The singer and actress on her starring role in West End’s Aladdin and how growing up with disabled parents taught her how to make the most of all opportunities
Written by Rykesha Hudson 25/06/2016 04:00 PM
LEADING LADY: Jade Ewen [Photo credit: Helen Maybanks]
EVERY YOUNG girl grows up wanting to be a Disney princess.
With an unlimited supply of stunning dresses, a Prince Charming to call your own and the promise of happily ever after, what’s not to love?
Former Sugababe Jade Ewen has had one of her childhood wishes granted as she takes on the part of sassy Princess Jasmine in the screen-to-stage adaptation of the Disney classic Aladdin at Prince Edward Theatre in London. One week in, she’s has already won rave reviews.
The 1992 animation was formative stuff for Ewen, who still remembers the first time she watched Jasmine on her television screen.
“I just love Aladdin,” she told The Voice.
“I love the songs, I love the magic and I love Jasmine. Jasmine was so exotic and she was the first princess I saw who slightly resembled me,” says the actress, who was born to a Jamaican mother and a Scottish-Sicilian father.
“But I never ever dreamed that I would be playing her - and I remember when I heard about the audition for it, I was too scared to allow myself to get excited about the possibility... because it’s so, so tough.
“Just to book a leading lady role… it’s not an easy thing to do. So when they told me I’d got it, I screamed. I screamed and screamed and I couldn’t believe it. It’s more than I could have asked for.”
With 108 costume changes in two minutes in just one song, more than 2.8 million crystals used, and a real life flying carpet, Aladdin is certainly the biggest show in the West End right now.
“It doesn’t get more glamorous and opulent than this,” Ewen gushes. “It’s stunning. It’s going to be an incredible experience for the audience.”
The 28-year-old first came into the public eye as a Eurovision hopeful - finishing fifth in 2009 and making her the UK’s most successful act in the last 12 years.
Before that, Ewen, who replaced Keisha Buchanan in Sugababes in September 2009 before the group officially split in 2011, actually started her performance career in West End’s The Lion King where she played a young Nala.
“Disney has always been a massive part of the reason why I perform, because it was my introduction to musical theatre,” she enthuses.
“Growing up, my two favourite Disney films were The Lion King and Aladdin, so I’ve managed to do them both now. She adds: “Coming back to the West End is nice, it’s like a homecoming.”
Ewen grew up in Plaistow, east London, with her two siblings and her parents who both suffer from severe disabilities.
Her father, Trevor is blind and partially deaf and her mother, Carol, is partially blind. As the eldest of three children, Ewen was largely responsible for the day-to-day running of family life.
POP PRINCESSES: The Disney star (left) with Heidi Range (centre) and Amelle Berrabah as part of the Sugababes
But as her performing career kicked off, and she became more successful, she wasn’t able to spend much time at home.
“It’s a complicated thing really - I always felt like my parents wanted to see me succeed. They struggled with not having the best opportunities in life because of their disabilities. So my parents really stressed that I made the best of every opportunity I was given and talent I was born with,” she explains.
“The way I see it, if I’m successful, I’m able to help them more. I may not have been there physically, but I feel like, while pursuing this career, I am able to support them more than before. You do feel a little guilty about not helping out with the day-to-day stuff, but then I feel quite proud that I can take care of them in the long-term.”
The Londoner, who says she’d loved to portray the late Donna Summers in a biopic of the Queen of Disco’s life, adds: “I have to say, though, that being a young carer has more positives than negatives for me in my life. It made me stronger than I realise. I can get the job done, which is really useful in my line of work – where I have to focus and the hours can sometimes be gruelling. And I didn’t miss out, it wasn’t a bad experience – it helped me overcome obstacles.”