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The Collegian

Fresno State's student-run newspaper

The Collegian

Fresno State's student-run newspaper

The Collegian


‘Aladdin’ brings the magic of Disney to Fresno

Deen van Meer/Disney Theatrical Productions
Disney Theatrical Productions under the direction of Thomas Schumacher presents Aladdin, the North American tour, music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, book and additional lyrics by Chad Beguelin, starring: Adi Roy (Aladdin), Marcus M. Martin (Genie), Senzel Ahmady (Jasmine), Jake Letts (Babkak), Colt Prattes (Kassim), Ben Chavez (Omar), Anand Nagraj (Jafar), Aaron Choi (Iago) and Sorab Wadia (Sultan) directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw.

My name is Jazmin. It may not be spelled the same as Princess Jasmine, but I share the same strong-willed “I-can-do-anything” mindset as she does.

On May 1, I had the privilege of witnessing these characteristics brought to life by Senzel Ahmady, the woman who plays Princess Jasmine in Disney’s hit Broadway musical “Aladdin” at the Saroyan Theatre in Fresno. I also got the chance to interview her by phone before opening night.

When people would ask me“What do you want to be when you grow up?” my answer was “A princess.”

For Ahmady, the answer was the same.

“I feel like I just got to heal my inner child doing this role,” Ahmady said. “I feel like growing up, you know, when you’re really little and people ask you what you want to be and you say like ‘a firefighter’ or you know, ‘a princess.’ I feel like it’s such a funny thing and it’s so crazy and surreal to think that dream as silly as that, actually got to come true for me.”

Ahmady displayed poise, passion and determination in the role, and I thoroughly enjoyed her depiction of Princess Jasmine.

“They gave her, you know, some sass and some confidence and she always spoke what was on her mind and what she believed in and I always loved that character arc of hers,” Ahmady said.

From the beautiful glistening costumes, to the captivating colors, the mesmerizing cast and the adored soundtrack, watching “Aladdin” was one of the best experiences of my life.

Ahmady says she feels that her role as Princess Jasmine is something she has been preparing for since she was a little girl.

“I had my own Jasmine costume at 6 years old and now I have one at 21 years old,” she said. “It’s just so silly, but it really is so surreal. I feel like it’s something like I almost manifested for myself my entire life.”

Adi Roy, the actor who plays Aladdin, has gotten the opportunity to form a relationship with Ahmady both on and off stage.

“She’s great,” Roy said. “I think she’s a princess on stage and off. So it helps me kind of, it forces me to be better, onstage and off as well.”

As for me, my sisters and I are all named after Disney princesses.

My dad always loved the name Jasmine, and my mom took delight in the fact that it was a Disney princess name. Her only request was that it be spelled uniquely, which is why I’m named Jazmin.

During the time my mom was pregnant with my younger sister, I was 5 years old and absolutely infatuated with the movie “Beauty and the Beast” because of Princess Belle.

I remember begging my mom to name my new baby sister Belle. Unfortunately, she said no to Belle, but we compromised on a different name. We ended up naming her Izabela.

Ahmady shares a similar story. Her younger sister is named Jazmine Ahmady, which derives from Ahmady’s love of Princess Jasmine.

“I think I was 5 or 6 at the time, and they had no idea what to name her and I practically begged them to name her [Jasmine],” Ahmady said.

When my mom was pregnant with my youngest sibling, and we found out it was a girl, we knew instantly that she would also have to have a Disney princess name. We toyed with the name Ariel, but my mom decided against it because Ariel in Spanish is a laundry soap brand and my mom didn’t want to risk any teasing.

My sister Bela became attached to the name Leslie early through my mom’s pregnancy and began referring to the baby as such. Since Bela was only 4 years old, we knew we couldn’t change her mind; however, we also knew the baby needed to have a Disney princess name, which Leslie is not.

At the same time, “Sofia the First” was new and consistently on the TV in my household because Bela and I loved her amulet and purple dress.

