Sonya Balsara grew up watching Disney’s animated “Aladdin” and actually played Jasmine in her middle school production of “Aladdin, Jr.” Now, she takes the stage as the famed princess at Broadway’s New Amsterdam Theatre eight times a week. Though Balsara first stepped in as Jasmine on Broadway temporarily last fall, she assumed the role full-time in January.
In the latest episode of “The Broadway Show with Tamsen Fadal,” the actor digs into her theatrical roots and highlights the various people and experiences that inspired her to pursue performing.
“Jasmine was one of my favorite princesses as a kid,” Balsara said. Playing the part as a tween, Balsara recalled the opportunity as the first that placed her in a leading role.
But “Aladdin” and other contemporary musicals weren’t Balsara’s only influence. The actor, who has Parsi, Hindu and European-American roots, recalled the impact of seeing a local high school’s production of “Oklahoma!” as a kid. “I went home and rented the movie and then paused and played the movie over and over again,” she said.
Inspired by the musical, Balsara wrote her own script and cast her friends in the show. They’d rehearse at recess and eventually put the show on in her living room.
In high school, Balsara’s love of performing and her academics collided. “My dad was driving me to AP Bio at 5:30 in the morning one day, and in classic Brown dad fashion was like, ’You have to decide what you want to do with the rest of your life.’” A sophomore at that time, Balsara remembered thinking that if she had to choose a career path at that moment with no regrets, it would be theater. Balsara went on to study at New York University and graduated with a BFA in Drama from the Tisch School of the Arts.
Years later, when Balsara took her first Broadway bow, her entire family was in the audience. “It totally took my breath away,” she said.
Balsara called it an honor and privilege to portray the princess, especially for those who don’t always see themselves properly represented onstage. “Jasmine really represents people who look at the world in a different way and are willing to fight for the vision of the world they want to see.”
This week’s episode of “The Broadway Show” features an interview with “Pictures From Home” star and Tony Award winner Nathan Lane. Viewers can also catch interviews with the cast and creative teams of two upcoming Broadway productions: “New York, New York” and “Camelot.” Actors Oscar Isaac and Rachel Brosnahan chat about “The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window,” currently playing at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Perry Sook chats with some of the singing waitstaff at popular Theater District dining spot Ellen’s Stardust Diner.
“The Broadway Show with Tamsen Fadal” airs on weekends. Check your local listings for air time and channel.