Joins 'Lion King,' 'Beauty' under Disney on B'way banner

The national tour of “Aida” launches April 6 at the Historic Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis, with a 40-city national tour skedded through September 2002.

Show joins “The Lion King” and “Beauty and the Beast” under the newly created banner Disney on Broadway on Tour.

“The Lion King,” which already has sit-down productions in Los Angeles and Toronto, will begin its national tour in Denver in spring 2002, with 12 cities booked through 2003. It currently performs in London and Japan, with its continental European debut set for Hamburg this fall.

“Aida’s” first European engagement is set for Amsterdam in October 2001.

The “Beauty and the Beast” tour is now in its sixth year. Show opened on Broadway in April 1994.

For the past six months, Disney Theatrical Prods. has marketed its three shows in Gotham as Disney on Broadway. “We’ve branded all three shows together,” said Disney’s Peter Schneider. “Now that they’ll be going out across the country, often playing the same cities, we want to brand them on the road and make some excitement out of it.”

Hyperion moniker remains

In April, “Aida” opened on Broadway under the umbrella of Hyperion Theatricals. The Mouse House’s Thomas Schumacher said they were not abandoning the name. “People knew our work from ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and ‘The Lion King,’ and we wanted to communicate that ‘Aida’ was a traditional Broadway show, along the line of ‘West Side Story’ or ‘The Phantom of the Opera.’

It remains to be seen if Disney’s in-development musical “Hoopz,” about the Harlem Globetrotters, will end up under the Disney or Hyperion banner. “We’ll focus on its strengths when we’re making it and it is completed,” Schumacher said.

Other projects in the Disney Theatricals’ pipeline include Julie Taymor’s take on “Pinocchio” and a legit version of “The Little Mermaid,” with Matthew Bourne directing.

Also in the works is a stage show based on Disney’s catalog of songs. However, a recent reading in New York of “Carnival,” the 1961 Bob Merrill/Michael Stewart musical, will not lead to further development. “It was not quite right for us,” Schumacher said.

Faster start

From Broadway opening to national tour, “Aida” starts out on the road only 13 months after its Gotham premiere. “Beauty and the Beast” took two years to achieve that metamorphosis, while “The Lion King” planned to open in Denver 3-1/2 after its Broadway debut at the New Amsterdam Theatre.

The two Disney Theatricals producers said the varying sizes of the shows’ respective productions made for radically different road presentations.

” ‘The Lion King’ has taken longer because we created it with a sit-down strategy in mind,” Schumacher said of Taymor’s production.

He added that the current L.A. and Toronto stagings would eventually move to other cities yet to be determined, and that “excitement” from presenters for the show has not diminished since it opened on Broadway more than two years ago.

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