Jim on Film
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Wishing Upon a Theatrical Star
In the wake of the big Disney/Eisner shake-up, Walt Disney Theatricals announced its next project to hit the stage. It's not the long-promised Kerry-Butler-as-Ariel in The Little Mermaid project or the intriguing Adam-Pascal-as-Phil-Collins stage adaptation of Tarzan. Mary Poppins will be hitting the London stage, so it'll be some time before we see Mary fly into our hearts here in America (though we can always hope Jane Eyre's Marla Shaffel will do the flying when that day does arrive). It's On the Record, a show that appears to be a musical revue to be directed by talented director and choreographer Robert Longbottom (of Side Show and the final version of The Scarlet Pimpernel fame).
As any die hard Disney fan knows, Disney loves to sell collections of songs from its popular canon of films. Since the popularity of CDs, Disney has released at least five different collections of songs on multi-disc releases. As a theatrical piece, On the Record will probably not be as visually spectacular as The Lion King or as moving as Aida (which will sadly be closing on Broadway on September 5th), but with a strong cast, it will likely be a great night to hear great voices singing the greatest of Disney songs.
One of the curiosity factors for me will be to hear the Disney songs performed in a contemporary voice. My heart will always belong to the original recordings as heard in the films themselves, but just as the music in Home on the Range, Brother Bear, and Treasure Planet were written and recorded to appeal to contemporary audiences, so the songs in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, and Lady and the Tramp were performed to appeal to tastes that were contemporary for their time. There has been no word on casting and there's no way of guessing who might be in the actual touring production of the show, but it would be exciting to hear voices like Merle Dandridge singing Someday My Prince Will Come, Margaret Ann Gates getting her powerful voice on Once Upon a Dream, Charlie Pollock and Christiane Noll getting to duet on So This is Love, or Chuck Wagner having a blast with The Bare Necessities.
But speaking as a fan of both the Broadway stage and the Disney films, the key will be for the performers to sing the songs as if they were performing them in character (in other words, along the lines of the original intentions of the characters for which they were written). After all, these are some of the greatest musical theatre songs ever written, even if they didn't start on the stage, and they call out for a traditional musical theatre interpretation. As brilliant composer/lyricist Michael John LaChiusa (Marie Christine and The Wild Party) writes in the linear notes of Matt Bogart's CD Simple Song, there is a "complexity behind the surface of a simple song and . . . it needs no embellishment, no ego-driven interpretation.â€? After all, Disney's already made two Disneymania CDs, there's no need to repeat the concept on stage.
Christiane Noll & Charlie Pollock