Disney, With Benefit Concert, Makes an Early Return to Broadway

For the first time in what certainly feels like forever, classics from the Disney songbook will once again — and sooner than expected — ...


For the first time in what certainly feels like forever, classics from the Disney songbook will once again — and sooner than expected — ring out from a Broadway stage.

The New Amsterdam Theater, usually home to “Aladdin,” will briefly welcome audiences back for four concerts benefiting the Actors Fund in late July, with a handful of Disney stage alumni performing numbers from “The Lion King,” “Frozen,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin” and others.

The concert series, “Live at the New Am,” is somewhat of a soft reopening for Disney’s theatrical division in New York, albeit without the more elaborate production elements and massive companies that its stage adaptations typically entail. “The Lion King” and “Aladdin,” along with nearly a dozen other Broadway shows, start back up in September.

“We have a concert unit, and we have a theater that’s sitting there waiting to be opened, and so it made sense to ‘what if,’” Thomas Schumacher, the president of Disney Theatrical Productions, said in a Zoom interview from London’s Lyceum Theater. (“The Lion King” is set to begin performances there later this summer, as is “Frozen” down the street.)

As of Wednesday, Covid-19 protocols for “Live at the New Am” were still in flux: Disney hasn’t yet settled whether masks will be required. Audience members will need to show proof that they are fully vaccinated; attendees under 12 are exempt but must be with a vaccinated adult. (A couple of blocks away, “Springsteen on Broadway” has similar vaccination requirements but no mask mandate.)

The Disney concert isn’t so much a test run of Covid-19 protocols ahead of the September reopenings, Schumacher said, since the latest guidance will continue to evolve. Logistically, after 16 months without an audience, it’s primarily a chance to get the theater’s entire ecosystem back up and running.

“It’s very difficult to imagine, just on a practical level, bringing the entire company of ‘Aladdin’ — orchestra, cast, crew, everybody, ushers — all back in the theater and bang, just starting back in with the show,” Schumacher said. “We need the theater to get back up to speed before it starts.”

It’s a process that involves reopening the box office, getting ticket-takers and other front-of-house staff back to work and examining the traffic patterns of how patrons move through the building. Not to mention one of the more underrated needs: “To hear laughter and applause and joy in the space is valuable — gives everyone confidence,” Schumacher added. “People need confidence to come back.”

For the past decade or so, Disney has staged retrospective concerts of its Broadway hits around the world, from Japan to Orlando, Fla., and even alongside a full orchestra at Royal Albert Hall, in London. Michael James Scott, the most recent (and the next) Genie in Broadway’s “Aladdin,” has performed in several: “I’m telling you, it’s like 11 o’clock number after 11 o’clock number.”

Scott is joined in this iteration by Ashley Brown, the original Mary Poppins on Broadway; Kissy Simmons, who has played Nala in “The Lion King” on Broadway; and Josh Strickland, Disney’s original Tarzan on Broadway.

There will be three evening performances of “Live at the New Am,” from July 22-24 at 7:30 p.m., and a 2 p.m. matinee on July 25.

“It’s a much more intimate feel,” Scott added in a phone interview, “but yet still all of that amazing music that people love.”

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Newsrust - US Top News: Disney, With Benefit Concert, Makes an Early Return to Broadway
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