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All the World’s a Stage

Posted by andycollopy on April 17, 2009

As an avid theatre-lover, one of my favorite parts about going to Walt Disney World is getting to see the live shows. While I plan on writing full-length reviews of them later, here are my overall impressions of the shows currently found in the WDW parks, listed in order of my preference. These views are entirely mine and mine alone.

I didn’t include the stunt shows because they seem like completely different types of attractions. La Nouba is in a completely different league.

5. Voyage of the Little Mermaid
Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Kicking off my list is a show that, while definitely having some redeeming qualities, is a little bit of a hodgepodge. It combines live actors with puppets, projections, and bubbles. In the process, a lot of the impact of the story and music get lost. I think that the music is especially damaged, because many of the songs feature prerecorded voices, taking away a lot of the feeling of it being live theatre.

4. Playhouse Disney – Live on Stage!
Disney’s Hollywood Studios

I was extremely surprised by Playhouse Disney – Live of Stage!. It features very good production values, catchy music, and, when I saw it, an infectiously energetic host. Unfortunately the extremely contrived plot keeps it from snagging third place of the list. I guess that considering its target audience though, plot holes weren’t the creator’s main concern.

3. Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage
Disney’s Hollywood Studios

While similar to Voyage of the Little Mermaid in many ways, Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage holds up as a better all around show. While still featuring its fair share of prerecorded vocals, the live actors are given more of the songs to sing. Plus, one of the prerecorded voices is that of Angely Lansbury, which makes it okay. The simple staging is very effective, especially the Beast’s awesome transformation.

2. Festival of the Lion King
Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Festival of the Lion King is unique among the shows on this list in that it doesn’t tell the story of the movie (or TV shows, I guess) it’s based on. It’s more of a variety show, featuring music and characters from The Lion King. There are four main singers who, at least every time I’ve seen the show, are simply phenomenal. A few of the singers I’ve seen in this show are the best vocal talent I’ve come across in all of Walt Disney World. To go along with the singing, the show features a spectacle of acrobats and dancers, making Festival of the Lion King as much a feast for the eyes as it is for the ears.

1. Finding Nemo – The Musical
Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Of all the shows in Walt Disney World, Finding Nemo – The Musical is the only one that truly nears Broadway quality. Of the shows on this list, this is the only one with original music written specifically for its stage incarnation, as it’s the only one based on a non-musical movie (or TV show). While the quality of a given performance is heavily based on the cast you happen to see (I’ve seen some performances where an actor or two were truly painful to watch), the technical aspects and staging are incredible. And if you pair up the astounding visuals with a good cast, there’s nowhere else in Walt Disney World I’d rather be.

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