Magic carpet ride for Ainsley and Hiba in Aladdin The Musical at Crown Theatre Perth


Hiba Elchikhe and Ainsley Melham. Picture: Andrew Ritchie d475245
Hiba Elchikhe and Ainsley Melham. Picture: Andrew Ritchie d475245

THEY may have been born on opposite sides of the world but WAAPA graduate Ainsley Melham and Londoner Hiba Elchikhe both grew up with a mutual love for Disney’s film Aladdin.

Melham was born a year before, and Elchikhe the year of, the animated movie’s 1992 release, so when Aladdin The Musical came along they automatically had a sense of nostalgia from their childhood that carried into their roles of Aladdin and Jasmine in the Australian production.

“Jasmine is obviously my favourite princess,” Elchikhe said.

“Out of all the princesses, she was the one who looked like me and she’s fiery, fierce, independent and wore trousers.

“She’s not afraid to go out and have an adventure and that’s what attracted me to play her on stage. I grew up on all the Disney films and all the princesses and to even just say now that I play a Disney princess, I have to pinch myself because it’s a dream come true. You hope to one day be part of the Disney family but you never think it will actually happen.”

Melham had a similar reaction to the role of Aladdin, asking what little boy didn’t want to run around and be fun, lovable, mischievous and get three wishes?

“It’s a brilliant character to play,” he said.

“There were absolutely nerves going in to a story that everybody knows and a film that everybody has seen. It’s your job to represent that character on stage and bring it to life and you want to make sure you do a good job for everybody. We are very lucky that the response has been positive.

“In the theatre world, Disney has become a producer you would want to work for. They are the standard and make beautiful shows.

“You wish you could be hired for a show like that and Hiba’s right, it’s a real pinch yourself moment. You meet other people from the Disney family who are working on other projects and it blows your mind and you think ‘Wow, I’m inside the Disney bubble’.”

The pair did not miss a beat when asked about their favourite moment in the musical, which was unanimously the magic carpet ride, recreated in a breathtaking theatrical spectacle for A Whole New World.

“It’s magical and you can hear the audience gasp and whisper to each other which is something special and you know you’ve got them,” Melham said.

“The first time we got to ride on the carpet was quite exciting and that first ride is what we try to create every time because for Jasmine and Aladdin that is always their first time together on the carpet.”

After graduating from WAAPA in 2012 Melham went on to join Hi-5, which he said prepared him for the demands of an eight-shows-a-week schedule.

“It was like a boot camp for a performer because we travelled through South East Asia and performed every day,” he said.

“It set me up really well to transition into this in terms of the discipline and stamina required.”

Elchikhe’s career had also taken her to Asia on a tour of musical Ghost before she auditioned in London for the Australian production of Aladdin The Musical.

“I always loved performing; it didn’t matter where it was, it could have been on the stage or my front room, I just wanted to sing in front of people,” she said.

“It’s always what I wanted to do and now it’s amazing that I get to call it my job.”

Not only do they both get to sing to an audience, but they get to do it with a magnificent set list of songs from the award-winning A Whole New World to A Friend Like Me, Prince Ali and Arabian Nights.

Melham described them as high-energy songs with brilliant lyrics that captured people’s attention.

“I think it’s a huge part of the success of the film and musical,” he said.

“It’s a treat for the audience that there are new songs in this show and songs that were originally written for the film but were taken out because it moved in a different direction,” he said.

“All of a sudden you get this inside look into what the process must have been like when creating the film.”

“And I think with the musical there is genuinely something in it for everyone,” Elchikhe said.

“There will be little girls at stage door after the show dressed as Jasmine, but their dads enjoyed it even more than them.”

Aladdin The Musical is at Crown Theatre Perth from July 19.