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Southwest Orange Friday, Jan. 24, 2020 1 month ago

Dr. Phillips High grad Michael James Scott returns to Orlando as Genie in “Aladdin”

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A career in theater and singing has led Scott back to his hometown — where he discovered his passion for performance.
by: Bianca Morales Intern

Orlando is in for one magical homecoming.

Singer, actor and dancer Michael James Scott will be returning to his hometown of Orlando to reprise his role as the Genie in Disney’s “Aladdin” at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.

Scott previously played the Genie on Broadway, in London’s West End, on the North American tour and in Australia, where he originated the part and won a Helpmann Award (the Australian version of The Tony Award). In a special arrangement, the Orlando native will reprise the role in place of Korie Lee Blossey, the tour’s current Genie, to perform in front of his hometown.

Scott’s journey as an actor started in the City Beautiful, when he made appearances in commercials and theater shows and sang in live concerts around the city. He’s seen his career skyrocket since then, being cast for Broadway musicals like “Elf,” “The Book of Mormon,” “Something Rotten” and “Hair.” 

Growing up, Scott attended Dr. Phillips High School and joined the theater program under the tutelage of Karen Rugerio, the program director. While he was an artist since childhood, Scott said he discovered his love for theater in Dr. Phillips High’s visual and performing arts program.

“Dr. Phillips High School’s theater program was a great stepping stone for me,” Scott said. “I’m proud to be a part of Karen’s army of artists.”

His favorite show at Dr. Phillips was the school’s production of “Purlie” during his senior year. 

“It taught me leadership,” Scott said. “It taught me how to lead a musical.”

Scott said that “Purlie” was a demanding production, due in large part to Rugerio’s standards.

“Karen sets the bar really high,” Scott said. “She topped herself every year.”

Scott described basic theater preparation — which varies from artist to artist — in three steps: rehearsing, adding technical elements and opening the show. It’s a demanding lifestyle, Scott said.

“People don’t realize how physical and demanding it is,” Scott said. “We’re athletes. You have to be regimented.”

Regardless of the work that must be poured into preparation, the rise of the curtain and succeeding in the job is a rewarding feeling that makes it all worth it, he said.

“You let go on stage, and that’s where theater magic happens,” Scott said. 

Years later, Scott would land perhaps his largest role yet as a professional. He described the moment he landed the role of the Genie in “Aladdin” as “pure joy.”

“It’s a role that doesn’t come around often, especially for people of color,” Scott said.

The role of the Genie wasn’t initially on his radar, though, he said. Scott knew Casey Nicholaw, a Tony Award-nominated choreographer, director and performer, from his time in “The Book of Mormon” and “Something Rotten”. Nicholaw encouraged him to take on the role of the Genie — and the next thing he knew, he had the part.

“It was thanks to my earth angels,” Scott said. “Those people who believe in you when you don’t believe it yourself.

“‘Aladdin’ is a universal language,” he said. “It has a universal appeal. I’m enjoying this Genie journey right now.”

Apart from the stage life, Scott also is working on a music album. He said he’s trying to figure out the angle he wants to take with the concept. 

“People have their own language,” Scott said. “I’m working on Michael’s language. I’m trying to figure it out.” 

Scott said he almost lost his joy of performing, though, when he was younger because of insecurities.

If he could give his younger self at Dr. Phillips High some advice, he would tell him to relax and that “everything happens for a reason,” Scott said.

“I would tell him, ‘You’ll come back to that joy one day,’” Scott said. “‘People will hire you. Let the universe, God, Allah, Buddha take over.’” 

Regardless, he regained his positivity and his “joy and heart.”

“People want to be around that,” he said. “I supported myself through the arts.” 

The Dr. Phillips High grad is elated to come back to Orlando and perform at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.

“It’s such a dream to be able to bring it to my hometown,” Scott said. “It’s a gift.”

Scott highlights Orlando as a city that is supportive of the arts, whether it is theater, music or dance.

“I will be forever grateful for what the community of Orlando can do to support the arts,” Scott said. “I’m a product of that.”

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