Founded in 1993, as Walt Disney Theatrical, the division has gained a reputation within the industry for creating professional and popular (both critically and financially) performances, starting with the acclaimed Beauty and the Beast in 1994 and most recently with Aladdin in 2014. The company is a division of Disney Theatrical Group, led by Thomas Schumacher.
The show began previews in New York City on March 9, 1994 and officially opened at the Palace Theatre on April 18, 1994. The musical was the first Broadway adaptation by Disney, based on the 1991 animated film by Linda Woolverton and with music and lyrics by Alan Menken, Howard Ashman, and Tim Rice. Several new songs were written for the Broadway musical, including Home, a ballad sung by Belle which quickly became the signature song of the musical. It had a continuous run and the final performance took place on July 29, 2007 at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre to make room for another Disney production, The Little Mermaid. At 5,461 performances, the show is currently the eighth-longest run in Broadway history.
It has been performed internationally first in Melbourne, Australia and has also been performed in London, Toronto, Kyoto, Seoul, Stuttgart, Sydney, Mexico City, Guayaquil, Johannesburg, Madrid, Moscow, Milan, São Paulo, and has also toured around the USA and United Kingdom. In the Netherlands this production was co-produced by Joop van den Ende's Stage Entertainment. The production had new sets and costumes.
The show debuted July 8, 1997, in Minneapolis, Minnesota at the Orpheum Theatre, and was an instant success before premiering on Broadway at the New Amsterdam Theater on October 15, 1997 in previews with the official opening on November 13, 1997. On June 13, 2006, the Broadway production moved to the Minskoff Theatre to make way for the musical version of Mary Poppins, where it is still running. It is now Broadway's seventh longest-running show in history.
The show uses a range of theatrical techniques, and is not a conventional musical, yet is probably the most popular production Disney Theatrical have ever conceived and one of the most loved productions in the world. It has consistently been one of the highest grossing musicals on Broadway every week, always performing to nearly-sold out audiences. The production won the Tony Award for Best Musical at the 1998 Tony Awards.
Its popularity has spawned several additional opening performances around the world, including in London, Toronto, Hamburg, Scheveningen, Sydney, Melbourne, Shanghai, Montreal, Tokyo, Paris, Nagoya, Russia, Seoul, Johannesburg, Las Vegas, Taipei, and Madrid.
The show was based on the animated film The Hunchback of Notre Dame. It premiered in Berlin, Germany in 1999. This was adapted into a darker, more gothic musical production, re-written and directed by James Lapine and produced by Stella Entertainment, in Berlin, Germany. Considered to be a great boost for tourists in Germany, the musical Der Glöckner von Notre Dame (translated in English as The Bellringer of Notre Dame) was very successful and played from 1999 to 2002, before closing. A cast recording was also recorded in German.
The show was based on the movie of the same name and the novel Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs, and debuted on Broadway on May 10, 2006 at the Richard Rodgers Theatre. The show was heavily publicized with Phil Collins and the lead actors promoting the new musical on several media shows including The Today Show, Good Morning America, and Live with Regis and Kelly. After playing at the Richard Rodgers Theatre for over a year the show closed on July 8, 2007.
On April 15, 2007 the musical debuted in Europe in the Netherlands as the successor of The Lion King in Scheveningen. A Broadway musical had never previously arrived in the Netherlands so soon after its Broadway premiere. Phil Collins was a special guest at the 2006 Johnny Kraaijkamp Musical Awards. There he announced the news that Tarzan was coming to the Netherlands. Due to the size of the Circustheater, the show was expanded beyond the original Broadway production.
In 2008 a new production opened in Germany. A casting show on TV called "Ich Tarzan, Du Jane" ("I Tarzan, you Jane") searched for actors for the roles of Tarzan and Jane.
A revamped tour version had previously been announced to debut in January 2009 in Atlanta at the Theatre of the Stars. The new production was supposed to feature the same music and book, and directed and choreographed by Lynne Taylor-Corbett, with scenic design by Kenneth Foy, aerial design by Paul Rubin and lighting design by Ken Billington. This production has since been canceled due to a supposed mismanagement of funds by Theatre of the Stars.
The musical began Broadway previews on November 3, 2007 and opened on January 10, 2008 at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, even through trouble due to the Local One stagehands strike, which ended on November 28, 2007. The world premiere took place at The Ellie Caulkins Opera House at the Denver Center of the Performing Arts in Denver, Colorado. The show features all songs in the movie and will boast nine new songs written by Menken and lyricist Glenn Slater. The book for the new musical is by Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning playwright Doug Wright, with direction by Francesca Zambello, choreography by Stephen Mear, scenic design by George Tsypin, costume design by Tatiana Noginova and lighting design by Natasha Katz. The musical on Broadway opened to mixed reviews.
