tuneful and tearful

Here’s what the man playing one of Robin Williams’ signature characters told his audience last night

August 13, 2014
August 13, 2014
Tap image to zoom
James Monroe Iglehart as the GenieAP Photo/Disney Theatrical Productions, Cylla von Tiedemann

On August 12, the day after Robin Williams’ death, the Broadway production of Aladdin took a moment to pay tribute to the entertainer. The show is based on the movie of the same name in which Williams starred as a gregarious genie.

Before the performance, James Monroe Iglehart, the actor who plays the genie on stage, told Quartz, “Robin Williams has influenced my life greatly; his performance as the Genie, of course, and his entire career as a great performer and actor.”

That night, Iglehart addressed the crowd after the curtain call to express his life-long admiration of Williams. When he finished he led the audience in a sing-along of “Friend Like Me,” a song from the movie and the production.

Here is what Iglehart had to say:

When I was a kid there was a TV Show called Happy Days. I didn’t like it. I don’t know why—probably because there were no black people in it…but there was one episode where this guy came on in this really cool red suit and he was the first, first guy to ever beat Fonzie. Fonzie said something to him and Mork went “zip!” and Fonzie just stood still. And I went, “That is the coolest thing ever!”

And then the man got up and had a movie. And he had his first and, of all the movies, he did Popeye, which happened to be one of my favorite cartoons of all time. So I had to go see it. And then when my mother let me get a little bit more mature, I got to watch him in concert and I got to watch him say all the cuss words I wasn’t allowed to say.

And then he began to do movie after movie after movie and I watched them all. And then, when I was 17 years old, I had watched every Disney cartoon in the world, and they had put him in a Disney cartoon to play this iconic role of the Genie, and he sang this song, and I looked at my mom and I said, “If I could just do something like that!”

And here we are in 2014, in this beautiful theater, and I get to play this role. And these wonderful people… these wonderful people get to play these iconic roles that in 1992—for some of you, you don’t want to say how old you are, I’m almost 40 so I understand—went to see that film with your parents, or whatever.

And yesterday we lost one of the greatest—not comedians—but one of the greatest entertainers of all time.

So, we’re only going to do this once, because we don’t want to drag something on, because first and foremost to give our hearts and our prayers and our thoughts to his family because he’s a husband and a father first, entertainer second. But for tonight—and I think it’s in your programs, if it is you can pull it out—I want us to just sing a little bit, of “Friend Like Me” before we go. Just…and we’re going to do it together.

Here’s a video of Iglehart’s remarks and the sing-along:

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