Culture shot: Disney on the local stage

Walt Disney Studios released its latest live-action movie in March, bringing in more than $1 billion at box offices worldwide with “Beauty and the Beast.” At least one area theater this summer will try to capitalize on that craze with its own youth production of the musical. The North Canton Playhouse will open its version of “Beauty and the Beast” on July 27.

Walt Disney Studios released its latest live-action movie in March, bringing in more than $1 billion at box offices worldwide with “Beauty and the Beast.”

At least one area theater this summer will try to capitalize on that craze with its own youth production of the musical. The North Canton Playhouse will open its version of “Beauty and the Beast” on July 27.

Locally, Disney musicals are popular choices for community theaters because of their mass appeal—and have been since before Disney began re-releasing its animated films as live-action movies. The Players Guild Theatre in Canton performed “The Little Mermaid” in May, after last year’s successful run of “Mary Poppins,” and “Beauty and the Beast” is scheduled for the fall. “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” is in next year’s line-up. The Carnation City Players in Alliance announced its next season will include “Cinderella.”

Area high schools also did Disney; “Beauty and the Beast,” “Mary Poppins” and “Cinderella” all were performed this school year. Those same shows appear on a national list of the top 10 most popular musicals to be performed by high schools, according to the Educational Theatre Association.

The website for the licensing company Musical Theatre International keeps a running list of its top-five trending shows by week. In May, all but one were Disney musicals, including both the adult and youth versions of “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”

Disney still draws a crowd even when the story or presentation differs from the original animated movie. The 2015 live-action release of “Cinderella” included a few changes and removed the songs from the 1950 movie and the later Rodgers and Hammerstein movie-musical versions, and it still brought in more than $543 million in ticket sales.

The Players Guild debuted its own re-imagined “Cinderella” last winter, adapted by managing director Beth Knox. She wanted a story that reminded viewers true beauty comes from within and encouraged independence. “You don’t need to wait on a prince to save you,” Knox said.

She wondered whether the changes would be too much for audience members, even though the traditional elements of the story remained. But the reaction was positive.

About 1,200 people came to see the play, which sold out during its run.

Upcoming Disney performances
North Canton Playhouse: northcantonplayhouse.com

• “Beauty and the Beast” July 27-August 13

Players Guild Theatre: playersguildtheatre.com

• “Beauty and the Beast” September 22-October 8

• “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” May 8-June 3, 2018

Carnation City Players: carnationcityplayers.org

• “Cinderella” February 16-25, 2018