The original Broadway cast featured Sierra Boggess as Ariel, Norm Lewis as King Triton, Sherie Rene Scott as Ursula, Eddie Korbich as Scuttle, Sean Palmer as Prince Eric, Brian D'Addario and Major Curda as Flounder, and Tituss Burgess as Sebastian.
The musical closed on August 30, 2009 after 685 performances and 50 previews..In 2012, a Dutch production will premiere. This version will be a new version, co-produced by Stage Entertainment.
In November 2010 Alan Menken confirmed that a musical theatre adaptation of the show was in the works with a book written by Chad Beguelin. The show premiered at the 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle from July 7 to July 31, 2011, with direction and choreography by Casey Nicholaw. Another production played at the Muny Theatre in St. Louis from July 5 – 13, 2012. After a final try-out at the Ed Mirvish Theatre in 2013, the show officially came to Broadway, opening at the New Amsterdam Theatre on March 20, 2014 with most of the Seattle cast reprising their roles, and Nicholaw returning to direct and choreograph.
The shows priemere cast included Adam Jacobs as Aladdin, Courtney Reed as Princess Jasmine, James Monroe Iglehart as the Genie, Jonathon Freeman as Jafar, Clifton Davis as The Sultan, Don Darryl Rivera as Iago, Jonathon Schwartz as Omar, Brian Gonzales as Babkak, and Brandon O'Neil as Kassim. The show received mostly positive reviews, and was nominated for 5 Tony Awards, winning one. James Monroe Iglehart, received a Tony for Best Featured Actor in a Musical, for his role as the Genie.
With the success of the show on Broadway, a Japanese production opened in 2015 in Tokyo presented by the Shiki Theatre Company. A production on London's West End followed in the summer of 2016, at the Prince Edward Theatre.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
In 2008, Stephen Schwartz said, "I think we're starting up Hunchback of Notre Dame, hopefully, next year (2009). Rumor has reached my ear that it's happening." Thomas Schumacher, head of Disney Theatrical, discussed current and future stage productions in an article published by the Columbus Dispatch on September 21, 2008. In the article, a US-version of Hunchback is listed among others as being in development, "Disney's first original foreign-language production, which ran from 1999 to 2002 in Berlin, is being revamped for its U.S. premiere."
In an interview, Alan Menken confirmed an American revival coming soon to New York. Casting was announced, Michael Arden played Quasimodo, Patrick Page played Frollo, Ciara Renee played Esmeralda, Andrew Samonsky played Phoebus, and Erik Libermen played Clopin. The show opened La Jolla Playhouse in 2014 and was later transferred to the Paper Mill Playhouse in 2015. Despite positive reception and a well received cast album, the show never made a transfer to New York.
In December, 2017, a musical version of Pinocchio opened at the National Theatre in London with songs from the Disney film.
On January 13, 2014, Disney CEO Bob Iger announced that a Broadway stage adaptation of the hit 2013 film Frozen is in early development stages. On February 12, 2015, it was announced that the Broadway musical will be directed by two-time Tony nominee Alex Timbers and is aiming for the Broadway show to open in 2017. It was announced also that the film's songwriters, Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, will write new songs for the show. On February 9, 2016, it was announced that the musical is scheduled to open in spring 2018.
A private reading of the stage version of the musical Frozen was held in May 2016. "Elsa" was played by Betsy Wolfe and "Anna" was played by Patti Murin. The out of town tryout is expected to begin at the Denver Center Buell Theatre in August 2017, with the Broadway premiere at the St. James Theatre in spring 2018.
New creatives were announced on September 27, 2016: Michael Grandage is the director and Christopher Oram is the scenic designer. (Timbers is no longer with the project.)
In March 2011, Gordon Cox of Variety officially announced that Disney will produce Dumbo which “will see Michael Chabon penning the book for the "Billy Elliot" duo of director Stephen Daldry and choreographer Peter Darling. Bob Crowley ("Aida", "Mary Poppins") designs.”
The Jungle Book
Variety stated that there is an "Early-stages project [of] "Jungle Book," a tuner version (with songs from the movie) to be written and directed by Mary Zimmerman ("Metamorphases")."
Cameron Mackintosh's stage adaptation of Mary Poppins had its world premiere at the Bristol Hippodrome starting with previews from September 15, 2004 before officially opening on September 18 for a limited engagement until November 6. The production then moved to the Prince Edward Theatre on December 15, 2004. It was announced in June 2007 that this production would close on January 12, 2008, after a run of more than three years.
A UK tour of Mary Poppins commenced in June 2008 and ended in April 2009.
