by Jacob Gutierrez
Aside from the tradition of the trip itself, there are several cornerstones that have found their way into every Agraboys outing. The “choreography game” usually follows a big, family-style dinner. Cast member Angelo Soriano hits a beat, and every person is required to make up a four-count of choreography that is added on, person by person, as we go around the circle. What you don’t realize at the start, is how, in a few short counts, every single person’s personality shines. Their humor, their style (and believe me, these Agraboys got style), their exuberance — the very essence of “them.” What occurs is a celebration of each individual, but in the larger sense, their individuality as it makes up the whole.
About twice a year, the men of Broadway’s Aladdin take a moment away from our every day at the New Amsterdam Theatre and escape the city to celebrate brotherhood. It’s a time to unwind, bond, and just be — sans #guyliner, turbans, and about 14 costume changes. Since its inception in 2014 (the same year Aladdin opened on Broadway), the trip and traditions have grown.
It began with our former male dance captain, who had a connection to a large house out of town, hosted several ensemble guys there to enjoy their day off. Other destinations have ranged from upstate New York to Fire Island, and talks are already underway for our next outing. The only requirements for a location are 1. A house big enough to host (and with a record-breaking 17 guys who went this time, it’s gotta be a pretty big house.) 2. A hot tub. 3. Anywhere between 1-2 hours away. Thankfully, with where we live, a plethora of escapes are a quick trip away via Airbnb or Homeaway apps. As any New Yorker knows, there is something instantly relaxing the moment you get off the island of Manhattan.
Once at the house, vacation immediately begins. Guys are cooking, hot tubbing, playing ping pong, pouring cocktails, laughing. And laughing. And laughing. Laughter is never in short supply with the Men of Agrabah. The trips have found some tried and true staples: a signature cocktail, a walk/hike out in nature, group games, rotational cooking of feasts in the kitchen, drone footage, and a pretty rockin’ highlight video that recaps the trip in the days following.
The trip is a blast, but it’s also a commitment. As a Broadway actor, that singular day off in an 8-show week is so precious. It’s your personal time to catch up, rest, audition, meal prep, see loved ones. So to commit to going out of town with your cast on that day off can feel daunting, but the commitment is tenfold in reward. The bonds of brotherhood that stem from even a mere 36 hours away is unparalleled groundwork that can take weeks to form at the theatre.
I tend to get into ‘work mode’ while at the theatre. I have a pretty strict pre-show routine that I hate being late for, so sometimes, I sacrifice socializing in the dressing room for the sake of being warm and ready for the show. And then, with the nature of theatre, interactions during the show itself tend to be 30 seconds here, two minutes there. The trip gives all of us a moment to just be present with each other. No fight calls, no five-minute calls. The strictest “call” we have is a “hey, dinner is ready!” (And with a cast full of chefs, those dinners do not disappoint.)
As we sat in a big circle before our final group dinner, Dennis Stowe gave a toast. Although I’m paraphrasing, the takeaway was this: there is a lot to be said about the familial bonds that exist in the company of Aladdin. Considering the cast is 75% men, the bonds among the Brothers of Agrabah speak volumes, and the audience sees that, night after night, up on the New Amsterdam stage. They see men and women who love coming to work, who genuinely care about each other and who possess a deep sense of shared joy — a joy that cannot be manufactured.
Someone asked me at the show the night we got back what my favorite part of the trip was. My initial response, without hesitation, was one tiny moment. It could otherwise seem meaningless, but the joy it captured was priceless: A living room full of guys lying by the fire, Jaz Sealey playing acoustic guitar, and Trent Saunders in the corner ‘serenading’ Mark DiConzo with John Mayer’s “Stop this Train,” sung without consonants… which was, of course, accompanied with communal gut laughter.
And therein lies the reason we take the trip: to celebrate what each person brings to family. Every person is valued. Men and women alike.
There are few companies like the company of Aladdin. “Grateful” doesn’t even begin to describe it. We got a good thing goin’ over there in Agrabah, and anyone who sees it in person, will likely say the same thing.