Look, we are nothing if not objective. While the Dallas Observer Music Awards showcase on Dec. 7 offers a lineup of more than 40 local bands in one night, we can still recognize that another Dallas show happening in the same month might be the greatest local show of the year — or at least the greatest themed night. On Sunday, Dec. 29, some of the best local performers will come together to perform as your favorite princesses, villains and animal sidekicks in The Grays Classic: ’90s Disney Concert.
There’s nothing like going to a Deep Ellum punk rock bar to watch some of the area’s best R&B and jazz musicians performing a bunch of ’90s Disney tunes for a group of nostalgic hipsters. Siblings Kwinton, Kierra and KJ Gray did just that this past January at Three Links.
The die-hard Disney fans, who learned to play music growing up by matching instruments to the tunes on their VHS movies, sold out the venue and invited some of the city’s finest natives to guest star — acclaimed actress Liz Mikel channeled Ursula's vampiness for “Poor Unfortunate Souls,” and pop trailblazer Dezi 5 stood on the bar to emulate The Lion King's Scar singing “Be Prepared."
The night made for not only the best Disney night, and easily one of the best shows of the year, but arguably one of the most delightful moments in Deep Ellum history.
This time, the demand calls for a bigger venue, in a different historic neighborhood. Enter The Kessler Theater, where the show will take place.
"It's a family event, and we love doing stuff like that during the holidays," says the venue's artistic director, Jeff Liles. "It will be a great show to bring the kids."
Kwinton also calls the event "all ages," but we couldn't disagree more and, in fact, suggest you leave your unappreciative and uncultured children at home watching Coco on repeat on an iPad. This show should be for adults who want to feel like kids again, while singing along to every village character's line about how Belle is so peculiar.
In addition to the evocative song selection, the concert's special guests are cast to each role, and their unique dramatic skill makes it less a cover night, and more like musical theater. The Grays will also be accompanied by a 15-piece house band.
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"We do these shows to celebrate nostalgia and pay homage to the music that inspired us as children," Kwinton says, adding that they chose the Kessler because it's one of his favorite Dallas venues. "It’s rich in history but also has incredible sound quality," he says of the theater. "With a 15-piece house band, every element can be heard and appreciated."
The Disney show is becoming a once-a-year tradition, but Kwinton says they would like to produce the event more often.
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"It’s a lot to get together, but I’d love to do it more often," he says. "We shall see how far we get before Disney shows up and kicks us all offstage."
Kwinton, KJ and Kierra Gray are some of Dallas' most active and talented musicians, a fact that we recognized by making the siblings individual DOMA nominees this year as Best Pianist, Best Bassist and Best Female Singer, respectively. Kwinton Gray Project is also nominated for a Best Jazz Act award.
Disney culture also remains consistently popular. The new streaming service Disney+, which launched on Tuesday, has already surpassed 10 million subscribers. For reference, it took HBO Now three years to reach half that number. To be fair, Disney+ also includes primo nerd fodder like the Marvel and Star Wars movies, a big part of its appeal.
The Gray's show, however, hits nostalgic Disney-obsessed millennials right in the feels. The ’90s Disney soundtracks contain arguably some of the best singalong songs in all of cinema: Aladdin’s "A Whole New World," Toy Story’s "Strange Things" and Pocahontas’ "Colors of the Wind." But seriously, fuck your cheesy Frozen and Moana songs, Gen Z. We had the Calypso-styled "Under the Sea."