CHICAGO (CBS) — Growing up in St. Louis, Jonathon Weir was one of ten kids, so he knew he had to do something to stand out.
“I got into theater in the ninth grade on a fluke — took a drama class and never stopped,” he said.
His first big role was in Chicago with the old Body Politic Theater.
He’s also an alum of the Lincolnshire Marriott, Apple Tree Theater in Highland Park and the Steppenwolf Theater. 30 years later, he’s playing the villain, Jafar, in Broadway in Chicago’s Aladdin.
“He’s a bad guy with a heart of gold. I guess there’s something about the Disney villains and the bad guys, I tap into my inner demons,” he laughed. “It’s totally fun to be the villain. It’s so much more fun when I get to come in and mess up everyone’s good time.”
Most recently, Weir played Scar in Lion King on Broadway and immediately came back to Chicago to begin rehearsals for Aladdin.
“It’s been a whirlwind. I haven’t had a day off in years, but I’m not complaining,” he said.
The best part of the show, Weir says, is the production value and the costumes.
“At the top of Act 2, when Prince Ali comes in and the Genie has granted his first wish, there are over 100 costumes changes in less than a minute. You think the show is on stage; the show is actually backstage because there are 11 dressers backstage facilitating these changes,” he said. “It’s a huge impact on the show. It looks like a cast of 110, but it’s actually just really quick changes.”
Jafar has quite the villainous wardrobe himself.
“My costume has a better agent than I do,” he laughed again.”It’s huge. It’s a big cape and sometimes it trips me up. I have these rods in it that allows me to go into Batman mode.”
“But the costumes are amazing,” Weir continued. “At the end of Act 1, there are over 8,000 Swarovski crystals sewn on the men’s gold pants. They were made in over 24 costume shops across the country, fabrics from around the world. The head pieces, the hats, it’s really quite something.”
Weir is also an adjunct professor at Loyola University. He says the Chicago theater community is a loyal one.
“Theater audiences in Chicago are well informed, they are intelligent. I think the audiences are quite savvy here in Chicago. I’m thrilled to be performing in my adopted hometown. It’s the longest I’ve lived anywhere. I love living and performing here.”
Aladdin is playing at the Cadillac Palace Theater through September 10th.