FLASH FRIDAY: Disney's Magical Musicals - ALADDIN To THE LION KING To FROZEN & Beyond
Today we are celebrating the many marvelous musicals that have been produced by Disney on Broadway over the last two decades, with a special focus on some of the most popular properties of the moment - Broadway's ALADDIN, which opened last night, and mega-hit movie musical FROZEN, reportedly aimed for the stage soon.
It is nearly impossible to calculate the overall effect that Disney has had on Broadway since the debut of the first of many screen-to-stage iterations of their classic films in 1994 with the premiere of BEAUTY & THE BEAST. Although at the time many naysayers were poised to pounce on the final product no matter what, particularly given the family-friendly trappings and generous dose of schmaltz regularly associated with the House of Mouse and its presentations up until that point, yet it quickly became clear - and, unmistakably so - that the entire production and the accompanying masterful score crafted by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman - with some excellent additions by Tim Rice - was beyond reproach. So, too, did the trend continue later on that decade with a gargantuan critical and audience hit the likes of which Broadway has not actually seen since - THE LION KING.
While bringing pop music master Elton John into the musical fold was a stroke of sheer genius, the score that he produced with Tim Rice for the film was simply astounding - and went on to win an Oscar or two for their commendable efforts, as well - making it a movie musical overflowing with rich, addictive melodies. The Julie Taymor-directed stage adaptation brought the entire enterprise to a whole other level, though, particularly owing to the ingenuous physical design and costume work for the production, as well as the sensitively expanded score with a more pronounced African tribal flair. Consequently, Elton John and Tim Rice teamed up yet again for another theatrical go-round shortly thereafter, with AIDA going on to win the Tony Award for Best Score as well as run for several years on the Great White Way, introducing a new Broadway diva supreme in leading lady Heather Headley.
Subsequently, Disney unfortunately failed to find similar success with subsequent forays into the world of musical theatre, with TARZAN unable to swing for very long and THE LITTLE MERMAID failing to float, though their co-production of MARY POPPINS alongside uber producer Cameron Mackintosh filled seats for a few seasons on both sides of the pond. Nevertheless, the majority of the 00s were a dark time for Disney Theatrical - musical revue ON THE RECORD failed to even make it to NYC, after all - but that trend would soon turn around with an unexpected transfer and a subsequent still-running success story, once again inspired by a big screen musical produced by the company once upon a time.
NEWSIES surprised us all when it transferred from a regional production at the Papermill Playhouse to Broadway and took the street by storm, going on to win Tony Awards for Best Original Score for Alan Menken and Jack Feldman, as well as Best Choreography for Christopher Gattelli at the 2012 ceremony. Yet another star was born - in the tradition of Heather Headley in AIDA, Sierra Boggess in THE LITTLE MERMAID and Ashley Brown in MARY POPPINS - in the sparkling personage of Jeremy Jordan and a whole new generation of fans can be found to this day at the stage door cheering on their personal favorite members of the colorful and wide-ranging corps currently shredding a rug and turning a cartwheel or three eight times a week in the show. But, now, a new Disney leading man has made it to town.
Disney's newest theatrical endeavor is a fully fleshed-out stage adaptation of worldwide smash hit ALADDIN, complete with many songs originally written for the film but excised along with a once-central plotline, as well as a handful of brand new compositions, as well. The new Broadway ALADDIN imaginatively showcases the score penned by Alan Menken, Howard Ashman and Tim Rice as well as winningly translates the moving and thrilling story to the stage in an elegant and enchanting new way. And, while Aladdin's grand magic carpet may be rolled out now, there is already another Disney hero on the horizon ready to take Broadway on - Quasimodo, the one and only HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME himself, that is! Indeed, HUNCHBACK will be trying out later this year and if all goes as planned we could very well have not just these three testosterone-fueled Disney shows, but one more male-centered musical light up the Great White Way.
Well, that is at least until the divas at the core of Disney's current movie musical blockbuster FROZEN, Anna and Elsa, show up some season soon!
A Whole New World
Now, let's look at a few of the most memorable highlights of Disney on Broadway in the last two decades or so as we celebrate ALADDIN's premiere last night and look ahead to THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME and FROZEN onstage coming up soon.
First up, check out the original Broadway production of BEAUTY & THE BEAST.
Now, sample THE LION KING.
Next, see a bit of an AIDA showstopper.
After that, take in TARZAN.
Glean a glimpse of THE LITTLE MERMAID on Broadway.
Get a look at MARY POPPINS.
NEWSIES electrifies the Tony Awards.
Preview Disney's ALADDIN by going behind the scenes.
Lastly, refresh your memory of THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME.
As a special bonus, imagine FROZEN making its way to the stage.
So, what exactly is it about many modern Disney movie musicals that makes them so ripe for theatricalization? Furthermore, what is your personal favorite Disney stage musical to date? Also, what is your absolute favorite score of all? With a songstack as, well, stacked as that of the collective scores of the many musicals discussed today, it is a rich wish to have granted that we will be lucky enough to hopefully see two new Disney stage musicals in upcoming seasons between HUNCHBACK and FROZEN. Actually, ALADDIN's Genie himself would probably even be impressed - and a little bit jealous.
Photo Credits: Disney
From This Author Pat Cerasaro