NEW YORK — Leave it to Disney. While most Broadway opening-night parties fill Tavern on the Green or Sardi’s with nervous producers and back-slappers, the Walt Disney Co. celebrated “King David” May 18 by enclosing nearly a block-long stretch of 41st Street off Times Square in a massive white tent. As VIPs, invited guests and lowly critics made their way along the enshrouded street into the party tent, they passed a phalanx of tuxedoed, champagne-toting waiters who seemed just itching to break into a chorus of “Be Our Guest.”
“King David,” the Alan Menken-Tim Rice oratorio, inaugurated Disney’s brilliantly restored New Amsterdam Theater. With the $34 million renovation costs paid largely with low-interest government loans, the opening night was short on neither politicos nor celebrities. CEO Michael Eisner led the Disney troops, while Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Glenn Close, “Saturday Night Live’s” Molly Shannon and Cheri Oteri (and, of course, Menken and Rice) made it through all two hours and 45 minutes of the oratorio. Joan Rivers skipped out at intermission, and Disney execs might wish she’d taken the critics with her. “King David” was panned, but the New Amsterdam received universal raves.