on rice.
James poses with the Aladdin cast. (08/26/2006)
Despite my enthusiasm, we ended up missing out the first two times we made arrangements to go see Ryan in the show. Making it worse was the fact that we sort of screwed Ryan over, since he had re-arranged his schedule to accommodate us. I felt horrible about that.
When I spoke to Ryan over the phone to apologize, he was incredibly nice about it. He even invited us to try again this weekend, which we finally did. And it turned out to be a fantastic experience!
Ryan as the Genie, posing with James. (08/26/2006)
We met Ryan just outside the theme park at 10:30 a.m., when he had to report to work. We didn’t quite know what to expect since it was our first time meeting him (a fact Justin disputes; he’s positive we met him at a party a few years back). Just as he was described, Ryan turned out to be super friendly.
After he signed us in, he ran off to go into the makeup chair for his transformation to the Genie. We just rode a couple of rides until the 12:20 showtime (including the new Monsters Inc. ride that wasn’t yet open when our passes expired last October). As it turned out, Justin ended up meeting us there too, which was a big surprise, since we expected him to be on a flight to New York that day (his flight was postponed by a day).
James & Ryan, before his Genie make-up. (08/26/2006)
Let me just say, the show was off the hook! Ryan’s performance as the Genie was worlds apart from the previous Genies we’ve seen in the role. Ryan’s Genie was more like a character within a character. And the jokes were way funnier than what I had seen before (although the Genie follows a script, there are moments where he can insert new jokes, usually relating to some current events).
For example, one thing that I have in common with Ryan is a love for Liza Minnelli. And during the show, Ryan even snuck in a special Liza Minnelli joke that he normally doesn’t do, which made me howl with laughter.
James and Justin. (08/26/2006)
Afterward we got to take pictures with Ryan, as well as some of the other cast members, which was fabulous. Thanks again, Justin & Ryan, for what turned out to be an awesome experience.
BTW, if you’d like to see a video clip of Ryan’s work, click the link below. This video was edited together from several performances, which is why the audio and video don’t always match perfectly (I say that just so you don’t think Ryan is lipsynching). Here's a single-camera video-clip of the same song.