Aerodynamic Pachyderms on Broadway

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Standard, non-flying variety elephant.

Dumbo may be headed to Broadway. This shouldn’t be surprising, considering the rather long track record Disney has with Broadway musical adaptations of its animate fare. The Lion King is still running today, and recently The Little Mermaid and Beauty and Beast enjoyed decent turns on Broadway. Mary Poppins is still running today as well, though that one is not rooted in animation.

The original 1941 animated film won an Oscar for its score, so there’s a decent musical vein to mine for a Broadway musical, including the notable “When I See An Elephant Fly”. Pretty good choice for a film about a flying elephant, after all. For anyone who doesn’t remember, is the story of an elephant who can fly, but only at the end of the film. There’s some requisite heart-string tugging to go through before you get there.

I think I’ve seen Dumbo, my memory is hazy. Disney doesn’t have much of a soft spot in my heart, as when I was in their prime demo growing up, they were turning out stuff like The Fox and the Hound and The Black Cauldron, neither of which are going to be high on the “musical adaptation” list.

Right now there’s no other details on the Dumbo production other than its rumored existence. When its official, and I have to think that’s a pretty sure bet, we’ll have a tickets page for it. For now check out some of Disney’s other active Broadway productions:

50 and a Half Stilts

In a follow-up to a previous post, because it’s something to post, the touring production of 101 Dalmatians: The Musical opened in Minnesota at Minneapolis’ Orpheum theatre last Wednesday night. One unique aspect of the production, namely that the human characters would be “larger than life” was revealed to be… stilts. Yes, the performers in the human roles parade around on stage wearing stilts, including acclaimed Broadway performer Rachel York in the Cruella De Vil role. Makes you wonder if she knew about the stilts before or after she signed the paperwork.

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This is shameless, I know.

Reviews from the opening night were mixed, though most noted the audience reaction was less mixed and more on the positive side. No doubt there’s a lot of crossover between film and theatre critics, and a cognitive dissonance between their opinion and box office grosses is hardly unheard of. The music is all original, and not based on any from the 1963 Disney animated production. That means the memorable “Cruella De Vil” ditty is absent here. The plot follows that of the book about as loosely as the various movies have.

Pictured here as De Vil, wearing what appears to be a large swatch of shag carpeting from the late 1970′s, York’s performance is roundly praised amongst otherwise mixed reviews. None of this means too much, as one of the purposes of a touring production prior to a Broadway run is to tweak the show based on audience reaction. This may well happen before the show finds a more long term home on Broadway later next year. It seems the one certainty is they’ll want to keep Rachel York on, whatever else may change.

Currently the show is running in Appleton, Wisconsin, and will head on to Atlanta and Washington DC after that. It will make it to our backyard around Thanksgiving, playing The Long Center Nov. 24-29th. You can check out all the listings on our 101 Dalmatians Tickets page.

The Menaced Phantom

Sci-Fi fans are notorious for reacting poorly to news of a sequel or remake of some highly cherished film or TV show, secure in the knowledge that the mere existence of such thing totally and completely invalidates / ruins the original. I have some pride in the fact that I don’t subscribe to this theory. Heretical though it may be to the orthodoxy, if someone wants to create a sequel to something or a completely new version of it, I’ll wait to actually see it before deciding whether it’s good or bad. Also, I like both Star Trek and Star Wars.

So is this neurosis confined to the dark basements of sci-fi geekdom? No, apparently not. Last week Andrew Lloyd Weber announced opening dates for the sequel he’s created to The Phantom of the Opera. Howls of protest escaped the Internet soon after.

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Though the news of the sequel “went wide” last week, its existence hasn’t exactly been under wraps. Currently the longest running show in Broadway history, “The Phantom” is the subject of an adoring fan base. I’ve never seen it myself, though I’ve probably heard the “big” song. Something about “night” and “music”, I think. The plot is about a disfigured homicidal stalker and the woman he stalks, er… “loves”. All the murder is done in a highly romantic fashion, though, thus it has a great deal of appeal to the theatre-going masses and makes it “okay.”

Making a sequel to this, one of the most successful in musical history, is not going over well amongst many of the Phantom’s biggest fans. Despite the fact that the sequel is being scored by the same guy responsible for the thing they hold so dear (Webber), it matters not. Ask George Lucas about that sometime. The sequel, Love Never Dies, is loosely based on a 1999 novel by Frederick Forsyth, The Phantom in Manhattan, itself a sequel to the original novel upon which the musical version was based. The Phantom has set up shop in Coney Island as a freakshow attraction/entrepreneur, and lures his preferred stalkee to the Island with the offer of a steady singing gig at his theatre.

Despite Broadway’s fascination with Hollywood, the one thing they have yet to master is the art of the successful sequel. Did you know there was a sequel to Annie? Yeah, you and no one else, since it bombed in 1989. Remains to be seen if Phantom 2 will suffer the same fate. If it does, there will be a heaping helping of schadenfreude in the halls and message boards of the Phantom purists.

It’s early, since the opening isn’t until March 2010 in London’s West End, but we have a Love Never Dies tickets page up, where you can sign up for updates on ticket availability.

Sequel to ‘Phantom’ to debut next year

phantomAndrew Lloyd Webber’s popular musical Phantom of the Opera was based on the French novel Le Fantôme de l’Opéra by Gaston Leroux.  The famed composer transformed the story into an international theatre sensation running on Broadway for over two decades. 

Webber plans to continue the story of the Phantom and his long lost love against a Brooklyn backdrop in Phantom: Love Never Dies.  In the new play, Christine will reunite with the Phantom character on Coney Island.  Though details of the cast have yet to be released, Webber hints at a big surprise in the lead role.  His sequel will make a historic splash with simultaneous openings in Shanghai, New York and London in 2009.

Signup for ticket updates regarding the latest theatre shows, here.