Mark DiConzo began his trek to Broadway on the front lawn of his family’s Bancroft Street home in Portland.

He was 6 or 7 and fascinated by the dance moves of the flamboyant rapper MC Hammer. So he’d don his puffy Hammer pants, turn on his boom box and put on a dance show for passersby.

His quest ended more than a year ago when DiConzo was dancing in a show called “A Connecticut Christmas Carol” in East Haddam, Connecticut, and took a five-minute break to answer a call from his agent. After more than 25 years of talent shows, dance competitions, college theater classes, TV auditions and professional theater gigs around the country, DiConzo was offered a chance to be in THE show. Specifically, he was offered a part in the musical “Aladdin” on Broadway.

“I just sat on a bench and cried and called my mother,” said DiConzo, 36. “It took a long time to make it. It was just an overwhelming moment.”

But it wasn’t a moment he could really linger over. He had about three weeks to learn his regular roles in the show – as captain of the guards Razoul and as a singer and dancer in all the ensemble numbers – plus he was given the duties of being understudy to the major roles of Jafar and the Sultan. So he had to memorize all those lines and moves too.

Then, after just one rehearsal with the whole company, he made his Broadway debut at Manhattan’s New Amsterdam Theatre on Feb. 6 before a sell-out crowd of 1,700. He’s been with the show, for eight performances a week, ever since.

People who knew DiConzo when he was putting on front-lawn dance shows, taking classes at Cheryl Greeley Theatra-Dance Studio in South Portland or appearing in “Kiss Me Kate” with Portland Players say his Broadway landing was not unexpected.

“You know certain kids can do big things, and he always had that drive, he was never afraid of anything,” said Cheryl Greeley, whose South Portland dance school counted both DiConzo and future movie star Anna Kendrick among its students. “Lots of kids are talented, but he has a real hunger.”

DANGER ON THE GREAT WHITE WAY

There’s no question DiConzo worked hard to get to Broadway, friends and teachers say. But he may be working even harder now that he’s there.

He plays Razoul, the captain of the guards, who, in the 1992 animated Disney film, is seen chasing Aladdin through the streets of Agrabah and calling him a “street rat.” So he spends a lot of time on stage every night running around and over the set’s Arabian-style buildings while carrying a heavy sword.

But he also sings and dances as part of the ensemble throughout the show, including in the all the big production numbers. In one number, he and a dozen other guards are running around with swords, being hit by pushcarts and knocking into each other.

Between playing Razoul and singing and dancing with the ensemble, DiConzo is only off-stage for a few minutes during each show.

But DiConzo says the most daunting part of the show – maybe the toughest thing he’s ever done on a stage – is the “Prince Ali” number. In the animated film, the number includes a giant parade of people and animals hailing the arrival of the mysterious prince, who is really Aladdin.

To create the parade effect on stage, about 24 performers end up wearing some 75 different costumes, meaning they each play several different characters during the number. DiConzo starts the number wearing three different costumes – about 40 pounds’ worth. Then every few minutes he goes backstage where a dresser rips off the outer costume, so he can become a new character.

At one point in the “Prince Ali” number, DiConzo and other actors stand at opposite ends of the stage playing catch with 8-foot metal spears. As they continuously throw the spears, Aladdin runs under them. This is the kind of thing that could be computer-animated in a film nowadays, but on stage it has to be done with real spears and real people. And real danger.

The previous Razoul, the one before DiConzo, was injured by a blunted sword on stage and had to go the emergency room.

“When you see that somebody else is playing a role, you think the regular actor is just getting the night off. But often it’s because we have people out with knee injuries or torn rotator cuffs,” said DiConzo. “It’s one of the more dangerous shows currently on Broadway.”

Besides performing nightly and remembering all he has to do, he has to work weekly on remembering the parts of Jafar and Sultan, since he’s the understudy for both.

Both are main characters, appearing throughout the show. As the villainous Jafar, he gets to sing two songs, “Diamond in the Rough” and “Prince Ali.” As Sultan, he also sings “Prince Ali.”

