Theater’s beloved names and brightest stars joined a sold-out audience in honoring Broadway’s most fantastical anniversary at Celebrating 25 Magical Years of Disney on Broadway. The sparkling silver anniversary event on November 4, 2019, raised an astounding $570,426 for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
Celebrating 25 Magical Years of Disney on Broadway, presented at the New Amsterdam Theatre, featured a cast of 79 performers and a 15-piece onstage orchestra. The show opened with a joyous traditional South African welcome blessing led by The Lion King cast members and closed with a roof-raising rendition of “Let It Go” from Frozen performed by the evening’s entire cast.
The evening also included a high-spirited, tap-dancing reunion of Newsies, the recoupling of favorite Disney on Broadway pairs in new settings and a special appearance by the inimitable Whoopi Goldberg.
“The night was a spectacular success, in so many ways,” Broadway Cares Executive Director Tom Viola said. “It was a beautiful, sleek and first-class show that delighted those lucky enough to be in that wondrous house called the New Amsterdam. Thanks to Thomas Schumacher, president and producer of Disney Theatrical Productions and executive vice president of Broadway Cares’ Board of Trustees, and all at Disney on Broadway for making the evening possible. The grand total is a most welcome accomplishment that will be put to very good work, helping the most vulnerable among us receive lifesaving medication, healthy meals emergency financial assistance and so much more.”
Broadway’s original Mary Poppins Ashley Brown shared with the audience that since Disney on Broadway launched in 1993 with Beauty and the Beast, its 10 hit Broadway and national touring shows have raised more than $18 million for Broadway Cares. This fundraising supports the vital social service programs of The Actors Fund and more than 470 AIDS and family service organizations across the country.
Goldberg, a Broadway veteran and host of ABC’s The View, ushered in the evening of unique and unforgettable performances after the percussive opening welcome by The Lion King‘s Lindiwe Dlamini, Bongi Duma, Tshidi Manye and Sbusiso Ngema.
Eighteen Newsies from the show’s Broadway and national touring productions joined forces for an exuberant and much-anticipated reunion performance of “King of New York,” featuring a guest appearance from Ashley Park from Mean Girls. Christopher Gattelli’s classic choreography dazzled as the newsboys filled the stage, tapping in both captivating synchronicity and stunning solos.
Christian Borle and Brown captured the whimsy and wonder of Mary Poppins in a delightful medley, moving through “Let’s Go Fly a Kite,” “Jolly Holiday,” “Chim Chim Cher-ee” and “Step in Time” with an unmistakable playfulness.
Aladdin and Hamilton star James Monroe Iglehart, a self-proclaimed Disney nerd, asked the audience for three suggestions as to what Disney means to them, getting “love,” “hope” and “fantastic.” The Freestyle Love Supreme special guest then wove those words into an improvised rap about Disney’s history on Broadway. He seamlessly transitioned into a smooth interpretation of The Lion King‘s “Can You Feel The Love Tonight.”
The evening was marked with one-of-a-kind, unexpected pairings, one of the most eagerly anticipated being original Aida castmates Adam Pascal and Sherie Rene Scott. The duo delivered a rock and roll flair to the romantic titular song in Beauty and the Beast.
The recent Public Works production of Hercules was highlighted in three numbers, including a breathtaking trio version of “Go The Distance” performed by Jelani Alladin, Bradley Gibson and Alton Fitzgerald White. The muses, Ramona Keller, Tamika Lawrence, Kissy Simmons, Rema Webb and Syndee Winters, brought the house down with a show-stopping act one finale of “Zero to Hero,” backed by the Grammy Award-winning gospel choir Broadway Inspirational Voices. The muses returned with Susan Egan and Krysta Rodriguez to perform the sassy fan favorite “I Won’t Say I’m in Love,” the rendition rich with enchanting harmonies.
Additional group numbers included an effervescent and jazzy take on Aladdin‘s “Friend Like Me” led by Michael James Scott and backed by Disney on Broadway favorites Lauryn Ciardullo, April Holloway, Nina LaFarga and Katie Terza. Girl power was in full force when the women supported Mandy Gonzalez in an empowering and energizing performance of “My Strongest Suit” from Aida. Dear Evan Hansen‘s Andrew Barth Feldman, who played Flounder in a community theater production of The Little Mermaid when he was 11, returned to his undersea roots with a fun-loving performance of “She’s in Love,” joined by the women on backup vocals.
The evening also featured sensational solos from beloved Broadway stars. A very pregnant Kara Lindsay gave new meaning to Beauty and the Beast‘s “Change in Me” as the song became a reflection on motherhood and the new life that awaits her. Josh Strickland (Tarzan) shared a rousing rendition of “Santa Fe” from Newsies, transporting the audience to the fresh air and openness of the storied city. Beetlejuice‘s Kerry Butler offered an endearing and ethereal take on The Little Mermaid‘s classic “Part of Your World.”
The signature sonorous voice of Norm Lewis gave depth and intensity to the devastatingly beautiful “If I Can’t Love Her” from Beauty and the Beast. Dreaming of existing beyond the walls of Notre Dame, Gavin Creel shared the heart and hope of The Hunchback of Notre Dame in “Out There.” The warm, inviting vocals of Adam Jacobs enveloped the audience in his performance of Aladdin‘s “Proud of Your Boy.”
Brown comedically and poignantly navigated the anxieties of motherhood, emerging with confidence and bravery in “No More Fear” from Freaky Friday. She also returned to her Mary Poppins roots with a stirring performance of “Feed the Birds.” Tarzan and Aida‘s Merle Dandridge shared a rousing rendition of “You’ll Be in My Heart” from Tarzan, bringing meaning to each lyric. Sierra Boggess’ impressive and emotive vocals lent themselves to a tender, emotional rendition of “Never Again” from King David.
The show’s penultimate moment was a soulful and inspiring performance of “The Gods Love Nubia” from Aida, led by Aladdin‘s Marisha Wallace and backed by Winters and Broadway Inspirational Voices. Then, the entire company came to the stage to sing “Let it Go” from Frozen, bringing the audience to its feet.
Casey Hushion directed the evening. Jeff Lee and Viola served as executive producers. James Abbott was the music director and created the revised orchestrations. Jason Trubitt served as Disney’s production supervisor. Howard Joines was the orchestra coordinator. The creative team included lighting designer Ryan J. O’Gara and sound designers Kurt Fischer and Marie Renee Foucher.
Corporate sponsors of Celebrating 25 Years of Disney on Broadway included New York Marriott Marquis and The New York Times
Photos by Monica Simoes and Evan Zimmerman
Video by Reel Time Video Production; highlights video edited by Mo Brady