From there we decided on Lezly Sofia. Lezly spelled this way because of my mom’s wanting for distinctive spelling, and Sofia to stick with the Disney princess theme.

Like Ahmady, I am the eldest of three girls and the child of immigrant parents.

One of my biggest goals in life is to be a role model and someone my sisters can look up to. I want my sisters to have a fulfilling life and ultimately just do what makes them happy. The only way I can demonstrate that is by doing it myself. Ahmady agrees.

“I hope what my sisters take from this (her role as Princess Jasmine) is that it’s always worth it to do what you love, because then you’ll just have a lifetime of being happy and doing what truly makes you happy in the end,” she said.

Roy has the same idea.

“I hope that I set the example of leading with joy, leading with love,” he said.

Ahmady said one of the challenges in the show is the fact that “Aladdin” is well-known. She said that people don’t really go to see the show to be surprised, which can be hard because it puts a little more pressure on the actors.

However, while “Aladdin” the musical tells the traditional story of Princess Jasmine and Aladdin in the film, I disagree. The entire time I was watching the performance, I was curious about how they would execute the next scene. Each time I was more astounded with how every element of the film was brought to life in musical format.

Audience members at the show also had great things to say.

“I thought it was fantastic,” said Helen Cole, an attendee. “I loved it. The costumes are phenomenal. I can’t figure out how they make it sparkle too much but it was beautiful. Absolutely beautiful.”

Personally, I fell in love with the costumes, the glitter and the music. “Aladdin” has beautiful traditional songs, but there were also new songs added to the show that enhanced my experience.

Lexi Medina, another show attendee, said this was her second time seeing the show and this specific performance took the number one spot.

“It’s by far just like I described it to her (friend standing next to her) as the most colorful in your face sparkly show I’ve ever seen and this absolutely knocked it out of the park for the second time as well,” Medina said. “It’s just like, your eyeballs are like burning with gold and glitter in the best way possible.”

One thing Medina enjoyed about Ahmady’s performance was how confident she presented herself.

“I felt like she was really strong like her vocals and just her little nuances,” Medina said. “How she played Jasmine compared to the first time I saw it, like she’s a lot stronger and more confident, powerful.”

Along with the beauty of the show, the actors also face challenges in the real world just like any other person.

As a Latina journalist, I have experienced feelings of self-doubt because I am part of an underrepresented community. This is not only true in journalism, but in the entertainment world as well.

“I feel like growing up, I didn’t see myself a lot in media and so to be able to be that for other younger girls now, it just, it makes me feel so special,” Ahmady said. “I hope that it starts to become a normalized thing where you always see yourself in media and entertainment and pop culture and things like that.”

One thing that Roy and Ahmady say sets them apart from other actors playing the role is their young age.

“I am the youngest actress to play Jasmine and so I think I was really able to bring the youth and innocence of Jasmine to this character,” she said. “She’s someone who grew up in the palace her entire life, and she’s just finally now seeing what the world looks like and so I think it’s been fun to bring that factor to it.”

Roy says their age helps them accurately portray young, innocent love.

“I think we’re both so young and so that kind of helps show that like, young first love, kind of, I guess, story arc,” he said. “In the original story, they’re supposed to be 16, I believe. So they’re really, really young at that point and it’s a ripe age for falling in love at first sight and I think that that definitely shows in our performances.”

I agree with Roy and Ahmady that being able to portray youth is very important, especially within Princess Jasmine and Aladdin. I think they both did an excellent job of representing their love story in a delightfully precise way.

If there is one thing Ahmady wants the public to know, it’s that if a person really wants something, they have the power to make it happen.

“Something that my dad always liked to tell me is he said ‘success is when hard work meets luck’ and you know, I worked really hard my whole life for something like this because I knew I wanted it to happen,” she said. “If you really want something I mean you can really do it.”

Growing up in a Disney princess world, I’m wholeheartedly in awe of the way Ahmady presented the role of Princess Jasmine and the way that I was able to see little pieces of myself through a different lens.

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