Based on the Broadway Princess Party, a cabaret show that began in 2015 at Feinstein's/54 Below in New York City, this 80+ city U.S. tour includes performers that any self-respecting Disney adult will know.
Performing for the “Dis-nerds,” these big names include Tony nominee Susan Egan (Broadway’s original "Belle" in Beauty and the Beast and "Meg" from Disney’s animated Hercules); Arielle Jacobs (Broadway’s "Jasmine" in Aladdin, In The Heights); Broadway World Award winner Syndee Winters (Broadway’s "Nala" in The Lion King, Hamilton) and Disney Channel star Anneliese van der Pol (That’s So Raven, Broadway’s final "Belle" in Beauty and The Beast).
“For me it’s really full circle,” says van der Pol. “Susan was the first Belle on Broadway ever, and I was the last Belle on Broadway, so it’s really bookending the show. And Belle was an avid reader, so it really makes sense that we would.”
Nostalgia plays a large part of the show with over 30 songs from a collection of Disney princess classics from films such as Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Frozen, Hercules and The Little Mermaid. However, with four princesses performing, several songs will have a new and original sound.
“There’s a lot going on onstage, and what’s the most interesting about this is the sound that you will hear is unlike anything you’ve heard before,” van der Pol says. “When you hear ‘Part of Your World’ you watch the movie and you see Ariel singing the song, but we’re singing in four-part harmony so these are notes that you’ve never heard before.”
The immersive experience will include animations, behind-the-scenes stories from the performers and the opportunity for attendees of all ages to dress like royalty for the event.
Additionally, van der Pol notes, “I love when we do 'In Summer' and 'That’s How You Know' because we have a little sing-along with the audience. That’s one of my favorite things.”
Van der Pol says the audiences range in ages “anywhere from 6 years old to 60 years old. A lot of people who like cosplay and dressing up come to the show, men and women. We’re in an exciting time of the world where people are more open and accepting than ever.”
“There’s a lot going on onstage, and what’s the most interesting about this is the sound that you will hear is unlike anything you’ve heard before." – Anneliese van der Pol
Disney fandom encompasses generations, and the nostalgia associated with Disney, van der Pol says, can be seen as an escapist culture — especially now.
“Definitely in this time of COVID, we need to escape,” the singer says. “Escapism can almost sound like a negative. What are you trying to escape from? And it’s like no, medication is another way to escape. This is a form of meditation and relaxing and enjoying the nostalgia of things you remember and the newness of the harmonies.”
The Disney princess culture has two consistent themes that van der Pol views as essential: courage and kindness.
“It’s what’s right and good and true and honest and kind and brave in the world," she says. "The best aspect of these women and sometimes men is having the courage and bravery to be kind. Not to kill the villain and be the strongest and get the award and be the hero, but just to be a good person who is loving. That’s what Disney does.”
For whatever reasons, the interest in Disney culture continues to evolve and thrive. Specifically in a pandemic era, the princess viewpoint is a throwback to the times of optimism.
“We need to hear beautiful voices singing, telling beautiful stories about women and men who are courageous and brave and kind," van der Pol says. "Kind really is our key, and if anybody does that best it’s Disney.”
While many will attend this concert with the goal of channeling their own inner princess, for the performers themselves the dream they wished has come true.
“I really enjoy being on stage and interacting with the audience and being these women who have really been a part of our history,” van der Pol says. “I mean, I’m a princess. I’m a Disney princess. Sometimes I pinch myself because it is so amazing.”
Disney Princess — The Concert will take place on Feb. 5 at Music Hall at Fair Park at 909 First Ave.