It’s safe to say that Broadway actor Adam Jacobs is living out his dreams. Jacobs, who currently is starring as the titular character in Broadway’s Aladdin and who cites The Lion King and Aladdin as two of his formative Disney films, has starred in both productions and his work includes turns in Les Miserables, as well as national tours of Mamma Mia! and Cinderella. Now, Jacobs is achieving another dream with the announcement of his debut album, which will be released Dec. 13. Titled Right Where I Belong, the album is a collection of Alan Menken songs and Jacobs reveals that his decision to honor his passion for the composer’s work wasn’t exactly accidental.
“The idea sort of hit me after working with Alan in Aladdin, which we started in 2010 and spent four years working on before it opened,” he says. “I always wanted to record an album, and I was sort of in this position of, ‘I don’t know what I’m going to do, is it going to be a generic Broadway album? No, I want it to be something more’. And I thought, I’ve always loved Alan Menken and I love working with him in Aladdin, and I’m going to perform an album of his songs because they’ve spoken to me since I was a kid. The thing with Alan Menken is, I don’t think he gets enough credit. He’s obviously got multiple awards, but how much he’s interwoven into the fabric of our culture, especially people my age, and how much he’s affected people through his storytelling, is powerful. And I thought, ‘I wanted to highlight that.’”
The fact that Menken’s songs, which Jacobs explains have “power and musicality,” have stood the test of time also contributed to Jacobs’ decision to honor the composer. “It was the storytelling, I think, that drew me in the most,” he says. “Because as an actor, that’s what I do for a living — I’m a storyteller. And Alan’s music…he’s able to tell stories and he’s able to bring out the emotions of his stories through his music in such an incredible way, unlike any other composer I know.”
Like many Broadway actors who release albums, Jacobs’ debut album is a collaborative effort on both a personal and a professional level. There’s a photo of his family included in the album insert and his sister, Broadway actress Arielle Jacobs (Wicked) makes an appearance, as well as does his wife, Kelly. (The two duet with Jacobs on “Suddenly Seymour” and “If I Never Knew You,” respectively.) A handful of Aladdin cast members also participated and sang back-up for numerous tunes. “It’s a family affair,” Jacobs says with a laugh. “The title, Right Where I Belong, is a lyric from ‘Go The Distance’ but it’s sort of indicative of where I am in my life and how I feel about starring on Broadway and raising a family. Our business is very ephemeral, it’s here and then it’s gone with each passing show. To have something to look back on, when I’m old and grey, to have for my kids…it’s special. And this being my first album makes it that much more special.”
Although the album features a handful of popular Menken tunes that fans are sure to recognize, such as “Santa Fe” (Newsies) and “Out There,” (Hunchback of Notre Dame), the album also features a few of Menken’s lesser-known tunes that Jacobs is excited for fans to hear. “I actually went up to his studio, and we went through all of his songs pretty much,” he reveals. “I said my themes and ideas are hero songs, dreamer songs, underdog songs…because those are the ones that are always the most powerful to me. So we went through the entire catalogue, and he was picking out songs left and right and some stuff I’d never heard of. And obviously some of it didn’t work, but there was some really great stuff — songs from Hercules for example that weren’t used in the movie. Or there’s a song called “Sailing On” which very few people know.” Also included in the album is Jacobs’ Broadway Aladdin anthem, “Proud Of Your Boy,” which also happens to be another song that wasn’t initially included in the 1992 film.
“I’m doing a really cool acapella version of it, with me signing all the voices underneath,” he says. “We got a bunch of songs that were originally slated for the film and then they didn’t make it, so it’s cool we brought them back for the show. And now I’m sort of bringing back Menken’s earlier works in my album, which is a cool parallel.”
The album process was a tightly collaborative experience, as Jacobs executive produced the project with co-producer Allan Detsky and music director and arranger James Abbott. “I learned so much,” he says about the process of putting together his debut record. “So much work that goes into making an album, just like a Broadway show…there’s a lot of preparation before you get to the recording studio, and you want to have everything set. It’s been almost five months in making it and I was there through the mixing, the comping, the mastering…me and my co-producer, Allan, he’s up in Toronto, and Jim, he’s been the man wearing multiple hats. And the three of us have just been going through it. If I ever make a next one, I think I’ll be in a lot better position to get it done more efficiently,” he adds with a laugh. Asked if another album would be in the works down the line — or if he would stretch his creative wings writing his own songs — the actor doesn’t rule it out.
“I haven’t written any songs, I haven’t gotten into composing, although it is something down the line that I’ve thought about doing,” he says. “I like the idea of having a theme or making it specific with an album, so that people sort of understand it. I wouldn’t call this a tribute album necessarily, but it’s almost like when you look at someone’s body of work. And it becomes sort of a collector’s album in that way.”
A collector’s album that fans, no doubt, will enjoy listening to as much as Jacobs enjoyed making it. “I’m super excited to share this album with my fans and with people who are familiar with Alan Menken’s work — and people who aren’t, or probably who are aware and just don’t know it,” he says. “I’m honored to be able to sing his work and really highlight how much he’s affected my life and, I’m sure, other people’s lives as well.”
Check out a sizzle reel below, featuring footage from Jacobs’ recording experience. Right Where I Belong” will be released Dec. 13 and will be available on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify and Google Music. Physical copies of the CD can also be bought at the New Amsterdam Theatre.