He has to be ready to play either understudy role on very short notice. The first time he played Jafar, he had about an hour to prepare. Playing Jafar brings added pressure because the actor who normally plays the role, Jonathan Freeman, was the original voice of the character in the Disney animated film and originated the role on Broadway.

“Both Sultan and Jafar are challenging because they don’t sit in muscle memory like my other roles do,” said DiConzo.

He especially likes playing Jafar because as a youngster, he always liked Disney villains, who were often mean and comedic at he same time.

“Aladdin” has been on Broadway since 2014. The show is based on the animated film and includes the songs that film made famous, written by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, plus several others written by Menken, Chad Beguelin and Tim Rice.

A NATURAL, BUT WORKED AT IT

DiConzo calls himself the black sheep of the family because most of his relatives work in the medical field, while he went into show business. But they always supported his passion, from his front-lawn shows to dance lessons and vocal lessons, to trips around the country to compete in dance competitions while in high school.

Though he loved dancing and performing as a grade-schooler, it took DiConzo a while to realize how serious he was about pursuing a career in it.

He went to a summer camp program at Greeley’s school when he was about 9, then took some classes there off and on. But while in middle school he concentrated on soccer, playing goalie on various teams. He even went to summer soccer camps at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. He says he dreamed of playing pro soccer one day.

But then, just before entering Deering High School, he was invited to a performance of the musical “Hair” by students at Greeley’s school. At that moment, knew exactly what he wanted to do. He would give up soccer and focus on performing.

He started serious dance and vocal lessons and appeared in as many productions as he could.

“He was a natural, but he worked really hard to be the best he could in all genres. Tap was rough for him at first, but he practiced all the time,” said Maegan Laplante, a fellow student who went on to be one of DiConzo’s teachers at Greeley’s school.

There, he performed with lots of talented youngsters, including Anna Kendrick. Kendrick also made it to Broadway, in “High Society” in 1998 and went on to greater fame in the movies. She’s probably best known for the “Pitch Perfect” series, about a college a cappella group.

Through Greeley’s school, DiConzo toured the country and competed at dance events. In his senior year in high school, he earned the right to compete at the national American Dance Awards competition. Before he graduated from Deering High in 2001, he participated in a Q&A interview with the Portland Press Herald, as a part of a series focusing on graduating seniors. The last question asked was where DiConzo expected to be in five to 10 years and if people should expect to see on Broadway someday. DiConzo didn’t give a direct answer to the Broadway question, saying only that he expected to be “on stage.”

He studied drama and dance at Hofstra University outside New York City, auditioning for shows while in college. After college, he worked various jobs – handing out promotional publications, waiting tables – while doing shows and auditioning.

He also started getting background acting gigs on episodes of TV shows, including the ABC drama “Six Degrees.” While developing his theater career, he continued to land bigger parts on TV shows, including “30 Rock,” “Ugly Betty,” “Person of Interest” and “Elementary.”

One of his first major theater roles was as a dancer in the touring company of the hit musical “The Producers,” which had starred Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick on Broadway. It was a big break in another way too, because it’s how he met his wife, Kelly.

When that tour ended, they were both booked to perform in the show “Saturday Night Fever” on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship.

For much of the last decade, DiConzo has been traveling to musical theater productions around the country. So being on Broadway is not only a dream come true for him, career-wise, but it’s helped him see more of his wife. The couple live in New York City.

Being in New York year-round allows him to do more TV work as well, which he enjoys. In December, he was billed as a “guest star” on the CBS crime drama “Blue Bloods” as a villain. He thinks the fact that he’s now in a Broadway show helped him land that role.

Because “Aladdin” is based on a very popular film, which generations of fans have grown up watching, there’s no telling how long it will run. Its success could be helped by the fact that a live-action film of “Aladdin” starring Will Smith, based on the animated film, is due out in May.

DiConzo’s contract with the show is open-ended, so for now he’s enjoying the magic carpet ride.

“It could last for another 10 years,” said DiConzo of “Aladdin.” “I consider myself lucky and am filled with gratitude every time I enter the stage door.”

Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

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Twitter: @RayRouthier