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Corporate Broadway: Disney and the theatre of reassurance

Katherine Lynne Dudley, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


In 1994, Walt Disney Theatrical Productions ventured onto Broadway with Disney's Beauty and the Beast. New York City proclaimed a renaissance of 42nd Street; critics predicted a theme park takeover. By 1999, Disney Theatricals was firmly established as a financially successful Broadway producer and theater owner. Their activities include producing Disney's Beauty and the Beast, King David, The Lion King, Elaborate Lives/Aida, and renovating the New Amsterdam Theatre. Due to the extensive press currently and tepid academic interest in Disney historically, their presence on Broadway provides a unique opportunity to examine both the corporatization of the American commercial theatre and the shared American cultural values the popular theatre reflects. Towards that end, this study analyzes four areas of critical concern: (1) critical reception of the new producer, raising the age-old high art/popular art controversy and exposing insider prejudices; (2) aesthetic choices/changes from the production's source material, examining the myth of the corporate sensibility and the ongoing power of the fairy tale; (3) inclusion and portrayal of cultural myths, defining a modernist mainstream that values community and solution-oriented thinking; and (4) corporate influences on producing practices, revealing middle-of-the-road tactics, marketing past the critics and tapping the family entertainment audience. Far from signaling the demise of Broadway predicted by critics, Disney's presence coincides with the contemporary recreation of the financially successful Broadway from 1900 to 1935. ^

Subject Area

American Studies|Theater

Recommended Citation

Dudley, Katherine Lynne, "Corporate Broadway: Disney and the theatre of reassurance" (1999). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI9942120.