Curtain up, light the lights… it’s time to celebrate the best and brightest of Disney on Broadway! James Monroe Iglehart, Tony winner for his performance as the Genie in Disney’s Aladdin on Broadway, welcomed theatre fans to “THE ORIGINALS,” a one-of-a-kind musical party inside Stage 23 at D23 EXPO 2015. Acting as host throughout the performance, Iglehart kicked things off by welcoming attendees to the famed “little town and quiet village” from Beauty and the Beast; a medley from Disney’s most successful Broadway musical ever followed, with Iglehart taking on Gaston’s infamous “Me,” followed by original Mary Poppins star Ashley Brown singing “A Change in Me” (written for the show four years after its Broadway debut), and Iglehart finishing up with the Beast’s emotional ballad “If I Can’t Love Her.”
After introducing their fellow “ORIGINAL,” Tarzan star Josh Strickland, a cavalcade of Disney on Broadway hits followed. The trio took on several songs from The Lion King (including a rousing rendition of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” complete with audience participation); later, Iglehart told the audience about Aida’s complex journey to the Broadway stage (it was originally intended as an animated film), and Josh provided a totally fun take on one of Elton John and Tim Rice’s more spirited numbers from the show, “My Strongest Suit.” (FYI: The song is usually sung by a woman!)
The trio sang through a melody of from The Little Mermaid (Iglehart makes a fantastic Sebastian the crab) before launching into the show that made Josh an “ORIGINAL,” Tarzan. After watching a behind-the-scenes video look at the making of the show in 2006, Josh and James sang the buddy duet “Who Better Than Me?”—followed by Strickland singing one of songwriter Phil Collins’ bigger hits from the musical (and the animated film), “Strangers Like Me.”
Iglehart revealed that Mary Poppins almost didn’t happen with Disney on Broadway; P.L. Travers had sold the stage rights to legendary stage producer Cameron Mackintosh. Luckily, Mackintosh knew the show wouldn’t happen with Disney’s involvement, and a stage version took London’s West End by storm in 2004. Transferring to Broadway two years later, it starred Ashley Brown as everyone’s favorite nanny. Ashley delighted the audience with duets with Iglehart (“Jolly Holiday”) and Strickland (“Chim Chim Cher-ee”) before bringing down the house with a beautiful rendition of Walt Disney’s favorite song, “Feed the Birds.”
After a few numbers from Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame (which just enjoyed a run at San Diego’s La Jolla Playhouse), it was time for Iglehart to shine with a medley of songs from Aladdin on Broadway. The crowd was already on its feet for a standing ovation when the trio of “ORIGINALS” made the biggest announcement of all: The next Disney on Broadway stage spectacular will be… Frozen! Ashley and Josh then presented a very special “duet” version of “Let It Go.”
The audience sang along to every song… and thankfully, those that missed this morning’s presentation can catch a special “reprise” this afternoon! “Disney musicals touch the core of human emotion,” Iglehart said—and it’s all in honor of Disney’s impact on the musical theatre stage, both on Broadway and all around the world.