The Broadway production opened on November 16, 2006, following a month of previews in the New Amsterdam Theater. A North American tour of the show began at Chicago's Cadillac Palace Theatre in March 2009.
An Australian production opened at Melbourne's Her Magesty's Theatre in July, 2010.
A Dutch production opened in April, 2010 at the Circus Theater in Scheveningen.
A Czech production opened at Brno City Theatre (Městské divadlo Brno) in November, 2010.
High School Musical
The hit Disney Channel movie High School Musical was adapted for the stage in 2007. It had its world professional premiere at the Theatre of the Stars in Atlanta, Georgia. A US tour began on August 1, 2007 and ended on August 10, 2008. A West End production opened in July for a limited run. High School Musical has performed internationally in Spain, Italy, Netherlands, South Africa, and Australia.
High School Musical is licensed through Music Theatre International and has been performed by over 5,000 theaters throughout the world. Currently there is a Full Length version, One-Act Edition, and JR one-hour version designed specifically for middle-school aged performers.
High School Musical 2
A stage version of the sequel movie High School Musical 2was released as a stage version in
October 2008. Like the original, the show exists in a full length version, One-Act Edition and a one-hour long JR version designed for middle-school aged performers and is licensed through Music Theatre International.
The show, based on the 1992 film, features a book by Harvey Fierstein and music by Alan Menken and Jack Feldman. A reading of the musical was held in New York on December 10, 2010. The musical premiered at the Paper Mill Playhouse (Millburn, New Jersey), in September 2011 with Jeff Calhoun as director. "Disney representatives stated that the production was not eyeing a Broadway berth, but is being explored as a property for licensing by professional and amateur groups." However, due to enthusiastic reviews, the show opened on Broadway and will play the Nederlander Theatre with an open-ended run. The show was nominated for eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical, winning only Best Choreography and Best Original Score.
A musical version of the film, with a book by Bridget Carpenter and a score by Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey of Next to Normal fame, opened at the La Jolla Playhouse in 2016. It will subsequently be adapted as a Disney Channel Original Movie with Heidi Blickenstaff reprising her role as the mother.
In 2013, Disney Theatrical revealed that a show based on The Muppets was in active development and that a 15-minute show had been conducted by Thomas Schumacher to see how the technical components would work out.
Alice in Wonderland
Disney Theatrical is already in early talks with Burton and screenwriter Linda Woolverton, to develop the hit 2010 film of the same name into a Broadway musical. Woolverton authored the screenplay for Disney's The Lion King and is also the Tony Award-nominated book writer of Beauty and the Beast, Aida, and Lestat. Burton will also render the overall designs for the stage musical. Woolverton will adapt her screenplay for the stage production. Neither a composer nor songwriting team has been chosen yet. Robert Jess Roth is set to helm the stage musical that will have choreography by Matt West. The duo also collaborated on Disney's first Broadway outing: Beauty and the Beast. No casting has been announced.
Father of the Bride
A stage musical version of the film is in development with Bartlett Sher as expected director.
King David is a musical, sometimes described as a modern oratorio, with a book and lyrics by Tim Rice and music by Alan Menken. The musical is based on Biblical tales from the Books of Samuel and 1 Chronicles, as well as text from David's Psalms.
Based on the opera by Giuseppe Verdi, it tells the story of a Nubian slave who falls in love with an Egyptian captain. It was written by Elton John and Tim Rice. It began previews on February 25, 2000 and officially opened on Broadway at the Palace Theatre on March 23, 2000. Aida closed on September 5, 2004 and ran for a total of 30 previews and Pre-1922#1852 performances. The Broadway production won four Tony Awards including Best Actress (Heather Headley), Best Scenic Design, Best Lighting Design, and Best Music. Since its run on Broadway, it has had a U.S. national tour and productions around the world.
On the Record
Debuting in November 2004, the show brought together sixty classic Disney songs from 1930 right up to 2004. They are woven together loosely by a storyline which is set in a recording studio with young (and old) performers using the songs to express their moods and the interrelationships among the characters they portray. The show played at the National Theatre in Washington D.C., as well as other theatres on a national tour.
Peter and the Starcatcher
Disney Theatrical Productions and La Jolla Playhouse (California) adapted Peter and the Starcatchers, which is a prequel to the Peter Pan story, into a play with music. The new play is written by Rick Elice, co-directed by Roger Rees and Alex Timbers, and is based on the novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. It was produced as part of La Jolla Playhouse's Page to Stage program, and ran from February 13, 2009 through March 8, 2009. An Off Broadway production opened at New York Theatre Workshop The Broadway production is expected to begin previews on March 28, 2012 at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre.
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