Williams, who died on Aug. 11, portrayed the role of the fast-talking, pop culture-referencing Genie in the 1992 movie that is the basis for the show. Actor James Monroe Iglehart, who is currently playing the Genie on stage and won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for the role, was the one who led the tribute to Williams that took place after the show.
“Yesterday, we lost one of the greatest – not comedians, but one of the greatest entertainers of all time,” Iglehart told the audience. “So we’re only going to do this once, because we don’t want to drag something on, because first and foremost, we want to give our hearts and our prayers and our thoughts to his family because he’s a husband and a father first, entertainer second. But for tonight… I want us to just sing a little bit of ‘Friend Like Me’ before we go.”
The audience sang a shortened version of the song and ended with cheering and applause, with many audience members giving Iglehart a standing ovation. Check out the full video.
Williams received widespread critical praise for his performance in “Aladdin,” which follows a peasant boy who lives on the streets but dreams of a better life and falls in love with a princess. When he rubs a lamp and finds that a genie can grant him three wishes, he believes his luck may have finally changed.
Christian Science Monitor movie critic David Sterritt singled out Williams for special attention in his review of “Aladdin,” writing that “typically for a Disney production… the movie's best fun arises not from its hero and heroine but from a secondary figure who helps them reach their goals: the hyperactive Genie, modeled directly on the hyperactive Robin Williams, who provides the character's voice. ‘Character’ is really the wrong word here, since this Genie is a one-person variety show of imitations, impressions, and Post-Modern pastiches whose voice and appearance can change in the twinkling of a Hollywood edit - mimicking children's favorites like Pinocchio, grownup icons like William F. Buckley Jr., and others too numerous to mention or even keep track of. Rarely have Mr. Williams's talents been put to better use, and all this without even showing his face!”