Full Circle: ‘Aladdin’ cast member Taylor Mckenzie Smith is back home

Taylor Mackenzie Smith (above) during a panel discussion inside the Marquee Room at The Fox Theatre, Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024. Smith was born and raised in Atlanta, and visited The Fox several times during her youth. “It’s truly full circle,” she said. Photo by Kerri Phox/The Atlanta Voice

“Aladdin”, the hit Broadway musical of the Disney classic film, is at The Fox Theatre this week from Jan. 11-14 and for one of the cast members the trip to Atlanta is much more than a tour stop. It’s a homecoming.

“I grew up here,” said actress and dancer Taylor Mackenzie Smith, who is in the ensemble for the production, and made many trips to The Fox asa kid, whether on school field trips or with her family. “It’s truly full circle.”

“Aladdin” stars actors Adi ray as the title character, Marcus M. Martin as “Genie”, and Senzel Ahmady as “Jasmine”, but for Smith’s family, friends and mentors this is week-long production taking place just miles from where she grew up in the Cascade neighborhood is a true start turn. Her parents have already seen the show, and there are plans for her former dance teacher, Djana Bell to come see her Friday.

“It’s been just a blend all through the week,” said Smith about how many family and friends have come to The Fox to see the show. She is looking forward to seeing Bell, who taught her the art of dance at Norma’s Academy of Dance on Jonesboro Rd. in Fairburn beginning when she was three years old.

Taylor Mackenzie Smith (above) during a panel discussion inside the Marquee Room at The Fox Theatre, Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024. Smith was born and raised in Atlanta, and visited The Fox several times during her youth. “It’s truly full circle,” she said. Photo by Kerri Phox/The Atlanta Voice

“She really helped me learn my love for musical theater,” said Smith of Bell, who she remains in contact with today. “She really got me from point A to point B.”

Atlanta is home for Smith, who attended the Children’s School and Woodward Academy before matriculating to Spelman College where she majored in Drama and minored in dance. Both skills would serve her well following graduation when she moved to New York to pursue a career on stage. The inspirations that stoked the fires of that dream started at Norma’s, but also from the seats of a production of “Beauty and the Beast” on Broadway in 1998. There a young Smith saw Grammy Award-winning singer Toni Braxton play “Belle” and knew she wanted to be on stage one day. Braxton was the first Black actress to lead a Disney Broadway production.

The cast members of “Aladdin”; (left to right, back row) Marcus M. Martin (Genie), Adi Roy (Aladdin), Senzel Ahmady (Jasmine) along with students from the Ron Clark Academy pose for a photo following a panel discussion about the show, which is taking place at The Fox Theatre this week. Photo by Kerri Phox/The Atlanta Voice

“It meant the world to me to see that,” Smith remembers. “My parents were adamant about getting us to that show. I can remember just being overwhelmed with emotion.”

The moment remains so vivid in Smith’s memory that she can recall what she had on that night. She wore a yellow gown with a tiara. “The Disney world has been a part of my life forever,” said Smith.

Asked what Atlanta means to her, Smith, who wore a navy blazer with a Spelman crest on it, said, “It means home, nostalgia, community, support and an appreciation of the arts.”

Her parents still live in Cascade and she recently visited home during the Christmas holiday. Before that however, trips home have been infrequent due to the busy schedule a production like “Aladdin” commands. Smith has been a part of the ensemble since August 2022, and in February there was a layover that turned into a flight delay long enough for her to return to her childhood home to see her parents.

Smith says Atlanta will always be home no matter where her career takes her. “This is why we go on tour, to play our hometowns,” said Smith. “To be able to be down the street from where I grew up and went to school is truly full circle.”

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