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The Music Returns with Gusto


"A Whole New World" is not only the theme from Disney's ALADDIN but may also be the theme of life as we know it in 2021. Happily audiences returned to Shea's Theatre last night for the first time in 504 days, after the Broadway tour of HELLO DOLLY closed abruptly due to a pandemic that changed the world forever. Shea's President Michael Murphy welcomed the audience back to in person entertainment last night with a slick and uplifting musical concert, THE MUSIC OF DISNEY ON BROADWAY.

Last week this 2 hour tribute concert played Broadway's New Amsterdam Theatre and happily Buffalo got to experience it too. Four top notch Broadway talents and a 5 piece band performed musical numbers from all of Disney's musicals ever to grace the Great White Way.

The multi-talented Ashley Brown originated the lead role of MARY POPPINS on Broadway. Ms. Brown has a silvery soprano voice that easily shifts from legit singing to powerhouse belter. She captivated the audience with her crystalline tone singing the title song of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. She exuded joy in revisiting the familiar "Supercalifragilistic," complete with the original staging's arm gestures and some backup from her pals on stage.

Kissy Simmons is best known for her role as Nala in Broadway's THE LION KING. Simmons is a powerhouse of energy and charm belting out the best of Elton John's score. She also jumped onto ALADDIN's famed magic carpet, sailing through the hit " A Whole New World."

Josh Strickland originated the role of the trapeze swinging TARZAN on Broadway. Strickland is nimble and full of energy, raising the roof singing Young Tarzan's "I Need to Know." But he elicited greatest applause tearing into Alan Menken's "Santa Fe" from NEWSIES. Strickland took on some fun gender swapping as he strutted as Amneris in Elton John's fashion extravaganza, "My Strongest Suit" from AIDA.

Michael James Scott oozes charisma as soon he steps on the stage. He is best known as the Genie from Disney's ALADDIN, having played the role on Broadway and in the National tour that played the Shea's stage. He slid right back into the character with ease as he performed "A Friend Like Me."

The show began with a few numbers from Disney's newest stage musical in development, HERCULES. An unexpected treat was hearing two numbers from FREAKY FRIDAY, whose score was written by Tom Kitt and Brain Yorkey. Although never having played on Broadway, our quartet of singers dove into the charming "I Got This," making this reviewer curious to hear more.

Having gathered to hear so many of Disney's hits that have become part of the American songbook proves that Disney productions have staying power . "Circle of Life," "Can You Feel the Love Tonight," and "You'll Be in My Heart" easily stand on their own thanks to composers like Phil Collins, Elton John and Alan Menken. Like it or not, the age of the power ballad has taken over and the traditional Broadway sounds of the mid last century are few and far between. But when you have singers as talented as this foursome, it was a pleasure to sit back and hear these tunes performed at the highest caliber.

Fittingly, the concert concluded with one of Disney's most popular songs of recent years, "Let It Go" from FROZEN. The audience grabbed this sentiment as they look forward to this musical reopening the Shea's Broadway season in September. It was hard to tell who was enjoying themselves more last night.. the brilliantly talented cast or the large appreciative audience. Either way, it was good for all to be back.

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From This Author - Michael Rabice

Michael Rabice has over  40 years of experience attending plays, musicals and opera all over the world. He is a frequent performer in opera and has appeared with the Glimmerglass Opera, A... (read more about this author)

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