“Princess Jasmine was the first Disney Princess of colour, so I’m honoured to be playing such an iconic role.”
Perth-born actress Shubshri Kandiah plays Princess Jasmine in the Broadway musical Aladdin, which is currently playing at Crown Theatre.
Shubshri said that she is having the time of her life doing what she loves, but her career path wasn’t certain until she finally decided to listen to her heart.
Shubshri grew up in Applecross with her family, and her training has included a one year certificate course in musical theatre at WAAPA and a three-year degree in musical theatre at Griffith University in Queensland.
When asked if she encountered any struggles while studying she said moving across Australia was difficult:
“All my family is here [in Perth], so being away from family and friends was hard, but this was the course I wanted to do”.
But dancing and singing isn’t a new concept for Shubshri:
“I grew up doing a lot of Indian dance as well as performing, and during high school I got to do more theatre.”
But Shubshri says it wasn’t an obvious career choice; after finishing high school, she studied primary education at Curtin University for two years, but realised that her passion was elsewhere, so changed direction—which was “the best feeling ever.”
“I just didn’t love [primary education]; I thought what if I tried music theatre—so I did, and, honestly, I couldn’t be happier”.
Shubshri joined the cast of Aladdin straight after graduating and said she was a bit nervous because the rest of the cast had already been performing together for a couple of years.
“I was the new person, but everyone was warm and welcoming—we are just like a big family.”
When I asked her what highlights Perth audiences can look forward to, she mentioned the incredible costumes and sets. This is unsurprising given that the musical has over 300 costumes—each one unique—and the 500,000-some glittering Swarovski crystals that have been used to make them.
Shubshri also mentions that if you grew up with the 1992 film then everything you love (and more) from that is in the Broadway version.
“They’ve added all these extra songs and dance moves into the musical and those are really the highlights!”
In the film only six of the 14 songs produced were included in the final version, so Disney fans will be glad to know that all six, plus some, are included in the musical. The show is split into two acts, each with nine musical numbers with some of Shubshri’s favourites coming from the additional songs.
Aladdin the Musical was first performed in Toronto in 2013, but now it’s shown all around the world; and the 1992 film is the highest grossing film for that year, which makes these big roles for the performers to fill.
Shubshri said the training was quite full on since she was given only three weeks to learn the role. She explains how she would come in every day and watch the show, but that a lot of her training came from all the people in the cast:
“We spend so much time together, I don’t think I could’ve asked for a lovelier group of people to spend every day with”.
In such a short amount of time Shubshri performs impeccably on stage, but even she admits she hasn’t perfected the dance moves.
She laughs before saying, “I don’t think I have mastered anything, it took a little while [to learn the dance routines], as they have unusual steps”.
Aladdin opened on July 21 and will be here for 15 weeks—until late-October. Shubshri tells me they perform an astounding eight shows a week—which means she will do 120 shows here in Perth! As overwhelming as that might seem, Shubshri doesn’t think so:
“Every show has a different energy and the audience is always different. It’s a lot of fun.
“I’m being paid to do the thing I love every day and that’s pretty rewarding.”
After finding the right career, and one she is so passionate about, Shubshri feels extremely lucky; every little girl who wishes they could be a princess when they grow up would think so too.
At the moment Shubshri doesn’t have any plans or upcoming productions once Aladdin has finished; “We’ve still got Adelaide and New Zealand to go, so we’ll see after that I guess”.
For other aspiring theatre actors and performers, Shubshri offers this advice:
“Do as many shows as you can because you learn so much from watching other people. [And] be true to yourself and don’t compare yourself to other people.”
Being a part of the cast for Aladdin is a very special opportunity for Shubshri, and makes it clear that all her studies and hard work was worthwhile. The entire production has been received well by audiences and critics alike, and it will be exciting to see what Shubshri has in store for us in the future.
For now, you can catch Shubshri Kandiah along with all the other talented cast members at Crown Theatre; but hurry, these Arabian nights won’t be sticking around forever.
Read our review of Aladdin the Musical here.