Review: Disney Princess - The Concert

Update: I just received confirmation from Christy Altomare (Wow!) that she will be attending the fall leg of the Disney Princess concert tour and was unable to attend the first few months because she is performing in a new musical at the Paper Mill Playhouse and that Anneliese has always been part of the concert. If you attend this concert in the fall, you will have the good fortunate of seeing her live!

It's been ten months since Disney launched the Ultimate Princess Celebration when they announced that they had acquired the Broadway Princess Party and retooled it into Disney Princess - The Concert. After several cast changes and the cancellation of the entire 2021 leg of the tour, I was fortunate enough to attend one of the first successful performances at the Bass Concert Hall. Initially, I was excited to see Anastasia's Christy Altomare, but she was replaced with Disney Channel's Anneliese van der Pol, who played Chelsea Daniels in That's So Raven and Raven's Home. Aisha Jackson, who understudied Anna in the Frozen musical, was replaced by Syndee Winters, who played Nala in the Broadway version of The Lion King. Finally, Broadway Princess Party alumni Courtney Reed, who originated the role of Princess Jasmine in the Aladdin musical, was replaced by Arielle Jacobs, the second actress to acquire the role. That leaves Susan Egan as the only alumni from the original Broadway Princess Party. Though I've known about these changes for several months after purchasing my ticket, I think it's worth noting how interchangeable the cast is in case anyone is planning to see a particular actress perform live.


I've been pretty vocal about my issues with Disney over the past few years, and their recent revamp of the Broadway Princess Party showcases many of those frustrations. They've been hard at work remaking all of their old movies instead of coming up with as many original animated titles as they used to, and now they are also taking an intimate independent show that already had a successful tour and marketing it under the Disney name. This show is very similar to the Broadway Princess Party aside from a few tweaks that make it feel corporate and overproduced. I bought the lowest tier VIP ticket, which granted early access to merchandise and a weird goody bag that included a cheap fiber-optic light stick, a sleep mask, stickers containing just the princess's names (no pictures), and a fanny pack. The early access shopping experience turned out to be a single table of overpriced t-shirts and a magnet with a logo of the show. There wasn't even an official program!. Though the attendants at the concert hall were extremely friendly and helpful, there were no decorations or activities set up to keep us entertained while we were waiting for the theater to open. The higher-tier ticket supposedly included some pre-show activities, but I have no idea where they were located.


As nice as the theater was, it used the same projection technology that I've grown to dislike in recent years after seeing how it watered down the Anastasia musical and the Frozen stage show at Disneyland. A giant movie screen towered over the actresses displaying larger-than-life images from the movies that they were singing to. There were only one or two times that the images on the screen were used to enhance their performances in a creative way. The rest of the time, they served as an enormous distraction from the actors. The D23 Expo uses this technology during panels to help people sitting in the back see the faces of the performers, which I feel would have been a better use for it. Still, I  enjoyed the opening performance of the new Disney Princess anthem, "Starting Now," which you can watch below. It was the only performance that use minimalist lighting techniques to draw attention toward instead of away from the singers. Benjamin Rauhala, the "fairy godfairy" co-founder of the Broadway Princess Party with Laura Osnes, maintained his role as the host and pianist as he introduced the show and accompanied the four princesses on the piano.


Despite the corporate undertones, Disney Princess - The Concert is still an entertaining evening for princesses of all ages. Just like at the original Broadway Princess Party, each actress shared an anecdote about how she got the role that made her famous in the Disney history books. However, there was an element missing when they were sharing these stories to a big auditorium and addressing the audience as a single unit instead of regaling their tales to a group of invested onlookers in an intimate restaurant setting. Many of the attendees dressed in costumes, but I found it even less worthwhile to do so this time since no special attention was given to them, and they more or less blended into the crowd once the show got rolling. I'd recommend saving your fanciest gown for the next D23 Expo. Since it's an official Disney show now, there were of course far more children in the audience, and they had less appreciation for references to Disney names and events that happened before their time, which gave Susan Egan fuel to make a few jokes about her age. I felt my own age showing when I was the only person in the entire theater who cheered at the mention of Disney legends Alan Menken and Howard Ashman.

