"It didn't start great," laughs Broadway actor Callum Francis when asked about meeting his boyfriend, Ainsley Melham. Three years ago, Francis had just joined the cast of Kinky Boots in Australia (as Lola, the show's drag queen lead) and went to a party after one of his early shows, where he met the fellow triple threat. Francis asked what show Melham was in, and the other actor answered that he was in Disney's Aladdin. "What do you play?" asked Francis.
"Aladdin," Melham answered.
"And I thought he'd misheard me," explinas Francis, "and I said, 'no, but what do you play?'"
"Aladdin," Melham repeated, before turning to speak to a friend. "Later I realized that he thought I was being rude."
"So that was a fail," Francis deadpans.
But soon after, Francis went to see Melham in Aladdin and the two posed for a photo together backstage with the actor playing the Genie. "If you look back on that first photo, you can see that Callum and I are this close." Clearly, the attraction was immediate.
"The show was good ... his abs are amazing," laughs Francis, and having seen Melham reprising his role in the Broadway production of Aladdin, I can confirm this statement to be incredibly true -- Aladdin's signature vest leaves very little to the imagination.
The two dated long distance for years, traveling back-and-forth between Sydney and Melbourne, where the two shows were running, until Francis was offered the role of Lola in the Broadway production of Kinky Boots. Melham planned to join his boyfriend in the States for his run on a visitor's visa, but in September he was offered the chance to step into the title role in Aladdin.
"It just worked out perfect, it was so funny. You can plan this, but this wasn't [planned]," admits Francis. "We just put it out there and hoped it would work and it did. We still find it hysterical that we're both here and that someone's allowing us to be here."
Now the couple share an apartment in Times Square (above the M&M store!) when they're not singing and dancing their asses off onstage eight shows a week. They admit that being so busy allows them to enjoy their time off together even more, although that's rare -- their days off conflict -- and even when they do get time together it's hard to not want to lay low. "We'll be sat watching television, blowing air into a straw, " a vocal technique exercise, "and both of us look over at each other like, living the dream! Completely silent watching television," jokes Francis. "But it's nice to be in this position with someone else."
And it's not exactly a chore to be dating a literal Disney prince.
"I am Jasmine. I always say that I am the real life Jasmine," says Francis. "What's really funny is when I was young I had two dolls, and they were Jasmine and Aladdin. I combed Jasmine's hair so much that she went bald. It's a story that gets told so much in my family. So when I rang my parents and told them 'I started dating someone and I'm probably gonna marry and, and he plays Aladdin,' they found it hysterical. So he's going to have to play Aladdin for the rest of his life."
"He keeps threatening me," adds Melham. 'If you stop playing Aladdin...'"