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Jafar and Jasmine tour a whole new world in Buffalo

Princess Jasmine ate saucy chicken wings at Allentown bar-restaurant Gabriel’s Gate next to her arch-nemesis Jafar, who preferred the beef on weck.

It sounds like the beginning of a way-too-specific joke. But Lissa deGuzman and Jonathan Weir, respective Jasmine and Jafar in "Aladdin," which finishes up its Buffalo stop on the tour Aug. 19 in Shea’s Buffalo Theatre (646 Main St.), took a magic carpet ride around Buffalo to squeeze in a bit of sightseeing before leaving for Pittsburgh.

As expected, the villain and heroine get along much better in reality than on stage, laughing and Snapchatting selfies together.

Sun blazed down on the hot August day as the uncostumed (therefore unrecognizable) actors followed a set itinerary created in part by Facebook commenters on The News' page.

The magic carpet (fine, it was a Chevy Equinox) flew to Canalside, where the two ate Paula's Donuts for breakfast, then Shark Girl, the City Hall Observation Deck and Gabriel’s Gate (for wings, of course).

[Related: There's only one word for "Aladdin" - dazzling]

Having been in Buffalo for nearly two weeks, these weren't their first local stops. Between the two, they've been to Niagara Falls, Betty's, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, Allen Burger Venture, Overwinter Coffee, Spot Coffee and Public Espresso.

“We like to get fancy with our local coffees," deGuzman said.

Lissa deGuzman and Jonathan Weir dig into a chocolate glazed doughnut from Paula's Donuts. (Francesca Bond/Buffalo News)

DeGuzman, an effervescent woman with long, thick, dark hair and a generous laugh, eagerly tasted each food put in front of her, alongside Weir, a silly, dry-humored, one-liner-rattling, bald man. Both acted excited to tour the city, something they don't often have time to do with nightly performances. 

Sometimes it's hard to notice a city's growth until you see it from a visitor's perspective. Weir hadn't been to Buffalo since 2011, so Canalside is, if you will, a whole new world to him. DeGuzman had never visited the city and on a sun-drenched afternoon, Buffalo shines for her.

Weir, who resides in Chicago, knew about the city's historic architecture. He points it out to deGuzman. "Look at the architecture, that’s so cool." Then, in the same breath, "I’m an architect hound.”

Shark Girl was hyped up to the two and she wasn't exactly what they were expecting, but not in a bad way, still causing deGuzman to erupt with laughter at the sight of the half-shark, half-girl statue at Canalside.

“She’s a freaky thing but it’s interesting," Weir said. “She must have her own Instagram page or something, somewhere.” (She does: @sharkgirlbflo).

As soon as the two saw her, they started posing for photos, deGuzman crossing her ankles and hands, perfectly imitating Shark Girl's posture, and Weir, placing the genie's gold lamp (removed from a heavy, high-security briefcase), in Shark Girl's lap. It seemed like they understood Shark Girl. Or at least her amusing, photogenic quality.

The two "Aladdin" actors grant Shark Girl three wishes with Genie's gold lamp. (Francesca Bond/Buffalo News)

On the top of City Hall, overlooking the city, water and suburbs, all hazily covered up by summer humidity, the actors curiously peered all around the 360-degree deck, pointing at buildings, asking sometimes-answered questions about what they are, admiring architecture.

One jump ahead of City Hall, next on the sightseeing list was Gabriel's Gate, a chicken wing joint recommended by many Buffalonians.

They've both had chicken wings. But not from Buffalo.

“The thing about wings is… so often they’re just Sysco brand and they’re just not meaty and they’re greasy," Weir said, waiting for their order of Buffalo-sauced wings, Italian wings and beef on weck to arrive.

At lunch, conversation flowed, as it usually does awaiting chicken wings.

DeGuzman spoke about what makes Jasmine different than other Disney princesses. It's her independence. She revealed that growing up, she was more of a tomboy and less interested in princesses. But Jasmine was different than the other princesses popular when she was a child.

"[The plot is] not a saving thing," she said, saying it conveys messages like "'put your heart to it,' 'put your mind to it,' 'trust your gut' and 'be yourself.'”

Weir spoke about performing night after night and how people always ask if it's hard for them to do, then likened it to plumbing.

“A plumber unclogs a toilet the same way every time," he said. "That’s part of the craft, to recreate it every night. And I’m always big on giving [the audience] their money’s worth.”

When the actors see the wings -- phones at the ready, pointed at them to film reactions -- they dive in.



“Ooh, I like the skin," deGuzman said. “All right, Hannibal Lecter,” Weir quickly retorted.

“I don't know if I had expectations," Weir said. “Buffalo wings are a utilitarian kind of food sometimes, but these taste special. Does that make sense?” 

Yeah, it actually does, Jafar.


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