 

The show ran for two hours with a 15-minute intermission. It covered most songs from the Disney Princess roster and had a single costume change during the intermission in which the princesses swapped out their short casual dresses for floor-length evening gowns. Anneliese van der Pol covered most of the non-Disney on Broadway songs, including a medley of the original three princesses' songs, both of Rapunzel's songs, and "Journey to the Past" from Anastasia, which was likely meant to be sung by Christy Altomare before she was cut. Susan Egan reprised her greatest hits as both Megara and Belle. Arielle Jacobs covered some songs from Mulan, Moana, and the Broadway and live-action versions of Aladdin, and Syndee Winters sang "Shadowland," "Love's an Open Door," and "Almost There." The song "Soon" from Thumbelina was not included in this version of the show even though it was in the original Broadway Princess Party and is currently owned by Disney, nor was any of the music from Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella, which was covered in the Broadway Princess Party by co-founder Laura Osnes. This version was more scripted and did not include a surprise guest star, which was a fun staple of the original show that kept it fresh and exciting at every performance.


Disney Princess - The Concert is a perfectly fine show for princess fans who want to hear their favorite Disney songs performed by professionals. It is lacking in comparison to the intimate night that the Broadway Princess Party originally represented, which allowed fans to get up close and personal with some of their favorite performers and listen to their stories as peers. One of my favorite parts of the original show was being able to line up to meet the three actresses afterward without needing to buy a special pass like the new version requires. Disney Princess - The Concert still met my expectations as I figured they were going to project Disney movies to the audience in a way that made it feel more like a commercial than an up-close and personal experience. The thing that probably disappointed me the most was the pre-show experience with the useless goody bag and overpriced t-shirts made me feel less hyped by the time I was finally seated. It would have been great if they produced some exclusive dolls or tiaras for the event, but I would have settled for a souvenir program at the very least.

Comments

Unknown said…
What happened to the Disney Magic? I had the opportunity to attempt to make an evening special for my 8 year old grand-daughter and I must say Disney Princess Concert Tour completely let us down. I purchased the VIP package thinking she would meet the princesses, do some great Princess shopping and attend a Princess party before the performance began. None of this was the case. We received an email the day prior instructing us to be at the venue an hour and a half early to register and participate in the fore mentioned events. Never met a princess. The shopping was two tables with some shirts meant mostly for adults (only one option for youths) and the the party was a bunch of white plastic tables with coloring books and crayons and again NO PRINCESSES.
The show began with the director telling his story of how he was different and that becoming a Fairy God Fairy was his dream. He made several remarks about homosexuality and how he loved Flaming Queens and how he loved playing with Princess Dolls. None of this had anything to do with the marketing of a Disney Princess Concert. The performers, all of whom sung beautifully never appeared on stage as a princess. My grand-daughter asked several times throughout the performance continually asked when the princesses would arrive. It was a complete let down and I feel Disney has lost the magic. Do not attend until Disney brings the magic back!
Lisa Dawn said…
Hi Anonymous,

I do not work for or represent Disney or the Broadway Princess Party, but I think I can help shed some light on a few of your comments.

First of all, you made me very glad that I didn't sign up for one of the higher tier VIP packages. I got the lowest tier that did not include the "party" and was still asked to come 90 minutes to two hours prior to the event. I was also extremely disappointed by the limited amount of ugly overpriced merchandise and the lack of things to do or look at prior to the concert. In fact, I have submitted a complaint to the venue about it even though I'm not sure if it's actually their fault.

