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James Monroe Iglehart Warms Hearts With Lots of Soul at 54 Below

Star of Broadway's Aladdin Reminisces on Stage

James Monroe Iglehart takes audiences on a musical journey in his solo act at Feinstein's 54 Below.

James Monroe Iglehart takes audiences on a musical journey in his solo act at Feinstein’s 54 Below.

James Monroe Iglehart has punch and pizzazz. Both were on display at Feinstein’s/54 Below in his solo cabaret show, “How the Heck Did I Get Here?” This Genie holds more magic in his big heart than he’s ever displayed in Broadway’s Aladdin.

Iglehart won a Tony award in 2015 for his show-stopping performance in Aladdin’s “A Friend Like Me.” What might be surprising is the number of layers beneath his comical veneer.

In his solo show, he takes audiences for a ride through his childhood passion for gospel music and the tunes he would use to win over the ladies.

All aspects of his fun-loving yet grounded character were on display with his meaningful song choices and heartfelt stories.

He sweetly recalled his mother’s influence as a gospel singer with “Long As I Got King Jesus,” and his father’s infusion of passion for theater when he was taken to see The Wiz.

In fact, Iglehart memorably played the role of the lion in his school musical at the age of 11, a part that he lovingly paid homage to with an energetic rendition of “Mean Ole Lion.”

No genre was off limits at this delightfully refreshing production, and every number was overflowing with soul and passion.

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Iglehart treated his audience to Lionel Richie’s “Hello” with as much sincerity as his performance of “Silent E” from The Electric Company, with the creative genius who wrote the adorable song, Bill Sherman, on piano..

Other landmark moments culled from his life and career included a demonstration of his free-styling skills, which were accompanied by sound mastermind Chris “Shockwave” Sullivan, a fellow member of the hit group Freestyle Love Supreme.

The show wouldn’t have been complete if Iglehart hadn’t paid homage to Memphis with his breakout number “Big Daddy,” and of course “A Friend Like Me.”

However, the sincere ballads didn’t leave a dry eye in the house, including those of the star on stage.

When he belted “My Love is Anchored in the Lord,” every angel in the metro area got its wings; his enormous emotion and belief in the power of the lyrics proved why his soulful performances are essential experiences for everyone.

Iglehart’s ruminations about his life and career were similarly moving, whether humorous, or serious.

He talked about meeting his wife in high school and his five-minute journey as a music theory major, when he discovered he could not read music.


iriswiener-smIris Wiener is an entertainment journalist. Her work appears on Playbill.com and in TheaterMania, Long Island Woman and Long Island Herald, among other publications. She writes frequently for TheImproper. Follow her on Twitter at @Iris_Wiener or visit her at IrisWiener.com.


He also recounted how his roles in Ain’t Misbehavin’–one that showed him he could sing professionally–and Showboat helped him develop as a stage actor.

Kathryn Allison, a fellow performer in Aladdin and star in her own right, joined him for the galvanizing “Honeysuckle Rose.”

Just try to hear Barry White the same way again after witnessing Iglehart’s hilarious, yet sexy duet on “Never Gonna Give You Up” with fellow Aladdin performer Trent Saunders.

The finale didn’t disappoint; Iglehart did the nearly impossible, making Elvis Presley sexier and more soulful than the artist himself.

His rendition of “Good Luck Charm” slid through the room sensually, sending toes curling and spines tingling.

Calling this a feel-good concert doesn’t do it justice. It made the entire audience feel joyous and hopeful with every note.

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