Disney has become ‘Part of Our World’: A Look at Disney’s impact on Broadway

In the past 20 years several Disney film classics have already taken Broadway by storm and now two more shows are on the way. Let’s take a walk through memory lane as we relive the magic tales and legendary scores we’ve all grown up with on stage and screen:

Gaston leads the cast of Disney's 'Beauty and the Beast'

Gaston and the cast of Disney’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’

Beauty and the Beast opened on Broadway in 1994 and ran until 2007. The stage adaptation did not disappoint audiences with its enhanced score by Alan Menken and quintessential Disney magic and spectacle. Dancing napkins, a magic mirror and an unbelievable transformation are just some of the stage tricks that delighted audiences. The original Broadway cast starred Terrence Mann as The Beast and Susan Egan (voice of Megara in Hercules & Miss Barlett in the Disney channel original movie Gotta Kick It Up ) as Belle. This beautifully executed screen-to-stage adaptation paved the way for several more Disney on Broadway endeavors.

Rafiki holds up the newborn Simba in Disney's 'Lion King'

Rafiki holds up the newborn Simba in Disney’s ‘Lion King’

The Lion King made an extraordinary leap from screen to stage. With the help of director Julie Taymor, Lion King was transformed into a complete avant-garde African-inspired masterpiece. The musical takes the Saharan setting and infuses the African art and dance culture into several aspects of the show. A score by Elton John and lyrics by Tim Rice provide the audience with the memorable tunes from the movie and more songs that enhance the emotional journey Simba takes. The show opened on Broadway in 1997 and has been running ever since. The original production starred Jason Raize as Simba and John Vickery as Scar.

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Tarzan swings through the onstage jungle in Disney’s ‘Tarzan’

Tarzan opened in 2006. This short-lived show was probably the most experimental of Disney’s forays onto Broadway. The jungle was not so much a setting but an entire atmosphere composed of an entirely green stage, endless vines to swing from and a bouncy jungle floor to boot. The choreography was primal and the ensemble costumes consisted of literal monkey suits. The original Phil Collins score was maintained and then enhanced for the musical. The show starred American Idol finalist Josh Strickland as Tarzan and Jennifer Gambatese as Jane.

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Mary Poppins, Bert and the cast in Disney’s ‘Mary Poppins’

Mary Poppins was a logical choice to head to Broadway, with its fun soundtrack and whimsical setting. It premiered on the West End in 2004 but made the move to Broadway in 2006 and recently closed in March of 2013. Ashley Brown was the original Mary on Broadway and Gavin Lee hopped the pond to reprise his role as Bert. The original movie music from the Sherman Brothers was incorporated and new songs by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe were added. Julian Fellowes (of Downton Abbey fame) wrote the book. The show is full of exciting ensemble numbers and big dance breaks that may have led to Bert tap-dancing on the ceiling. I know, my mind was blown too.

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Ariel and Ursula in Disney’s ‘The Little Mermaid’

The Little Mermaid on Broadway was, as my mother called it, “Disney on steroids.” The spectacle behind The Little Mermaid was definitely a sight to behold. Giant vibrantly colored sea anenomes, Prince Eric’s shipwreck, wheelies for all of the merfolk and Ursula’s giant tentacle-laden costume were just some of the visually stunning features on display. The show opened in January of 2008 and closed in August of 2009. The original cast starred Sierra Boggess as Ariel, Sean Palmer as Prince Eric, Sherie Renee Scott as Ursula, and Norm Lewis as King Triton. Alan Menken’s original movie score was utilized in a beautiful way, by re-purposing the original movie’s underscoring to create new songs for the musical.

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The cast of Disney’s ‘Newsies’ prepare to strike

Newsies is the second live-action Disney film turned musical. After years of pleading and hoping, fans’ wishes were finally granted when Newsies the Musical was on the docket for PaperMill Playhouse’s fall 2011 season. After receiving a rave response from fans, the show was promptly transferred to Broadway in 2012. With another fantastic score by Alan Menken and book by Harvey Fierstein, and some sensational dancing by strapping, young, newspaper-toting lads, the show was sure to be a success. Broadway heartthrob Jeremy Jordan originated the role of Jack Kelly while John Dossett played Joseph Pulitzer.

With both Aladdin and The Jungle Book in the works, we can only anticipate the good things to come. We get to see Mowgli , Baloo and the jungles of India coming to life before our very eyes. We finally get to see a magic carpet ride on stage.

What else will the stage adaptations bring? Are there any other Disney movies you’d like to see on Broadway? (I know my vote is for The Princess and the Frog!)

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3 Responses

  1. I wonder how the song number “Prince Ali” is going to be staged. It’s a pretty ambitious one, even on film!

    How do you get “sixty elephants, ninety-five white persian monkey, forty fakirs, forty cooks and bakers, forty birds that warble on key, seventy-five golden camels, and fifty-three purple peacocks”? Hahaha.

  2. Words cannot describe how excited I am to hear that they are making a Broadway show of Aladdin! It was my favorite Disney movie growing up. I really like your idea of The Princess and the Frog. I can just imagine the fun jazz music and dancing!

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