As far as the lack of princesses and the "Fairy Godfairy" (whose name is Benjamin Rauhala, by the way), all of that is because Disney didn't actually produce this concert. They acquired it from Benjamin Rauhala and Laura Osnes, a Broadway actress who is no longer part of the show. (See https://www.theprincessblog.org/2021/08/did-disney-just-kick-laura-osnes-out-of.html for reference.) The concert was originally titled the Broadway Princess Party (see http://www.theprincessblog.org/2017/12/review-broadway-princess-party.html for reference) and had a successful tour for roughly five years before Disney renamed and changed almost nothing about the show.

The Broadway Princess Party was not made for children and rarely had any kids in the audience because it was held in nightclubs and smaller bar/restaurant settings usually on weeknights. It was a fantastic show for what it was because it allowed older princess fans and Broadway aficionados to come together and learn about the experiences that the actresses had getting these roles and being on stage. Many people in attendance were aspiring actresses themselves who hoped to land a princess role on Broadway one day. However, by paying off Laura and Benjamin and changing the name to "Disney Princess - The Concert," Disney made the show appear to be an event for children, and as such, there were significantly more children in attendance who were likely expecting to see princess characters on stage.

Since this show was not produced for children and barely altered from its original form, I can understand why your granddaughter must have been disappointed. Disney did a horrible job marketing it and put virtually no effort into it since all they had to do was tell Benjamin to run it the way he already did for five years before it became an "official" Disney show. I think the original version was far superior because it did not pretend to be something it wasn't, and I do agree that Disney has lost a lot of its magic.

Thank you for visiting my blog, and feel free to comment on any post with more of your thoughts. Have a great day!
Unknown said…
Here now at the show. Enjoyed the show except the flaming fake fairy guy. What a total disappointment and letdown. Will never endorse or support Disney anymore. Disney gone woke is a joke.
Sarah said…
I completely agree with the above review by the last commenter. We just attended the Nashville concert and I was really disappointed. It opened with a greeting that made sure to say “all genders” then right to Benjamin giving a slideshow of his youth where no one accepted him playing with princess dolls or for being gay. By intermission, there were at least 8-10 more references to queer sexuality. From his desire to have a “raging queen” to many fairy jokes or references to physical attributes he desires in a man, and openly admiring Aladdin who walked on stage. We had a princess announce that only girls who are courageous, are nice to all creatures: fuzzy, furry and fairy, implying you are not a princess or nice if you don’t agree with his jokes or queer, all gender ideology. I have 4 cousins that are either gay or trans and even they don’t joke like that in front of my little kids when we hang out. Overall, I don’t know why this was necessary for an audience whose average age was 4. We left at intermission and had a better time enjoying the Opryland hotel.
Anonymous said…
I just took my two granddaughters to see the show at American music theater in lancaster. Very, very disappointing. The opening was horrible then the first half was not anything I thought it would be and my girls didn't like it at all. The princesses were not anything like what princesses dress like. I won't even go into the gay and trans that was insinuated in the whole thing. These are young girls that don't even know anything about this stuff and shouldn't even though the 10% think they run everything . There were people around us who were making similar comments of what we were. Left at intermission as well as many others. What a waste of money and time. Poor poor taste!
Lisa Dawn said…
As the owner of The Princess Blog, I find it necessary to point out that I do not condone homophobia or transphobia, but nor do I believe in silencing the opinions of others.
Anonymous said…
I do not think that any comment is transphobic, there is no hate, they are just pointing out something that I believe too: children will not understand many jokes, 4-year-old children are very likely to have never liked anyone romantically, they just want songs and fun, no they are still at the age to deal with many issues of sexuality, aggression, racism, etc. that it be too complicated at most a "you have to respect and be kind to people".
There is also diversity of opinion on many topics, as it pointed out in a comment is bad that a show insinuates that you are not kind or a princess if you don't think a certain way.
Lisa Dawn said…
It really isn't kind to judge people who are different from you, though... Not only that, but Benjamin never says anything specifically about being gay. The most he does is can himself a fairy godfairy.

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