DISNEY’S BROADWAY BIRTHDAY

It’s been 25 years since Disney classics hit the Great White Way. We’ll look back at their impact on the theater and New York City.

Aired on April 10 & September 16, 2019. 

TRANSCRIPT

> MORE THAN THREE DECADES AGO, 42nd STREET WAS A JUNGLE OF URBAN DECAY.

THERE WAS HOMELESS AND OPEN AIR DRUGLESS HELD DOMINION ON WHAT WAS ONCE THE PLACE WHERE THE UNDERWORLD COULD MEET THE ELITE.

THEN IN THE 1990s, THE WALT DISNEY COMPANY, KNOWN FOR ITS MAGIC ONSCREEN AND ITS INTERNATIONAL THEME PARKS REFURBISHED ONE OF 42nd STREET'S PREMIER THEATERS.

THE PLACE FOR ZIGFELD AND ITS FOLLIES.

IT ANCHORED THE STREETS AND DISNEY BECAME THE SUCCESS OF BROADWAY.

WITH LION KING WHICH OPENED THERE IN 1997.

STILL GOING STRONG IN ITS 22nd YEAR.

AND A DISNEY THEATRICAL PRODUCTIONS APPROACHING THE ANNIVERSARY, PRESENTING THE STAGE, ADAPTATIONS, MOVIE WHICH IS AICS FROM BEAUTY AND THE BEAST TO THE LITTLE MERMAID ALONG WITH ITS PRESENT DAY PRODUCTIONS OF ALADDIN AND FROZEN AND LION KING.

IT IS CLEAR THAT THE MOUSE AND THE HOUSE.

JOINING ME, THE PRESIDENT AND PRODUCER OF DISNEY THEATRICAL PRODUCTIONS.

WE'RE DELIGHTED TO HAVE HIM HERE.

THANK YOU.

SO MUCH I WANT TO TALK ABOUT.

I WANT TO START WITH DISNEY THEATRICAL PRODUCTIONS.

HOW DID IT COME BACK?

THIS IS MY VERSION.

WHEN DISNEY ANIMATION WAS COMING BACK IN ITS RESURGENCE, THEY WERE GOING TO CHANGE THE FACE OF ANIMATION WITH MOVIES LIKE LITTLE MERMAID AND BEAUTY AND THE BEAST.

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST CAUGHT ON SO MUCH.

FRANK RICH, THE LEGENDARY 'NEW YORK TIMES' CRITIC.

HE SAID THE BEST SCORE THAT 84 WAS BEAUTY AND THE BEAST.

THE THEME PARKS THAT YOU REFERENCE IN THE INTRODUCTION THAT WALT DISNEY HAD BUILT ALWAYS HAD LIVE ENTERTAINMENT.

SO A YOUNG GUY, ROBERT JEFF ROTH, WAS DOING A SHOW IN THE PARK OF BEAUTY AND THE BEAST.

HE WENT TO OUR THEN CHAIR MIC MICHAELIZENER AND SAID WHAT IF WE DO A CLASSIC MUSICAL?

IT WAS A ONE OFF.

THEY MOUNTED BEAUTY AND THE BEAST AND PUT IT IN THE THEATER.

THAT GAVE RISE TO THIS IDEA, MAYBE WE COULD BE ON BROADWAY.

AT THE SAME TIME, MICHAEL EYESNER HAD BEEN STITCHING AROUND.

YOU PROBABLY KNOW, THE LEGENDARY ARCHITECT, HE WAS ON THE DISNEY BOARD.

AND HE GOT MICHAEL INVOLVED IN 42nd STREET REDEVELOPMENT.

WE THEN MADE A COMMITMENT TO THE NEW AMSTERDAM THEATER.

SO BEAUTY AND THE BEAST STARTS IT BUT THE NEW AMSTERDAM THEATER BECAME THE ICON.

IN FAIRNESS, I WOULD LIKE TO SAY THERE WAS A REALLY DEVELOPED STRATEGIC PLAN DEVELOPED AROUND A BIG BLACK MARKET TABLE.

THE TRUTH IS, MICHAEL GREW UP IN NEW YORK AND SAID THIS COULD BE A GOOD THING TO DO.

WE MADE THE COMMITMENT TO DO IT WITH A LOT OF THOUGHT ABOUT WHAT IT WOULD TAKE.

AND MY BUSINESS PARTNER AND VIRTUAL SIBLING, WE WERE THE ONLY THEATER GUYS WORKING INSIDE THE STUDIO.

SO HE SAID WHY DON'T YOU GUYS --

ON THE WEEKENDS.

YEAH.

WE BECAME THE GUYS WHO SAID, TURN BEAUTY AND THE BEAST AND THE REST OF THIS INTO A BUSINESS.

WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT THE GLORY THAT WAS THE NEW AMSTERDAM THEATER, ONLY THE SECOND THEATER ON BROADWAY TO HAVE ELECTRICITY.

A BIG DEAL.

EVERYONE THINKS OF THAT THEATER.

MOST WOULD BECAUSE OF BARBRA STREISAND'S BEAUTIFUL PERFORMANCE ON STAGE AND ON FILM.

THE THEATER COULDN'T HAVE BEEN USED AS A BACK DROP.

