"I love what I do," the performer says. "And I'm so glad to be back home with my wife and my mom. My family and friends get to see me perform. And any Bay Area young folks who read this, if you want to do musicals for a living, you can do it. I'm the proof. It just takes drive and a dream."
The dream started at age 4 as Iglehart, the son of a high school music teacher mom and an actor dad who had a small but memorable role as the boxer in "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls," discovered his voice and his moves. He sang his first solo in church at age 5 and eventually played the title role in "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" at Hayward's Mount Eden High School.
"In my family, you were a jock or you sang and danced," Iglehart says before heading into a rehearsal of "Big River" at TheatreWorks in Palo Alto. "Sports wasn't my ministry. I couldn't do a weave in basketball, but I could do a time step onstage. My body needs music to move."
It wasn't until he was in college at what was then Cal State Hayward that Iglehart shifted his dream of becoming an R&B star to becoming a musical theater sensation. Almost immediately upon graduating, he landed the national tour of "Show Boat." After that, he made the rounds in the Bay Area and worked just about everywhere that did musicals, including TheatreWorks, where he landed the first of two big breaks.
The show was "Memphis," a rock 'n' roll and blues-saturated show that was aiming for Broadway. Iglehart played the role of Bobby the janitor in 2004, and as the show made its way slowly toward New York, with a few years of dormancy as money was raised, the other break landed. Iglehart played the hug-happy Mitch Mahoney in the San Francisco production of "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" and eventually took over the role in the Broadway production.
While he was in New York, "Memphis" caught up with him, and after the musical earned eight Tony nominations (it won four, including best musical), Iglehart's molecular biologist wife, Dawn, decided it was safe to join her husband in New York.
"Memphis" ran for nearly three years, and Iglehart says his professional life can definitely be divided into pre- and post-Broadway segments. "Before, you're struggling to get people to know who you are and to listen to you," he says. "After Broadway, you're still struggling, but it's different. You're now auditioning alongside people you know. You're in the room with people who have won Tonys and who you've heard on cast albums. My name now has a little more behind it."
Iglehart took a break during the "Memphis" run to play the Genie in Disney's "Aladdin" in Seattle, a show he hopes will have a bright future. "I'm a big Disney nerd," he says. "Playing the Genie was one of the greatest experiences of my life. Hopefully the show will go to Broadway."
Until then, the 38-year-old Iglehart and his wife are back in Hayward and he's back at TheatreWorks, where he's playing escaped slave Jim in "Big River," Roger Miller's 1984 musical adaptation of "Huckleberry Finn." This is the fourth time Iglehart has been in this show, and it's the third time he's played Jim.
"I think I understand Jim a lot moreI this time around," Iglehart says. "Certain things in the script that weren't clear make total sense now. We don't have kids, but I spend a lot of time with my nieces and nephews, so I know what it's like to have this deep love for kids and to not be around your wife.
"I loved being in New York, but I'm a Californian. I'm West Coast to my soul. What I'm enjoying about the role this time is that I feel I can bring some maturity and life experience to it."