In 2015, the stars aligned for Adam and Arielle Jacobs — he was playing the lead role in “Aladdin” and she was cast as Nessarose on “Wicked” — and for the first time, both siblings were on big Broadway hits at the same time. Arielle made her Broadway debut as Nina Rosario in “In The Heights” in 2010, opposite Lin-Manuel Miranda while Adam made his debut four years earlier as Marius in the 2006 revival of “Les Miserables.”
The siblings’ journey to Broadway began when they both got their first taste of professional theatre and performed in one musical called “Honor Song for Crazy Horse” at the Mountain View Center for Performing Arts in California, where they were cast as Native Americans – Adam, then 14, was Little Hawk and Arielle was Blue Swan.
It was Arielle who got into performing first, taking violin and dance lessons and studying ballet, tap and jazz, and eventually moving to singing. She influenced Adam and told him to try singing lessons because they were enjoyable.
“Adam started piano when he was four, I wanted to be a pop singer like Mariah Carey or Whitney Houston and so I started taking lessons and fell in love with it. I said to Adam — you should take lessons, too. It’s fun. So he did,” Arielle shared.
The Jacobs family lived in Half Moon Bay, California until both kids were old enough to spread their wings. Both went to college in NYU, Adam finishing with a BFA in Theater at Tisch School of the Arts while Arielle graduated with a Bachelor of Music degree in Vocal Performance and concentration on musical theater.
After graduating from NYU, Adam worked the regional theaters, performed on cruise ships, and toured the country as Cinderella’s Prince before landing his first Equity (Actor’s Union) production as Nanki-poo in Marriott Theater’s Hot Mikado. His star shone brighter when he was given the opportunity to play Marius in the national tour of “Les Miserables.” This job led to him being cast in the Broadway revival and his subsequent Broadway debut.
Since “Les Miserables,” his journey brought him to the islands of “Mamma Mia!” and to the African pridelands of “The Lion King” where he was cast as Simba. He’s also gone from the tropics of “Once On This Island” to the Arabian city of Agrabah in “Aladdin.”
Adam met his future wife Kelly while doing a Christmas show in Hershey, PA. She was a rag-doll/ballerina and he was a well-padded, white-bearded Santa Claus (with black eyebrows). Sparks flew, and led to them getting married, their union blessed with the arrival of their twin sons Jack and Alex in 2014.
After college, Arielle on the other hand moved to Los Angeles and lived there for eight years, returning to New York in 2013 and eventually booking “Wicked,” which she did for a year. Last year, she was cast as Jasmine in the Australian production of “Aladdin.“
Asked if performing is in their genes, Arielle replied, “My mom’s parents have beautiful voices but they don’t sing professionally. My mom sings and plays piano; my dad’s mother was a cabaret singer in the 40s. She sang with the Tommy Dorsey Band when she was 15. She never had it as a career, really.”
Both siblings were on major Broadway top-earners. Did they ever think it would happen?
“No, never. I dreamed of it for myself, he might have. But it never really occurred to me that we would be on Broadway at the same time. I don’t know why, I just didn’t,” she said.
Arielle then lavished her brother with praise.
“I saw him in his high school performances in San Francisco and he was leagues beyond everyone else onstage and it was obvious that he had the potential and the talent to be on Broadway and I knew at the back of my brain that I was going to be on Broadway. But I never put it together,” she said laughing.
Upside and downside
In a previous interview with the Asian Journal, Adam mentioned about not going after shows that have already cast Arielle as the female romantic lead. Arielle chipped in with her thoughts.
“That happened to us! He did Zorro in Atlanta and I would have loved to play the Catherine Zeta Zones part, but he was already cast as Zorro. The casting director called my agent and said they would love to see me and my agent told the casting director, ‘You know that Adam and Arielle are brother and sister, right?’ and they said, ‘Ohhhh, yeah. That won’t work.’ So they just cancelled my audition,” she recalled.
She also had an audition for Jasmine for “Aladdin,” and this was before they made the cast announcement because Arielle thought that at that time, they weren’t sure if he got the part.
Outside the musical realm, Adam and Arielle worked together last year on a cabaret concert at 54 Below, calling the show Sibling Disobedience. They did a powerful combination of pop and musical theater, both their interests.
“I was the one who wanted to perform. You know how it is. I would put on shows in my living room, Adam wouldn’t do it. When we went to family gatherings, my mom would always want us to sing songs for the family and I would love it. I would sing a lot, and my brother would begrudgingly sing one. He hated it. I was the one who craved for the audience,” Arielle said.
Adam and Arielle’s mom Abby (short for Avelene) was 14 when her entire family moved to the United States, eventually spreading out across the country. She and her husband now live in New Jersey.
Asked about the roles she wanted to do, Arielle rattled off her list.
“I had dream roles. I wanted to be Maria in West Side Story, Kim in “Miss Saigon,” although maybe I am getting too old for both. I was obsessed with Sunset Boulevard, I used to listen to the soundtrack over and over. Maybe one day, when I’m 60,” she said.
“I have my eye on Hamilton. I’d love to be in that. Or Aladdin. When my brother leaves,” she said back then, breaking into laughter. That was months before it was announced that Adam would be leaving the Broadway production to lead Aladdin’s national tour.
Being bi-racial has been a little tricky for Arielle.
“It’s a double-edged sword. It has definitely cost me some roles. If I didn’t have dark hair and dark skin, I would have been offered the part. Recently, there was a part I didn’t get because they wanted someone with red hair and blue eyes. I can play Hispanic or Middle Eastern or Native American or Latina, it’s theater,” she said.
Off-Broadway, she has starred in two world-premiere plays by Pulitzer-winning playwright and director Nilo Cruz; entitled Sotto Voce (as Lucila Pulpo, a Colombian) and Farhad or the Secret of Being (as Farhad, a young Afghan girl who was raised as a boy to avoid social exile but then reaches puberty and struggles with the limitations of becoming a woman in the Middle East.)
Earlier in her career, she was also seen in the original National Touring companies of In The Heights (as Nina) and Disney’s High School Musical (Gabriella), and in Dreamcatcher Theatre’s production of Into The Woods (as the Baker’s Wife), opposite Broadway legend Tituss Burgess as the Witch.
These days, Adam is on the road leading the national touring production of Aladdin while Arielle is working on her debut album called “A Leap in the Dark”.
The Jacobs siblings credit their Filipino mother and Jewish father not just for their mixed ethnicity, which has allowed both of them to play such varied roles so far, but more importantly for their whole-hearted encouragement to pursue a life in the arts.