Actors Fund Gala Celebrating 20 Years of Disney on Broadway Raises $1.6 Million
The Actors Fund's annual gala yesterday raised a record-breaking $1.6 million, as a sold-out audience at the New Amsterdam Theatre witnessed stars of 20 years of Disney on Broadway in highlights from the producing powerhouse's history of award-winning shows. The evening honored the creative collaborators and staff members of Disney Theatrical Productions as they celebrate 20 years on Broadway. Formed in 1994 and operating under the direction of president and producer Thomas Schumacher, Disney received the Medal of Honor, the highest award given by the 132-year old non-profit human services organization. In addition, Fund CEO Joseph P. Benincasa received The Fund's honor for 25 years of service to the creative community.
The event began with a benefit concert, donated by Disney to The Actors Fund, at the New Amsterdam Theatre in New York City, reuniting headliners including; Steve Blanchard (Beauty and the Beast), Ashley Brown (Beauty and the Beast, Mary Poppins), Gavin Lee (Mary Poppins), Sierra Boggess, Alan Mingo, Jr. and Norm Lewis (The Little Mermaid), Josh Strickland and Merle Dandridge (Tarzan), Heather Headley (The Lion King, Aida); Michael Arden (The Hunchback of Notre Dame), Sherie Rene Scott, Adam Pascal and Heather Headley (Aida), Judy Kuhn (King David), Adam Jacobs (Aladdin), Celia Keenan-Bolger and the cast of Peter and the Starcatcher, James Monroe Inglehart and the cast of Aladdin, as well as the casts of Newsies, The Lion King and a special appearance by Fund Chairman Brian Stokes Mitchell. The one-night-only performance was followed by a post-performance cast party at the Marriott Marquis New York for more than 600 guests.
"Over these 20 years, Disney's magical productions-on Broadway and on tour-have employed more than 10,000 actors, crewmembers, musicians and management professionals all of whom have access to The Fund's programs and services," said Actors Fund President and CEO Joseph P. Benincasa. "We are proud to honor Disney for their continued leadership and commitment to this organization."
Just in their original Broadway productions, Disney's nine titles have enjoyed a cumulative run of more than 40 years and received 52 Tony nominations, winning Broadway's highest honor 19 times. It has brought to the musical theatre beloved classic songs from its animated features but also dozens of new favorites by some of the greatest composers and lyricists in the world, including Alan Menken, Phil Collins, Tim Rice and Elton John. Its contribution to the Broadway community also extends to its remarkable fundraising efforts for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, the largest funder of The Actors Fund.
The Actors Fund is a national human services organization that helps everyone-performers and those behind the scenes-who works in performing arts and entertainment, helping more than 17,000 people directly each year, and hundreds of thousands online. Serving professionals in film, theatre, television, music, opera, radio and dance, The Fund's programs include social services and emergency financial assistance, health care and insurance counseling, housing, and employment and training services. With offices in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, The Actors Fund has been-for 132 years-a safety net for those in need, crisis or transition. Visit www.actorsfund.org.
Disney Theatrical Productions, a division of The Walt Disney Studios, was formed in 1994 and operates under the direction of Thomas Schumacher. Worldwide, its eight Broadway titles have been seen by over 124 million theatergoers, grossed over $8.9 billion and have cumulatively run a staggering 195 years. With 15 productions currently produced or licensed, a Disney musical is being performed professionally somewhere on the planet virtually every hour of the day.
The company's inaugural production, Beauty and the Beast, opened in 1994. It played a remarkable 13 year run on Broadway and has been produced in 28 countries worldwide. In November 1997, Disney opened The Lion King, which received six 1998 Tony Awards including Best Musical and is now the highest grossing show in Broadway history. The show continues in its 16th smash year, having welcomed over 68 million visitors worldwide. The Lion King can also currently be seen on tour across North America, the U.K., and Japan, and in London's West End, Hamburg, Tokyo, Madrid, and Sao Paulo.
Elton John and Tim Rice's Aida opened on Broadway next, winning four 2000 Tony Awards, and spawning productions around the world. Mary Poppins, a co-production with Cameron Mackintosh, opened in London in 2004 and established itself as one of the biggest stage musical successes to emerge in recent years. The Tony
Award-winning Broadway production played more than six years at Disney's New Amsterdam Theatre and can now be seen on tour across North America and in Mexico City.
Tarzan, which opened on Broadway in 2006, is now an international hit with an award-winning production in its 6th year in Germany. In January 2008, The Little Mermaid opened on Broadway and was the #1-selling new musical of that year. Its success continues with three new productions around the world: Holland, Russia and Japan.
Two new critically acclaimed productions opened on Broadway in 2012, receiving seven Tony Awards between them: Newsies, in its second year at the Nederlander Theatre, and Peter and the Starcatcher, now playing at New World Stages.
Other successful stage musical ventures have included King David in concert, the national tour of On The Record, several touring versions of Disney's High School Musical, and Der Glöckner Von Notre Dame in Berlin.
Its new musical, Aladdin, is now playing at the New Amsterdam Theatre.
Photo Credit: Deen Van Meer