Disney Theatrical Productions announced the Honolulu-born Kekoa as one of five new principal cast members joining the company on April 25 in Salt Lake City, where the hit Broadway musical will play a limited, three-week engagement at The Eccles Theatre.
Kekoa, a teacher at Waolani Judd Nazarene School in Nuuanu, was cast as the princess after a Disney on Broadway open casting call in Honolulu.
While the Sacred Hearts Academy graduate has been involved in community theater since middle school, this marks her professional theater debut and will be her first national tour.
“We’re so excited,” said her dad, Kordell Kekoa, chair of Waolani’s school board. “That’s one of our girls who loves the lord, loves Hawaii, loves her family, and is out discovering a whole new world out there.”
Kekoa, who taught creative movement and arts, sent a video to students explaining the reason for her departure, which was played during a school assembly. She reminded them to listen to their teachers. She will tour with the production for the next year.
In a Sacred Hearts Academy profile, Kekoa, a 2014 graduate who was then a sophomore, said trying out for “Fiddler on the Roof” and getting one of the lead roles, sparked her love for theater. She was also involved with Hawaii Education of the Arts, a nonprofit providing challenging arts programs for youth of all ages, as well as numerous other organizations.
Sacred Hearts Academy posted a note of congratulations on Facebook this week. “Way to go Kaena; we are so proud of you!”
Kekoa also graduated from Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, Calif. in 2018, where she was involved in the concert choir and theatre department.
Joining Kekoa are original tour cast member Reggie De Leon, who will return to the role of Iago; Ben Chavez, who will assume the role of Omar; Colt Prattes, who will step into the role of Kassim; and Frank Viveros, who will stand by for the roles of Genie and Babkak.
The Broadway production of “Aladdin,” under the direction of Thomas Schumacher, was adapted from the animated Disney film and features music by an award-winning team, including Alan Menken. The North American tour will celebrate its second anniversary April 19 in San Jose, Calif., where it expects to welcome its two millionth guest.