The Genie is all set to fulfill your wishes, and it's with a song.
In virtually every performance of "Disney's Aladdin" on Broadway and on the national tour, his delivery of "Friend Like Me" has brought down the house.
Casey Nicholaw, who directed and choreographed the boffo number in the Alan Menken musical, said that he and his creative team made one discovery after another as they built the madcap sequence in tryouts in Seattle and in rehearsals in New York.
As he worked on the 2014 Broadway production whose national tour returns Tuesday to the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis, Nicholaw sought a theatrical language to match the entertaining zaniness of the sequence in the 1992 film on which the musical is based.
"When you watch the movie with Robin Williams, he just keeps shapeshifting as the Genie," said Nicholaw, who won Tonys for directing "The Book of Mormon" and choreographing "Some Like It Hot." "We can't do that onstage, so we change the channel, so to speak, and bring in different styles."
The role requires a strenuous workout. ESPN did a sports science report on the exceptional athleticism of the Genie's marathon number in which the actor gets in about 900 steps, or 0.4 miles.
"I've watched every Genie lose weight," Nicholaw said.
That's certainly true of Marcus Martin, who plays the granter of wishes in this national tour. "It's like 10 minutes of being ridiculous on the stamina side," he said.
That Martin is playing the Genie at all is the fulfillment of one of his wildest dreams. The Akron, Ohio, native was 16 when he became inspired by watching James Monroe Iglehart, who won a Tony for the role in 2015.
"Because I'm a plus-sized African American actor, I was told many times that I had to tone myself down or there would be no place for me in the field," Martin said. "But when I saw him on that telecast being so fabulous and amazing in his own skin, my mind was blown. Ever since then, I became obsessed with this role and eventually got an audition."
We asked Nicholaw and Martin to break down the anatomy of "Friend Like Me." Martin also shared bits about how he paces himself and the regimen he uses so that he's able to maintain his instrument for eight shows a week.
The opening: The Genie bounces onto the stage in the Agrabah marketplace, where he dances and scats like a jazz impresario. He puts a hand on Aladdin's shoulder, trying to make him comfortable as he continues to sing and dance.
"It has to start small and at a place where Aladdin doesn't participate," Nicholaw said. "The Genie is talking him into three wishes."
The elements: The opening scene tips its hat to brassy jazz legend Cab Calloway, with musical and tonal references to his most famous number, "Minnie the Moocher."
"What I love about Cab Calloway is how he would tell the story of his song with his face," Martin said. "That's also something I try to bring to my Genie. Facial animation represents some of the shapeshifting that he's able to do."
The dancing waiters: Wearing cone-shaped fezzes and baggy trousers, a cadre of servers dance stylishly onto the stage, trays in hand and feet sliding on the floor as the Genie sings to Aladdin: "Life is your restaurant and I'm your maitre d'." Then the Genie asks Aladdin: "Can your friends do this? Can your friends do that?" as the waiters tumble and flip and help him with some magic tricks.
"They're trying to seduce Aladdin into their world," Nicholaw said. "They're making [Aladdin's] dreams come true."
The build: The Genie snaps his fingers and curtains fall away from pillars to reveal female dancers. The Genie says, "Go, get 'em, ladies," and leaves while they dance. He has a 30-second break.
The Broadway medley: The Genie returns to directly address the audience. He launches into a cabaret medley of Broadway songs, including numbers from "Beauty and the Beast," "The Little Mermaid" and "The Lion King."
"You have to be strategic about where you exert the most energy and maintain your vocal technique so that you're not pushing too hard," Martin said. "Pushing out sound requires a lot of energy and I don't want to be wiped out by the time I get to the tap break. But once we get to the Alan Menken medley, we're in the homestretch."
The diversion: This is the game show moment in the production where both male and female dancers get a chance to change into their "Dancing With the Stars" outfits.
"I'm not doing a lot of dancing or singing quite as hard here, so I collect myself," Martin said. "I just have fun and try to be a little goofy and silly."
The tap break: The dancers return for a massive, splashy tap number. "I check in with myself one last time to make sure I have a good amount of air, that my breath is good," Martin said.
"Gimme a doggie bag — I'm taking it home": Some eight minutes in, the Genie leads a big, splashy finish that wraps up everything with boisterous singing, snazzy dancing and dazzling shooting star pyrotechnics.
"One of the biggest compliments I get is that I don't look tired or out of breath afterward," Martin said. "That's a credit to Casey, who's an actor's director and who paces it so well."
It may also be a credit to his acting as the magic-making Genie.
When: 7:30 p.m. Tue.-Fri., 2 & 7:30 p.m. Sat., 1 & 6:30 p.m. Sun.
Where: Orpheum Theatre, 910 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls.
Tickets: $40-$179. hennepintheatretrust.org.