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Five Disney Movies That Deserve the Broadway Treatment

Category Broadway

|by Mark Robinson |

These Disney flicks could “go the distance” to the Great White Way

Who doesn’t love a Disney-style “Happily Ever After,” complete with a Disney musical score? With Broadway boasting such current Disney hits as Frozen: The Broadway Musical, Aladdin and The Lion King – not to mention the successes of past film-to-stage adaptations as Mary Poppins, Beauty and the Beast, and The Little Mermaid – it is inevitable that we will examine other Disney movies that we hope might someday receive the Broadway treatment. Here are five titles that seem like good possibilities.

‘The Princess and the Frog’ is just one Disney film that could shine onstage (Photo: Walt Disney World)

‘The Princess and the Frog’ is just one Disney film that could shine onstage (Photo: Walt Disney World)

Alan Menken is the go-to guy for Disney songs, having written the music for Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Little Mermaid and Pocahontas (among many others). With David Zippel as lyricist, he wrote the gospel-flavored score for Hercules, a musical overflowing with great numbers such as “The Gospel Truth,” “Go the Distance,” “Zero to Hero” and “I Won’t Say I’m in Love.”  This story is of “God”-like proportions, telling the story of the son of Zeus and his struggle to overcome the ongoing thwart of Hades. Rumor has it that there is a Broadway adaptation in the works, but until we see, Hercules remains at the top of this list.

The Princess and the Frog
Taking the classic fairytale of The Frog Prince and transplanting it to 1912 New Orleans (during Mardis Gras) was an inspired idea that broke with Disney fairytale kingdom tradition. Randy Newman concocted an atmospheric score that blended the traditional showtune with a Cajun flavor. From the vibrant “Almost There” to the demonic “Friends on the Other Side”; from the rollicking “Dig a Little Deeper” to the romantic “Ma Belle Evangeline,” Newman’s music and lyrics are everything a Broadway score should be.   

It seems like the world cannot get enough of Mr. Lin-Manuel Miranda, with his hit musical Hamilton one of the hottest Broadway tickets in decades, and his first Broadway musical In the Heights preparing for a film adaptation. It seems logical that Disney would want to strike while the iron is hot and spin their animated film (based on a Hawaiian folktale) into Broadway gold. It would, however, take a brilliant staging concept to overcome the physical (and animal) challenges of telling the adventure story on the stage.

The Happiest Millionaire
Many of you may have never heard of this one because it was one of Disney’s few movie musical flops. The Happiest Millionaire has a catchy, jubilant, and often witty score by the Sherman Brothers (Mary Poppins, Bedknobs and Broomsticks) and, with some careful pruning and focusing of the story, this might just make the perfect property for a Broadway treatment. The film follows a young butler who has been hired to work in the manse of an eccentric millionaire. He must learn to adapt to the absurdities of the household, even as its owner is at odds with his daughter, who is tired of his peculiarities. 

Glenn Slater and Alan Menken wrote the score for Disney’s take on the fairytale Rapunzel – Tangled, a richly textured adaptation of the classic by the Brothers Grimm. The story of a girl, held captive by a possessive guardian who longs to break out of her tower prison and see the world may feel like familiar Disney territory, but it is what the audiences love. Certainly, Messieurs Slater and Menken could flesh out their already terrific score with additional numbers, and stretch the story into a full-length evening of Broadway entertainment. Would it be too much to hope for Donna Murphy to reprise her voice role as Mother Gothel, but playing her live in all of her wicked complexity?

Mark Robinson is the author of the two-volume encyclopedia The World of Musicals, The Disney Song Encyclopedia, and The Encyclopedia of Television Theme Songs. He maintains a theater and entertainment blog at

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