Disney’s Aladdin (onstage at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall Jan. 24-29 in its Sarasota premiere) is a tale about a scrappy young street urchin, a genie, a princess and a magical lamp. For 24-year-old actress Victoria Byrd, known as Tori, the national tour—her very first—has likewise been a magical experience, one she dreamed about growing up and receiving much of her theatrical training in Sarasota.
“All of that training really helped me,” says Byrd, both in successfully auditioning for Aladdin (she’s in the ensemble and also understudies the role of Princess Jasmine) and in keeping up the grueling schedule a national tour means.
“I’ve found my tips and tricks,” she says, of moving from city to city and performing up to eight shows a week. “I’ve got my packing cubes, my bags of tea, especially in cold cities. Plus, we have a great physical therapist with us on tour.”
Byrd, whose parents Sandra and Barry still live in Sarasota, credits her strong background in dance (she attended dance school from a very young age, including at the Sarasota Ballet) and her mentors right here in town (among them: Booker High VPA teachers Scott Keys and Johnnie Mnich and WBTT’s artistic director Nate Jacobs) with giving her the discipline she also uses on her rigorous schedule.
“I love to explore each city I’m in—the little thrift stores, the museums, the downtown areas—but I also know I have to get enough rest,” she says. “You have to listen to your body.”
Byrd may be familiar to Sarasota audiences, if not from Booker shows like Hairspray and Annie Get Your Gun, then from WBTT’s Harry and Lena, while she was still in high school, or Asolo Rep’s West Side Story. She says the VPA program is “where I fell in love with musical theater,” especially during the last show of her freshman year, The Wiz. “Booker gave me an acting foundation for college, and college [she received her BFA in Musical Theatre from the Boston Conservatory] gave me the prep for the real world.”
The current Aladdin tour hits 36 cities in all, including Sarasota, but even more performances may be announced later in the run. Byrd can’t help but hope that, eventually, she will get to take the stage as Jasmine. But in the meantime, she says she’s still learning from and enjoying life in the ensemble cast.
“I think the audience helps” in keeping the work fresh, she says. “In every city we have different audiences, and we play off that and off each other. The tour is pared down a little from the Broadway production for travel, but it’s still the same stunningly magical show.”
And what’s there to look forward to after Aladdin? Having fulfilled her goal to be part of a national tour, naturally Byrd hopes one day to shine on Broadway. “That’s every performer’s dream,” she says. In the meantime, her Sarasota family and friends will be flocking to the Van Wezel.
For tickets to Disney’s Aladdin, call the box office at (941) 263-6799 or visit vanwezel.org.