Turning the insanely popular movie Frozen into a Broadway musical is a true no-brainer decision. The film has a soundtrack that produced ear worm and Oscar winning musical hits and the merchandise still sells like gangbusters even five years after the movie was released. Whether or not Frozen the Broadway will be any good, time will tell. That time being this Thursday, March 1, when the show makes it’s debut on the Great White Way. Beyond the name and song recognition, It certainly has a strong creative team to satisfy the hype.
Not that Broadway necessarily needs another Disney musical. Many New Yorkers already believe Times Square, and especially the theatre district, have turned into Disneyland already. On a side note: Wouldn’t Guy Fieri make a great Disney villain? Just some overpriced, over-sauced, deep-fried food for thought. (I think I just pitched Ratatouille 2). For every stunning, imaginative The Lion King, we also get a convoluted The Little Mermaid, a forgettable Tarzan, or an utterly predictable Beauty and the Beast. But these are also musicals that sell with tourists who flood NYC wanting to see familiar shows that bring a spectacle worthy of how much Broadway tickets cost.
For animation turned musical to hit with audiences while also being critically and culturally well received, there needs to be a strong visual backbone that adheres to the original film art but also feels beautiful and experiential to audiences of live theatre (ala Broadway’s current phenom Spongebob Squarepants). While Frozen has the visual components even within the title to inspire theatergoers, here are three other Disney films that deserve the Broadway treatment as well along with suggestions on what could elevate them above the merch opportunities to standing ovations.
If Disney isn’t already writing the checks to turn this Oscar-nominated 2016 hit into a musical, they better shake the water out of their ears and get on it. this film already has a handful of songs by the patron saint of Broadway, Lin-Manuel Miranda. That name pretty much could sell anything, theatre or non-theatre related these days. Please give him more money to write more songs to fill out a full musical score. An element of The Lion King that made it so special is that design and casting celebrated the African location of the original film. The same could be done for Moana and it’s dedication to sharing a story about Polynesian culture. The talented young woman who voiced Moana, Auli’i Cravalho, wowed audiences singing live at the 2017 Oscars and is about to have another star turn in the upcoming musical TV show Rise. She could be wooed to Broadway. If The Rock couldn’t be convinced to reprise his role, Maui would still be a brilliant, showy role for any Broadway musical actor. Broadway right now could also certainly use another story of young, female empowerment.
More stories of diversity the better and this film has that with it’s celebration of the Mexican Day of the Dead. Broadway already saw the success of an all-Latino cast with In the Heights and this film has that and the fact that it’s a story for young and old. It’s a truly inclusive story about family. A musical about a young boy embracing his creative talents was already a Broadway hit with Billy Elliott. Coco could strike the same chord with theatergoers. Coco also packs so much visual opportunity in its depiction of the Land of the Dead. Imagine what could be done with puppetry and lighting and costumes. It’s also a story built around music; It’s build for the musical treatment. Its catchy, banner song “Remember Me”is written by the married team of Kristen Anderson-Lopez & Robert Lopez who are behind the music of the film and Broadway adaptation of Frozen. If Frozen is a success on the Great White Way, sign this team up again to fill out the score for Coco the musical (alongside all the beautiful songs written by other artists for the film).
A Bug’s Life
This is by far the most far-fetched, outlier offering for Broadway on this list but it’s got serious potential with the right creative team behind it. One of Pixar’s early films, it’s got major visuals in that all the characters are bugs but the animation is more crude for today (even though it was revolutionary when released in 1998) which leaves room for design and directorial visual interpretation. It has the chance to be re-envisioned in a similar way to Julie Taymor’s reimagining of The Lion King from simple animals into large scale puppets. The music is also a completely clean slate. Randy Newman is responsible for the score of the film, but that only consists of one lyrical song (“The Time of Your Life”) and the rest is orchestration. Either get Randy Newman to write some more lyrical songs or get the right Broadway lyricist or big name pop songwriter/artist to amp up the score and you could have a fun, lively, catchy musical. Just don’t suggest Justin Timberlake. He could play a bug, but only if it gets squashed in the end.