Four stars of the stage join forces to celebrate the best of Disney’s Broadway shows
When talking about Disney on the stage it’s quite easy to stick to the big ones – The Lion King, Aladdin, and now Frozen – but unbeknownst to most there have been a smorgasbord of shows to grace the stage under the Disney umbrella. Needless to say, the executive board of Disney Theatricals have certainly been making it rain.
So what a treat for the Royal Albert Hall to bring back its exceedingly popular Disney Broadway Hits for another magical weekend on the capital’s most famous stage. Everything at the Hall is always stunning – hell, Donald Trump could probably deliver the State of the Union Address there and it would seem reasoned and beautifully delivered, but there’s something about film and theatre that just seems to lend itself to the London landmark.
What always remains obvious at any Disney event is how the spirit of this company doesn’t have generational silos. To my left is a man clearly in the retirement years, and up to my right an excited babbling child probably younger than some of the stuff in my fridge.
Taking to the stage to the tune of the BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by Keith Lockhart on this occasion are true theatrical royalty; Ava Brennan, Shaun Escoffery, Willemijn Verkaik, and Anton Zetterholm, all of whom have taken on some of the theatre’s biggest roles.
When kicking off an evening of show tunes, your first and last song must be bigguns, and this evening does not disappoint, with Be Our Guest from Disney’s unstoppable Beauty and the Beast. It’s easy to assume that the magic of this track comes from the clever animation of flying candlesticks and dancing plates, but to just sit and listen to the music you appreciate the pace and cleverly positioned lyricism that make this song a head bopper.
More songs recognisable from both the films and theatrical release are beautifully done, particularly Willemijn Verkaik‘s goosebump inducing version of A Change In Me.
From a strong start, the show builds a beautiful story through each segment dedicated to the various titles that have graced Broadway over the decades.
As if it could ever disappoint, the music of The Lion King cannot go without mention, particularly a stunning performance of Shadowland by Ava Brennan which heavily features music from Hans Zimmer‘s iconic original score of the movie. Another special mention must go out to Shaun Escoffery for a belter rendition of He Lives In You – having played Mufasa in the West End version of the show, it’s not surprising he knows his way around the piece like a London cabbie knows the East End.
Some shows that never made it to London also dazzle the audience, particularly The Hunchback of Notre Dame and a powerful performance by Anton Zetterholm of Out There, which he then follows up with a well deserved sit down.
Just ahead of the interval the four stars join force for a corker of a tune – Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (thank God for Google autofill).
But it’s not just the big hitters that get a mention of course – Aida, King David, Newsies, Tarzan, and the little known Broadway appearance of everyone’s favourite disobedient fish woman, Arial, in The Little Mermaid.
But all pale in comparison to evening’s showstopper – the film that parents hate to love – Frozen. Since it’s appearance on Broadway it’s taken New York by storm and I predict it won’t be a million years until Elsa makes the treacherous journey to London’s West End.
And if the reaction at the Royal Albert Hall is anything to go by, a British audience is certainly ready for it. The show is closed by the inevitable and awaited Disney song of the decade – Let It Go.
And with that, the show comes to a dazzling end – but I wouldn’t worry that you’ve missed the boat – keep your eyes peeled and I’m sure that Disney will return to the Royal Albert Hall in the shake of a magic wand.
Not a euphemism.
Images: Manuel Harlan. © Disney