Broadway Star Visits Chatham For ‘The Hero Of My Imagination’ Event

by Jennifer Sexton-Riley
Jonathan Freeman. Jonathan Freeman.

Attendees of “The Hero of my Imagination,” an event created by Chatham photographer, filmmaker and author Kim Roderiques to celebrate neurodiversity in the arts, will have a rare opportunity to meet a Broadway icon at the Chatham Orpheum Theater on Thursday, June 20 at 7 p.m.

Jonathan Freeman, known as the voice of evil vizier Jafar in Disney’s 1992 animated feature “Aladdin,” recreated his celebrated role on Broadway for eight years. Freeman is the only actor from the original cast of the animated film to bring his character from screen to the Broadway stage. His other iconic Disney on Broadway roles include Admiral Boom in “Mary Poppins,” Grimsby in “The Little Mermaid,” and Cogsworth in “Beauty and the Beast.”

Freeman has a personal connection to the town of Chatham. In 2013 he directed “She Loves Me” at the Monomoy Theater. Years earlier, in 1993, he received a Tony Award Nomination for his acting role in the Broadway show “She Loves Me.”

At the “The Hero of my Imagination” event, the Broadway star will join a panel of producers, writers and artistic directors. All proceeds from ticket sales will benefit Cape Abilities, whose mission is to support individuals with disabilities on Cape Cod by educating, counseling and providing residential, therapeutic, social and employment supports that empower individuals to achieve meaningful and valued roles in the community.

Also on the panel will be Ron Suskind, a Pulitzer-winning journalist, bestselling author, producer of award-winning documentaries and feature films and the founder of BongoMedia. Suskind’s book, “Life, Animated,” chronicles his family’s 20-year journey raising and connecting with their autistic son, Owen.

“The Suskinds are also the subject of an award-winning, Oscar-nominated documentary feature of the same name,” Roderiques said. “Their story has driven activism and research about the compensatory strengths of those with autism and others who are differently-abled due to distinctive neurology or sociocultural backgrounds.”

Freeman appears in the documentary “Life, Animated.” The film explores how Owen, who was nonverbal for much of his life, memorized dozens of Disney movies, turning them into a language to express love and loss, kinship and brotherhood. In response, the Suskind family became animated characters, communicating with Owen through Disney dialogue and song.

“In the spring of 2009, I received a compelling note backstage from Ron (Suskind), asking if I would consider reaching out to his son Owen, who is on the autism spectrum, for his birthday,” Freeman said. “Before I knew it, I was swept up in the extraordinary whirlwind of the Suskind family. It has been a profoundly transformative experience for me, a true education in life.”

Freeman added that having grown up immersed in the arts, he has always understood their significance in his life.

“Owen's story perfectly illustrates the life-altering power of the arts to foster creativity and change lives,” Freeman said.

The event’s panel will also include event moderator Alan Rust, a longtime theater educator, actor, director and board president of the Cape Cod Shakespeare Festival in Chatham and for decades the artistic director of Chatham’s Monomoy Theater; Dani Davis, an Emmy award-winning writer, Tony-nominated Broadway producer, critically acclaimed theater director, television producer and entertainment entrepreneur; Nina Schuessler, an award-winning producer, director, teacher, actor and longtime producing artistic director of Cape Cod Theatre Company/Harwich Junior Theatre; Tedi Marsh, cofounder of Songbird Productions and co-producer of “How To Dance In Ohio;” Isabeau Miller, a professor at Berklee College of Music, cofounder of Songbird Productions and co-producer of “How To Dance In Ohio;” Nate Olin, a Cape Cod-based artist and award-winning art educator; and Nick Heaney, a resident artist and cofounder of Artnova Gallery in Chatham.

Tickets for “The Hero of my Imagination” are now available for $25. For more information or to purchase tickets visit