Although it is not Disney’s most profitable division, nor its most well-attended, Disney Theatrical Productions, also known as Disney on Broadway, is recognized (both critically and financially) for its stage musicals. The first of which was “Beauty and the Beast” in April 1994.
The division is led by Thomas Schumacher, one time President of Disney Animation, has quietly been creating hit shows and partnering with other theatre groups to develop new musicals and plays.
An interview with Schumacher on Show People with Paul Wontorek has some interesting bits of news about what’s next for Disney Broadway ambitions, including confirmation that Disney has been thinking of updating its “Beauty and the Beast” musical.
“It’s been 25 years since Beauty and the Beast opened on Broadway—we obviously weren’t the first people to do a family musical. Certain generations would say, ‘Oh, the first musical I saw was The King and I’ or ‘The Sound of Music’ or ‘Annie.’ Beauty and the Beast brought a very different audience than what people were expecting on Broadway,” said Schumacher. “It was both a date night show and a kids’ show. We’re working on a revival of it with the entire original team but with a completely new design for every element: new dance arrangements, whole new staging ideas. It’s really fun for that team to be able to dive back in.”
Here are a few more revelations from the interview:
Work is progressing on a “The Princess Bride” musical.
“Working with David Yazbek and Bob Martin and Rick Elice on The Princess Bride is so unbelievably thrilling. The other day, we were reading through the first act of the show, and David pulled out his guitar and started playing a song. Everyone at the table was weeping. It was so beautiful.”
The “Hercules” musical has reached the point where they’re doing readings. Which means a staging isn’t that far away.
“Lear DeBessonet is such a gifted, gifted director. She went to see Alan Menken at his studio upstate, and she said, ‘What are you doing with Hercules?’ Then she took it to Oskar Eustis. We all came and met, and the Public said, ‘We would like to do this.’ We’ve done a couple of readings of it. Alan Menken and David Zippel, who did the songs for the original, have come back and written new material. It’s very fun, and it’s very emotional to be in the room with the music and see these glorious actors do it.”
Watch the entire interview here:
The interview is excerpted in Broadway.com if you don’t have time to watch the whole thing.
Other projects Disney Theatrical has been rumored to be working on lately include a musical version of “Dumbo,” although I have to think that’s on hold given the less than stellar performance of the new Tim Burton take on the original animated film.
The stage musical adaption of Disney’s animated classic “The Jungle Book” actually made it into a couple attempts in Chicago and Boston, but was put in mothballs to be reworked at some future date.
Adaptions of the live-action movies “Alice in Wonderland,” “Father of the Bride,” and “Bedknobs and Broomsticks” are also said to be in the works. “Bedknobs and Broomsticks” might be closest to reality with a production set for Chicago later this year.
There was at one point circa 2013, a production of The Muppets on Stage that was in development. I hear that work continues on this production, so maybe there’s hope for it still.
Which of the above shows are you most excited to see come to the stage?
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