IT WAS ALREADY TOTALLY DILAPIDATED.

IT NEVER DID SHOW PORNOGRAPHY.

IT BECAME KUNG FU PALACE.

RIGHT NEXT DOOR TO AN ADJACENT BUILDING, THEY DID SHOW PORN BUT IT WASN'T THERE IT HAD FALLEN INTO SUCH DISREPAIR, A MASSIVE RODENT INFESTATION, PLASTER FALLING OFF THE WALLS.

MOST OF THE DETAIL, YOU WOULD SAY, OH, MY GOSH.

WE HAD ONE BOX.

FANTASTIC GENUINE ART RESTORATION.

ASTONISHING.

YOU TALK ABOUT THE TRANSFORMATION.

CERTAINLY WHAT YOUR GROUP HAS DONE AND THE SUCCESS.

UNRIVALED SUCCESS.

YOU LOOK AT THE SUCCESS PERCENTAGES OF THE PRODUCTIONS THERE, AS OPPOSED TO THE REGULAR ONES.

YES.

WE HAVE BEEN VERY SUCCESSFUL ON STAGE.

WE'VE HAD OUR FAILURES, OR AT LEAST INITIAL FAILURES THAT WON'T TO BECOME PROFITABLE.

DON'T FORGET, IT IS BECAUSE WE'RE STANDING ON THE SHOULDERS OF GREATNESS.

YOU THINK ABOUT THE SONG WRITING THAT REALLY BEGAN WHEN THE BROADWAY MODEL CAME TO ANIMATION.

PRIOR TO THAT, WALT'S FILMS WERE MUSICAL FILMS.

THINK OF LADY AND THE TRAMP.

THE FILM HAPPENED.

NEITHER LADY OR TRAMP EITHER SING IN THE WHOLE THING.

THE SONGS ARE AGAINST THE ACTION.

THEY DON'T DRIVE THE ACTION.

THEY'RE PEPPERED IN AROUND.

BUT THESE TWO GUYS THAT WROTE LITTLE MERMAID SAID WHAT IF WE USED THE BROADWAY MODEL WHERE THE STORY GOES WITH THE SONG.

THE SONGS TURN THE CORNER OF THE STORY.

WE HAD AN AMAZING COLLECTION OF MOVIES.

THINGS LIKE LITTLE MERMAID AND BEAUTY AND THE BEAST AND OF COURSE, LION KING WHICH THEY DIDN'T WRITE BUT IT BECOMES BIG.

THEN ALADDIN AND POCAHONTAS AND ON AND ON.

WE RAISED A GENERATION OR TWO TO LOVE THIS MUSICAL FORM.

AT THE SAME TIME, THEY LEARNED ALL OF THOSE SONGS.

WE DID NOT TURN MOVIES INTO FI IT OUT WITH EVEN MORE MUSIC.

WHEN YOU SAT DOWN TO BEAUTY AND THE BEAST IN THE VERY FIRST TIME IN THE SPRING OF 1994, WHEN BELLE STEPS OUT OF HER HOUSE AND YOU HEARD THAT LITTLE RIF AND SHE SINGS LITTLE TOWN IN THE QUIET VILLAGE, YOUR HEART SOARS.

YOU KNOW BELLE, YOU KNOW HER TOWN.

♪ LITTLE TOWN IN THE QUIET VILLAGE ♪

IN LION KING WHEN RAFIKI STEPS OUT -- ♪

TO COME TOGETHER.

THAT RITUAL IS BUILT ON A PIECE OF MUSIC WRITTEN BY ELTON JOHN.

I REMEMBER SITTING THERE, MY WIFE, MYSELF AND MY CHILDREN.

ADULTS WHO ARE GOING BACK TO SEE IT.

IT IS IMPORTANT TO KNOW, THESE ARE NOT CHILDREN'S SHOWS.

THE VAST MAJORITY OF ATTENDEES ARE ADULTS AND CHILDREN ARE WITH THEM.

MY WIFE AND I, ONE OF OUR BEST BROADWAY EXPERIENCES EVER WITH OUR CHILDREN AT NIGHT.

I THINK IT WAS ENJOYABLE TO HAVE A SHOW THAT MAZE FOR THE BROADEST AUDIENCE.

WHEN WE DID MARY POPPINS, IT WAS AS RES NONANT WITH A KID, WHO M NEVER HAVE EVEN SEEN THE JULIE ANDREWS MOVIE.

AND ALL THE INTIMACY THAT BRINGS IT TO YOU.

YOU AND I COULD TALK FOR HOURS ABOUT THIS.

HOPEFULLY WE'LL GET YOU BACK AGAIN.

CONGRATULATIONS TO 25 MARVELOUS YEARS.

GREAT SUCCESS, GREAT TRANSFORMATIONAL SUCCESS.

AND BRINGING JOY AND WARMTH AND HUMOR AND GREAT EXPERIENCES TO A LOT OF PEOPLE.

THANK YOU.

WE'LL TALK AGAIN SOON.

ALL RIGHT.

BE WELL.

A REMINDER, YOU CAN SEE ALADDIN, FROZEN, AND LION KING ALL PREPLY PLAYING

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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