Disney Theatrical Productions, also known as Disney on Broadway, was founded by Disney Entertainment’s executive vice president, Ron Logan, in 1993. Since then, Disney Theatrical Productions has been producing the most magical shows onstage, starting with Beauty and the Beast.
It has been 26 years, and more or less 20 plays have graced the Great White Way. Here are Disney’s top theatrical productions since 1994.
Best Theatrical Productions from Disney
The Lion King
The Lion King deeply impressed critics and theatergoers for its creativity in bringing the movie to a new medium. It has been one of the highest-grossing Broadway shows. Currently, the third longest-running show in history, only The Phantom of the Opera and Chicago topped this Disney treat. The Lion King won six Tonys including Best Musical.
Kenny Ortega, most famous for the High School Musical movies, directed and choreographed Newsies, based on the 1992 film. The dancing alone makes this musical top-notch. The male-dominated original ensemble, made up of extremely talented dancers, left the audiences on the edge of their seats. Newsies earned eight Tony nominations in 2012 and won two: Best Choreography and Best Original Score.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
While The Hunchback of Notre Dame technically hasn’t made it to Broadway (and unfortunately, doesn’t look like it will), it made huge waves at the La Jolla Playhouse in 2014. Disney originally produced the musical in Berlin, and it ran from 1999 to 2002. The musical is a darker, more gothic adaptation of the film. The adaptation was an expansion on the original movie to be truer to the Victor Hugo novel.
Beauty and the Beast
Beauty and the Beast debuted on Broadway in 1994 at the Palace Theatre. It was the first adaptation from film to stage for a Disney movie. Where the movie brought dishware and inanimate objects to life with a little bit of animation, the Broadway show utilized costumes and confetti cannons. The Beast’s costume is breathtaking, and several of the castle’s residents, like Lumière and Cogsworth, have special effects wired into their costumes to add a little flair and put the magic in the details.
Disney Theatrical Productions did a wonderful job bringing a timeless movie to the stage with Mary Poppins. The musical ran on Broadway for six years, earning seven Tony nominations including Best Musical. The musical, though based on the 1964 film, brought in inspiration from the original books, including new characters and rewriting some of the backstories of the Banks family. Composers and songwriters created new numbers for the musical. Some were moved or reimagined to incorporate new parts of the story or new characters.
After the stunning success of the 2013 computer-animated Frozen, Disney let it go onstage. Elsa and Anna premiered in New York in the spring of 2018, with music from Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, the Oscar-winning songwriting team from the film. However, Frozen, currently in previews at Broadway’s St. James Theatre, goes much darker and deeper into the story of two sisters torn apart by fear. “The only reason to expand this piece into a full-length Broadway musical was to dive much deeper into the idea of a family that can get frozen into dysfunction because of fear and shame,” said Anderson-Lopez.
The story of Aladdin made its Broadway debut in 2014, eventually garnering five Tony nominations. James Monroe Iglehart won Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical for his performance. The show’s hilariously charming Genie, gruesome villain, timeless romance, and a rags-to-riches story translate well to the stage.
Tarzan opened on Broadway on May 10, 2006, at the Richard Rodgers Theatre. It is the only Disney Theatrical Production to open on Broadway without an out-of-town trial run. Disney reprised many of the beloved Phil Collins songs for the stage version, with a few tweaks. Collins also wrote nine new songs for the musical. While the show was not nominated for any Tony awards, a Dutch production of the musical was nominated for nine awards over the course of three years and won three of them.
The Little Mermaid
The Little Mermaid opened in 2008 to replace Beauty and the Beast. Disney Theatrical Productions closed Beauty and the Beast for fear of having two competing Disney princesses on Broadway at the same time. The musical featured Sierra Boggess as Ariel, Tituss Burgess as Sebastian, and Sherie Rene Scott as Ursula. Ten new songs were added for the stage. Additionally, many of the famous songs from the musical were given a face-lift for the Broadway version. In 2008, The Little Mermaid earned two Tony nominations.