Celebrating 25 years of Disney on Broadway

Thursday, April 18, 2019
Celebrating 25 years of Disney on Broadway
Sandy Kenyon reports on 25 years of Disney on Broadway.

TIMES SQUARE, Manhattan (WABC) -- Twenty-five years ago Thursday, "Beauty and The Beast" opened on Broadway for what turned out to be a long and successful run -- and so began a tradition of adapting Disney movies for the stage.

Now, a Disney show is being performed somewhere in the world almost every hour of every day.

"The Lion King" has grossed an incredible $9 billion and counting on the Great White Way and in various tours around the globe.

"Something about 'The Lion King' transcends language," Disney Theatrical Group President Tom Schumacher said. "Something about 'The Lion King' transcends community because it's about something much deeper in humanity and about things we all share."

We met Schumacher in the historic New Amsterdam Theater, current home of "Aladdin" on Broadway.

"This was only the second theater on Broadway to have electricity," Schumacher said.

Disney's move into theater began there on 42nd Street and led to the revitalization of Times Square.

"When The Walt Disney Company committed to restoring this theater, it gave everyone else the confidence that they could do it too," Schumacher said.

Shows inspired by Disney musicals like "Frozen" and "Aladdin" have helped to boost Broadway attendance by 65% in the last quarter of a century.

James Monroe Iglehart knows the power of the Disney name firsthand. He currently stars in "Hamilton," but playing the genie in "Aladdin" made him a star.

"I always make a joke that people would mispronounce my name before we opened," he said. "And the day after we opened, everyone knew how to say Iglehart."

He also credits Disney with bringing greater diversity to Broadway.

"This was always something that was part of us," Schumacher said.

"The Lion King" is still going strong on Broadway after more than two decades, "Aladdin" has been at The New Amsterdam for five years, and "Frozen" is a year into a hit run.

Disney theatrical is owned by the same parent company as WABC-TV.


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