Five Minutes With Kaena Kekoa of the Broadway Musical “Aladdin”

by Gabi De la Rosa on June 20, 2019 in Entertainment, Theatre, Houston,
00 S1 Friend Like Me 1. Aladdin North American Tour. Photo by Deen van Meer CG MA e1560974690326

Houston is gearing up for another exciting Broadway musical hitting the stage this summer.

Disney’s “Aladdin” opened on Broadway in 2014 and quickly established itself as one of the biggest new blockbusters in recent years, breaking 13 New Amsterdam Theatre house records. Now Houston fans can look forward to Tony Award-winning music, lyrics and a production based on the Academy Award-winning animated movie we have all grown to love.

We sat down with Kaena Kekoa, who grew up in Honolulu, Hawaii about her first major role in a Broadway production, and how she has prepared for the role of Princess Jasmine over the past several months.

In her first major Broadway show, Kaena Kekoa plays the role of Princess Jasmine in Aladdin, at Houston’s Hobby Center June 26-July 14. Photo Deen Van Meer

Aladdin runs June 26-July 14 at Houston’s Hobby Center, tickets start at $35

Aladdin has been beloved by so many for years, were you at all scared about taking on the iconic role of Jasmine?

I felt quite the opposite, actually! I couldn’t wait to get started. When I got the call that I was going to play Princess Jasmine in the national tour of “Aladdin,” all I could do was cry in a corner; playing a Disney princess is every little girl’s dream, and my childhood dreams were about to come true!

Are you a Disney fan?

I grew up on Disney movies, and I still love them today! I used to lock myself in the bathroom for hours and sing classic Disney songs in front of the mirror before someone had to kick me out. Disney shaped a part of who I am as a performer, and I will be forever grateful for that.

Aladdin has been a Broadway production since 2014 with over more than 10 million attendees enjoying the story of a street urchin, the beautiful Princess Jasmine and the world’s most ebullient genie (Major Attaway).
Photo Mathew Murphey

Were you angling for this role in particular?

I was not angling for this role at all, nor was I even planning on auditioning! There was an open casting call in Honolulu a couple of months ago for “The Lion King,” “Frozen,” and “Aladdin. I had no intentions of going, but many of my family and friends encouraged me to attend. It was a surprise to me that I wasn’t only called back for roles from one of the shows, but all three! I went into the audition without expectations or targeting a specific role, and that is honestly the best way to go into anything because you get the best results!

How do you bring Jasmine to life in your performances?  

Jasmine is a vision of strength and beauty for young girls, and I try to imagine what they see when she walks on the stage for the first time. Although she is a fictional character, I’ve tried to incorporate qualities that give her depth, and characteristics the audience can relate to when they see her. Jasmine is a confident, independent woman, and I tap into that before I go on stage every night.

Fans can look forward to award-winning music and lyrics at Aladdin, a Disney favorite. Photo Deen Van Meer

For your first national tour, this is quite a big one. How did you prepare? 

The whole process of getting here was a whirlwind. From auditioning, to opening my first show in Salt Lake City was no more than a total of three months. Of course, there was the physical preparation, making sure my body and voice were ready for the strenuous tour life, but I spent a lot of time mentally preparing. My debut, being away from home, and traveling to a new city every three weeks… I knew that I needed to be ready for anything that would come my way.

Catch Aladdin in Houston for its three-week run at the Hobby Center with Kaena Kekoa as Princess Jasmine and Clinton Greenspan as Aladdin. Photo Deen Van Meer

What is your favorite part of this production?

The entire show is stunning, but my absolute favorite part of the show is the tap section in “Friend Like Me.” The first time I saw the show with this company, I cried my eyes out watching that. Every aspect of that number is gorgeous, but what made me cry the most was the performers. I stand in the wings during that tap section now, and I can’t help but tear up when I see these people who I now know, adore, and get to work with do what they love! I play a small part in this intricate machine of a production, and I have to give my respect and love to the ensemble because they run a big part of it.

Do you have a musical that, for you, would be the Broadway dream?

While there are so many amazing dream roles that have already been written, I’d love to originate a role in a new musical, and to be able to bring a character to life that no one has ever seen before. I believe our dream roles are the ones we don’t know about yet and have yet to play!

Cover: The National Tour Company of “Aladdin” performing “A Friend Like Me.” Photo Deen Van Meer

Gabi De la Rosa lives in Houston with her husband and three children. You can usually find her at a great local restaurant or out exploring HTX with her family. Visit her on Instagram @gabioftheroses_htx