A Look at the Current Standing of Disney on Broadway

John recently posted about the announcement of the Walt Disney Company’s second quarter profits. At the end of the post, he asked where readers would like to see the company go in the future. I started writing a comment, but it was rapidly turning into a book. To answer the question, I would like to see the company invest more resources into the Disney Theatrical Group.

This division of the company oversees all Broadway & regional stage musicals, as well as ice shows and other events. While some of the ventures out of this office have been amazingly successful (The Lion King comes to mind) the last two major Broadway productions have been financial flops (Tarzan and The Little Mermaid.)

After these two shows had poor box office results, there has been a lot of speculation regarding what production the division would open next. As it stands, there will be two new productions from the mouse within the next five months. However, neither of these shows will be on Broadway. This could be in an effort to hedge against the losses of another big-budget show flopping, or it could be a stepping stone strategy. Many of the most popular (and successful) Broadway shows use a method called an “out-of-town tryout.” The show will play at a regional theatre for a couple months at most and then take a few months off in order to make any necessary changes before opening in New York. For example, The Little Mermaid played in Denver before opening on Broadway.

The first of the upcoming shows is Aladdin, which will play at the 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle for just under four weeks this July. It is reasonable that if critical and audience reception of this show is positive that it could be mounted on Broadway. It was recently announced that Jonathan Freeman, the voice of Jafar in the film, will also play the role on stage. If the Disneyland version of Aladdin is any indication of what this large-scale show could be, I think it will quickly become an audience favorite.

The second new show is Newsies, adapted from the movie musical. This show will play at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, NJ from September 15 – October 16, 2011. Not a lot of information has been announced about this production, but judging from past productions at the Paper Mill, it should hopefully be well done.

After that, the future is unknown for the Disney Theatrical Group. More than likely, The Lion King will continue to be a mainstay on the Great White Way, and I imagine that Mary Poppins still has some time left in its run. There has been some mention that a Dumbo Broadway Musical is in pre-production by Disney and Steve Davison’s Sister Act finally made it to Broadway. Perhaps that’s a talent Disney Theatrical could tap into.

What show would you like to see DTG produce next?

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About Adam Britten

Adam Britten is a self-proclaimed Disney geek. From a very young age, he fondly remembers visiting the parks with his family on an almost yearly basis. Currently a Master of Digital Marketing Student at Hult International Business School, Adam wishes on a star that he will one day work for the mouse's marketing department. He’s visited Disneyland, Walt Disney World, & Disneyland Paris; he hopes to complete the world tour. His favorite Disney movie is Alice in Wonderland. Can also be seen on: Twitter as @AdamBritten, www.AdamBritten.com, and his new blog about the intersection between social media and theme parks at SocialThemeParks.com.
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20 Responses to A Look at the Current Standing of Disney on Broadway

  1. Andi says:

    Uh, if I don’t get my Der Glockern von Notre Dame over to the US, then someone is going to have a fit. The Hunchback of Notre Dame musical is flawless and deserves every bit of US love. I’d rather have that than Newsies, Aladdin and Dumbo combined!

    Not to mention, I want to hear the full company version of Someday in English. :(

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  7. mwshiner says:

    Mary Zimmerman is also hard at work on Jungle Book – which will probably have a regional try out in Chicago before New York.

  8. Steve Marine says:

    I agree with Andi. I just can’t fathom why they haven’t brought “Hunchback” to the States. It’s an amazing score/show. And the movie is my favorite (post-Walt) Disney film!

    I think “Newsies” is a colossal mistake. It won’t go anywhere. (Unless, maybe, they completely re-wrote the story and have all-new songs!)

    • John Frost says:

      Steve, that is what they’re doing with Newsies (well some new songs)

    • leigh ann says:

      what! Newsies songs are amazing – thats why it has such a cult following. i wouldnt mind if they added new ones, but it would be a huge mistake to get rid of the ones they already have – everyone who already loves Newsies will be hugely disappointed.

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  12. Adam Britten says:

    Andi & Steve, I agree about Hunchback as well. I’ve always thought that Hunchback & Hercules have the most appropriate “showtune” style music and would work very well on the stage. I’ve seen a few clips and pictures of Der Glockern von Notre Dame, and it’s a shame that American audiences may never get to see it.

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  14. mwshiner says:

    The Alladian is not a children’s theatre show, neither is Jungle Book.

    Dumbo I keep hearing about.

    Newsies is a for sure thing.

    Long shot – I hear once or twice – Enchanted: The Musical.

    Now that Wonderland on Broadway is closing – Disney’s Alice in Wonderland might also move a bit forward – although they may want to wait a while until the memory of this show fades.

    Also, there is a retooling of Little Mermaid in the works for touring possibilities, that might kick off at regional theatre.

    Non-Musical – they produced Peter and the Starcatchers – first as a workshop at the La Jolla Playhouse and then to RAVE reviews at New York Theatre Workshop (Off Broadway) – but with all the way across the board Broadway talent that is get a lot of talking of future life with that show.

    I think Disney Theatrical has a lot going on right now – but all behind the scenes – with the fairly quick shuttering of both Tarzan and Little Mermaid, they devo end of things make take a while to get a couple of more hits in the work – but let’s be honest – too many shows on the Great White White Way might saturate the market.

    Right now, a lot of eyes are on Spiderman – which I am sure Disney (owning Marvel) must have some vague interest in? But at the very least is watching a uber-mega-musical developed directly for the Broadway stage from source material . . . pretty much what Disney has been doing (And with Julie Taymor’ the director of their biggest hit!).

  15. Adam says:

    Disney bought Marvel after all rights to the musical were a done deal. I don’t believe that they have any investment in Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark. (And Julie Taymor is no longer with the show.)

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