by Heather Makalani
After my put-in as Jasmine, the associate director said, “Heather, welcome to Broadway!” I had the biggest excitement rush into my stomach. I felt like a giddy little girl. That was the “Oh my gosh, this is crazy! This is actually happening!”
I grew up on the island of Guam and did not leave till I was 21. I wanted to further my training, and the owner of the dance school I went to suggested I look at some of the schools Australia had to offer. In my research, I found the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) in Perth where Hugh Jackman studied. The music theatre program only takes 10 girls and 10 boys every year, but I decided to fly to their Sydney round of auditions anyway to give it a shot. I got in, moved to Perth and got my Bachelors of Arts in Music Theatre.
In my graduating year, I was debating whether or not I should move to the States. At the same time, Aladdin was auditioning for their Australian production. I was in the Australian production for two and a half years in the ensemble, as well as understudying Jasmine. And when my visa to stay in Australia was coming to an end, I emailed the associate director and casting director of Aladdin asking if there were any opportunities to audition for the tour or Broadway and to please keep me in mind.
Right before my contract was ending in Australia, they replied. There was a temporary opening on Broadway, so they asked if I was interested in auditioning. At that point, I FLIPPED and I hadn’t even booked the job yet. Long story short. I sent in a self test of me doing some material for the show. About a week later, I found out that I booked the job. I couldn’t believe it!
Aladdin is such a wonderful show to be a part of. It’s so beautiful to see the show transcend and touch people from all over the world. And it’s really special because each production is a little bit different from the other. Costume, plot, and set are mostly the same, but there a different magic tricks and lines that are changed slightly. For example Jasmine says ‘royal nappies’ in Australia, and on Broadway she says ‘royal diapers.’ And some of the choreography differs where it’s a right arm up first instead of a left arm, or its a flexed hand instead of a straight hand. After doing it the same way for two years, the habits were a little hard to break .
If you were to have told me earlier on this year, “Heather: this year you’re going to move to New York and make your Broadway debut in Aladdin,” I would’ve laughed in your face. Life threw me the best curve ball and gave me an opportunity to make a lifelong dream come true. I’ve always told myself that I wanted to be on Broadway, and now here I am getting to do what I love and seeing people enjoy themselves in the audience. Nothing beats that.