There is only one thing I love as much as I love Disney and that is Broadway. This FashionEarsta started out in musical theater “many moons ago in a far-off place” (name that non-Disney musical!) and still performs today! As a matter of fact ALL of our Seven Seas Bees perform! So imagine my delight and excitement almost 30 years ago when some incredible genius decided that Disney should be producing shows on Broadway! Let’s take a look at some of the movies-turned-stage-musicals that Disney has produced throughout the years!
Beauty and The Beast
The very first one to hit the boards! As with most Disney musicals, there was new music written for this show. New songs were written for Gaston, Belle, and Beast, and in 1998 when Toni Braxton joined the cast yet another song was written for Belle’s character that is still performed in the show to this day. The show was a huge success and is scheduled to be revived on a London stage in the near future!
The Lion King
This show is one of the most visually inspiring shows to appear on Broadway to date. It is also now Broadway’s third longest-running and overall most profitable show in history. What makes this show stand out? Well, when they adapted the show to a stage production they had to work on their characters. The movie does not boast of any real female leads, so they changed Rafiki to be portrayed by a woman and also gave Nala’s role a boost. One of the best parts of the stage version is that we also learn more about Scar’s backstory. This makes him a very complex and interesting character. (Hmmm I feel like we have heard his story before…)
The production elements of this show make it one of the most complex technical theater productions to date. Puppets, costumes and life-sized animals roaming the theatre makes it an unbelievable experience.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
The dark, gothic show was a very unlikely stage adaptation that has a haunting and captivating score. This one does not have an audience member walking away feeling all warm and fuzzy, but the music is incredible. Even though it premiered in Berlin and never made it to Broadway itself, I just had to throw this one into the mix because I really love the music.
I bet you didn’t know that Aida was a Disney musical! It’s one of the very few that isn’t based on a Disney-owned property! Our incredible Fancy Floridian took a deep-dive into this Elton John/Tim Rice musical in our latest Youtube post, check it out here:
Aida was actually scheduled for a Broadway revival in 2021, but it’s been temporarily postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We hope it still happens!
The Little Mermaid
This show had a lot of work to do to follow the wildly successful Beauty and the Beast musical. Unfortunately, this stage adaptation of the extremely popular movie was not as well received. If you ever hop on a message board talking about the Broadway adaptation, you’ll find some pretty strong opinions. People really did not like the show. According to audience members, the set was made of plastic and looked sub-par at best, the new songs lacked luster, maybe putting a character on roller skates (Flounder) you isn’t the best of ideas. (Although, we have had a bit of debate over this topic here at FashinEarsta. It started with Flounder and evolved into Starlight Express‘s (by Sir Andrew Lloyd Weber), abundant use of roller skates and whether or not it made or broke the show!) Maybe the roller skates and poor musical additions are the reasons why this show closed less than 2 years after it opened! I am not sure we will ever know!
This show has bring-down-the-house dance numbers, catchy songs, and a story that we all love and adore. One of the toughest roles to cast in Broadway history was that of the beloved Genie, which was originated by Robin Williams in the 1992 animated movie. But Disney’s casting agents hit the nail on the head with their casting of James Monroe as the Genie! The famous song “Friend Like Me” gets a standing ovation performance after performance!
Visually, this show has everything you would expect: the glam of Disney and the glitz of Broadway! The costumes literally drip with Swarovski crystals! One costume worn during “Friend Like Me” holds the record of having the highest number of crystals, counting a total of 1,428!
Sadly, Frozen was a casualty of the 2020 pandemic. Closing after only 2 years of performances, this show was one of the most direct movie-to0stage adaptations. The powerhouse cast and stunning technical theatrics are what made this show solid and loveable.
