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  • Writer's picturePenny Neef

Anand Nagraj - Coming Home in Disney’s Aladdin

Words by Penny Neef. Photos courtesy of Seven Venues.

He had me at “Hello”. I spoke to Anand Nagraj, who plays the evil “wicked wazir”/advisor Jafar, in Disney’s Aladdin, coming to Chrysler Hall in Norfolk on Wednesday, October 25 through Sunday, October 29.

Anand Nagraj’s deep voice, melodious yet slightly sinister, came booming over the phone. “I come by the evil laugh naturally” he said as he laughed. I doubt Nagraj has a sinister bone in his body. He’s perfected the role of Jafar, one of Disney’s great villains, over the past year as he’s toured with the Aladdin company across the United States.

This is not Nagraj’s first time performing at Chrysler Hall. He was born in Newport News and grew up in Yorktown. His dad is a doctor at the VA, and mom is a nurse. Nagraj studied vocal music at University of Richmond. He was always active in local singing groups. He made his debut on the stage of Chrysler Hall with the Virginia Symphony Orchestra Chorus as a teen. Mom and Dad still live in Yorktown. They will be in the audience to see their son perform next week.

After Nagraj received his MFA in acting from University of Delaware, he figured there were three places to launch his acting/musical career – Los Angeles, New York or Chicago. He chose Chicago, and has been working as a professional actor/musician/singer ever since. Nagraj has performed in theaters all over Chicago. He’s acted in the TV shows Chicago Fire and Chicago P.D. His deep, booming voice has given him many opportunities in voiceover work. Aladdin is his first Broadway touring show, and he loves it.

Nagraj watched the animated version of Aladdin as a boy. He says that the live, Broadway version of Aladdin is “the best of both worlds. You have the characters and the music from the film, and then you have almost an equal number of new songs. Some of these new songs were written for the original, animated movie and weren’t used because of time, others are brand new for the stage.”

Nagraj also loves playing Jafar. He has the perfect voice for the part. Nagraj has perfected the evil laugh, which he gets to do a lot. “There is a great duality to Jafar. He is the advisor to the Sultan and plays his public role as polite and smooth. Behind the scenes, he is always plotting and scheming. As an actor, this is a fun role to play.”

Aladdin is a story for all ages. It’s the story of a young man who is all alone in the world and has to steal to eat. He’s given the opportunity to have three wishes for anything he wants. It’s a story about being true to yourself and being honest with others. Nagraj says he is proud of his role and everyone in the production “in my own special evil way.”

Anand Nagraj is thrilled to be coming back to Norfolk with Disney’s Aladdin. “Hampton Roads is such a great place for the arts. I’m excited and proud to be back at Chrysler Hall with Aladdin. See you soon.”

Disney’s Aladdin, the first show in this season’s Broadway in Norfolk series comes to Chrysler Hall on Wednesday, October 25 through Sunday, October 29 with eight performances. For more information and to purchase tickets, click here -

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