In ‘Aladdin,’ Iago Is The Perfect Sidekick: And No, He’s Not a Parrot Anymore

LA-based character actor Reggie De Leon brings comedic flair to the beloved Disney character. 'Aladdin' plays at the Kennedy Center through September 7th.

Reggie De Leon lives in LA. So when a costume malfunction occurred during the Hollywood stop on the national tour of Aladdin, his friends and family were right there in the audience to see it.

Reggie De Leon as Iago in the national tour of Disney’s ‘Aladdin.’ Photo by Deen van Meer.

It happened when De Leon, who plays Iago, the clownish sidekick to the power-hungry villain Jafar, had to pull a disguise off quickly. “That night something went wrong and my wig and hat came off with the costume,” De Leon recalls.

He quickly left the stage, disappearing for the 30 seconds it took hair supervisor Debra Parr to refit his wig in the wings. “I felt like I was in the pit of the Indianapolis 500,” he says. De Leon rushed back onstage where his fellow cast members had been successfully improvising during his absence. “None of my friends or family in the audience even noticed that it happened,” he said. “It’s a real testament to the professionalism of everyone involved in the show.”

Aladdin, the hit musical based on the 1992 Disney movie, has been pulling off feats of magic since it opened on Broadway in 2014. The national tour, now playing at the Kennedy Center through September 7, features all the glitz and glamor and song and dance of the original. This is a musical designed to dazzle.

The show features favorite Alan Menken tunes including the ballad “A Whole New World” and “Friend Like Me,” an eleven-minute show-stopping tap dance number. Indeed, those familiar with Casey Nicholaw’s work (Mean Girls, The Book of Mormon) will recognize the director/choreographer’s signature musical-comedy stamp throughout the production. (The magic carpet actually flies).

The national touring cast of ‘Aladdin’ performs ‘Friend Like Me.’ Photo by Deen van Meer.

If you’ve seen the 1992 animated film version of Aladdin, you may remember two things about Iago: He was voiced memorably by Gilbert Gottfried, and he was… a parrot. In book writer Chad Beguielin’s musical version, Iago becomes a scene-stealing human who retains the bird’s comic flair and earns big laughs by parroting (pun intended) Jafar’s wicked plans back to him.

In creating his own version of Iago, De Leon hearkens back to the 1992 animated version. “When I was younger, I watched the Disney movie until my VHS tape wore out,” he recalls. “Gilbert Gottfried, and later Don Darryl Rivera, [who originated the role of Iago on Broadway] were huge influences.”

De Leon has played Iago both on Broadway and on the national tour, where he originated the role. A character actor who uses vivid facial expressions and body language to bring his characters to life, De Leon has perfected the art of the laugh through gut-busting comedy roles in TV sitcoms, including the Chuck Lorre hit Mom on CBS and on the Netflix film franchise Pup Star.

He relishes the chance to apply his knack for comedy to the stage. “I would posit that Iago thinks he’s the main villain in Aladdin,” De Leon says of the role. “He’s ultimately Jafar’s sidekick, but he thinks he’s bigger than he is.” And that’s funny.

Asked what it’s like to play the villain in a children’s show, De Leon gave an impish giggle. “It’s actually a lot of fun. I get so much joy because the kids laugh up a storm.”

De Leon has been with the tour on and off since 2017, performing in over 500 of the nearly 900 performances to date. While the actor finds it hard to be so far from his LA-based family, he does appreciate one perk of life on tour: “I’m a foodie,” he says. “My pastimes are eating and traveling and this job allows me to do both in spades. I’m basically eating my way across the country.”

Aladdin plays through September 7, 2019, at The Opera House at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts–2700 F Street NW, Washington, DC. For tickets, call 202-467-4600 or go online.

Running Time: Two hours and 20 minutes, with one 15-minute intermission.

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Nicole Hertvik
A reformed child actor, Nicole got her BA in English literature before wandering the globe for a decade, writing and teaching English in Prague, San Francisco, Buenos Aires, and Paris. She eventually landed in NYC where she received a Master’s Degree in International Affairs from Columbia University and dabbled in theater as an actor, script reader, and dramaturg. Thrilled by the strong and diverse theater community she discovered in Washington, DC, Nicole wakes up every morning excited to contribute to DC Metro Theater Arts and other publications. Nicole studied journalism at Georgetown University and was a 2019 fellow at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center's National Critics Institute. Email: nicole@dcmetrotheaterarts.com, Instagram: @nicolehertvik, Twitter: @nicolehertvik, Facebook: Nicole Hertvik.