Of course, it would be nearly impossible to re-create the scenes from the movie onstage, so that leaves an audience’s imagination. What better way to achieve this then with a little bit of theatrical magic!? The lighting designs helped tremendously as did the vivid video designs that were projected onto a scrim. The most incredible acting feat onstage is the actor who plays Sven! Sven is onstage for about 40 minutes of the show, and the role is physically taxing — the performer inside is on all fours, essentially planking for up to seven minutes at a time, with 11-inch stilts attached to his hands, and five-inch metal shanks attached to his feet. Can you imagine what shape your abs would be in after playing Sven for a month!?!
Even though Frozen has lost its place on Broadway, I am sure we will see a tour soon!
This family classic faired pretty well on Broadway, running for 7 years for countless delighted audience members. What is fabulous about this show is that it does not follow the movie directly and yet it still works! Unlike The Little Mermaid, the new music in Mary Poppins seemed to charm audiences. People referred to the music as “toe-tapping, exciting and roof-raising.”
Others were less than thrilled with the storyline which delved, in their opinions, a little too deep into the Banks’ domestic issues. All in all, from my experience, audiences LOVE when characters “fly” and it just wouldn’t be Mary Poppins if she didn’t fly around the theatre! The actress that played Mary Poppins flew over 50 feet through the New Amsterdam theatre. That alone is enough to be awe-inspiring!
This one is definitely one of my family’s most beloved musicals, but it didn’t start out that way. It wasn’t until we saw this show live that we fell in love with the music, the big dance numbers, and the amazing story! It doesn’t hurt that our oldest and second oldest kids had the chance to perform in a production of Newsies together! Millie Bee choreographed and was a featured dancer, which was absolutely incredible to see!
The story of a ragamuffin group of kids fighting against the newspaper tycoon is a classic tale of the underdog coming out on top. The inspiring score and acrobatic dance numbers lead by Tony-nominated Jeremy Jordan is just so much fun to watch. You will find yourself yelling “STRIKE!” when the cast launches into “Seize the Day!”
The Jungle Book
After the closing of Frozen in 2020, it seems as if that the stage has been cleared for a new Disney adaptation to take the spotlight. The Jungle Book seems to be the next stage of production in the works for Disney. It is said that the book and songs are being written and a director/choreographer is in place! I personally love the music from the movie version of The Jungle Book, and I’m curious about whether Disney will attempt to mimic the visual aspects or puppetry of The Lion King with this one? I am anxious to see how this all plays out
Additionally, the stories of Tarzan, Hercules, and Pinocchio all had their moment on the “boards” but none of them lasted very long.
Wait! Where is Cinderella!? Believe it or not Rogers and Hammerstiens Cinderella did not make its Broadway debut until 2013. A made for TV musical that featured Julie Andrews debuted in 1957. However, the musical is not a Disney production. There is no mistaking that the Rogers and Hammerstien musical was inspired by the Disney classic but again, it is not known as a Disney production.
My favorite characters of the stage version are the Step-Sisters, they are CRAZY and so much fun! One of my favorite songs to use for auditions is Step-Sisters Lament! Much like they are in the stage production this duo is a hoot to interact with at the Parks. If you have never interacted with Drizella and Anastasia you are missing out!
I personally think that there are 2 schools of thought when it comes to Disney’s musical adaptations: you have the people that are die-hard movie musical people and you have the other school of thought which will love seeing all things Disney anywhere, anytime, anyhow. I definitely fall into the first category. Why? I am not sure… maybe Jodi Benson’s voice as the Little Mermaid brainwashed me for life?!
For generations, Disney has brought us these incredible magical moments on film, and every time we went to see one of these movies in the theatre or saw one of these movies on TV, it brought Disney to us. Today, with the addition of Disney+ to our televisions, tablets, and computers, we have once again been able to live the magic of Disney from the safety and security of our living rooms.
Disney on Broadway may be a little hit or miss, what I love is that they are constantly trying to reinvent the wheel and find new ways of entertaining the masses!
Do you have a favorite Disney-produced musical? or are you like me and prefer the movie versions? Let us know what you think!
Pixie dust and glamour!