Disney Announces Unprecedented Ticket Exchange Policy

Ticketholders for “Aladdin” and “The Lion King” Can Swap Dates

The Lion King Broadway Musical, logoTwo of Disney’s most popular animated films have become two of their most exciting stage musicals. For the Broadway productions of both Aladdin and The Lion King, Disney Theatrical Productions has announced that ticketholders can exchange their tickets for another performance time, up until 2 hours before curtain. There will be a $12 ticket exchange fee for each change transaction, excepting cases in which the change happens less than 24 hours after the purchase was made. Also, the exchange must happen in the same way that the purchase was originally transacted: either at the box office, the Disney on Broadway hotline, or online via Ticketmaster. Though this announcement applies to both Aladdin and The Lion King, theatregoers must stick with the production they originally chose; there is no exchange allowed between tickets for the two shows. Still, this flexibility is sure to please audience members for both shows alike, thereby perhaps encouraging seeing both to take advantage of the scheme.

An Unprecedented Move, So Why Now?

Generally, purchasing tickets to a Broadway show is seen as a non-refundable commitment, requiring all other scheduling to Aladdin on Broadwayaccommodate the unchanging requirements of the time as originally selected. Therefore, this decision by Disney completely changes the nature of the Broadway ticket-buying marketplace. It’s possible that if this proves to be a successful incentive for choosing these shows over other offerings, that other producers may follow suit. The disincentive for this flexibility is that producers and managers need to keep careful track of each performance, understanding when they need to discount, offer complimentary tickets, or implement dynamic pricing to suit the availability of each performance. Disney has the unusual flexibility to engage this policy because both shows are such consistent hits, so even if theatregoers change their minds last minute, Disney is confident they can fill up those seats either at the TDF booth, box office, or online, still continuing with a steady stream of profits. And furthermore, Disney may benefit quite strongly from this $12 change fee, which may seem slight at the time of change, but could definitely add up to another significant revenue stream for the organization.

“The Lion King” and “Aladdin”

The Lion King is undoubtedly one of Broadway’s biggest hits, having run at the Minskoff Theatre at top box office grosses since it began performances on October 15, 1997. It has now played for over 7000 performances, generally with weekly grosses between $1.5 million and $2.5 million. With music by Elton John and lyrics by Tim Rice, the production was directed by Julie Taymor and choreographed by Garth Fagan, famously utilizing giant puppets to simulate the animals of the kingdom with human dancers inside them. Aladdin is a much newer production, having only begun previews on February 26, 2014 at the New Amsterdam Theatre. Still, it quickly rose to the top of the box office charts, consistently earning grosses between $1.2 million and $1.6 million. Perhaps Disney is attempting to get Aladdin up to the league of The Lion King, incentivizing ticketbuyers by grouping the two shows together with this flexible policy. In any case, the brand power from the animated films of both of these shows will certainly live on.

Disney’s Aladdin Finally Hits the Broadway Stage

Aladdin on BroadwayAladdin, a musical stage adaptation of the beloved 1992 Disney movie, has finally come to Broadway.  Previews began on February 26, 2014 at the New Amsterdam Theatre on 42nd Street, and the red carpet opening night will take place on March 20, 2014.

Based off of centuries-old folklore including One Thousand and One Nights, Aladdin is the story of a street urchin who wins the heart of a princess with the help of a genie from a magic lamp.  With a musical score by Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, the stage version incorporates additional lyrics and a book written by Chad Beguelin (Elf the Musical, The Wedding Singer).  The show is directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw (The Book of Mormon, Monty Python’s Spamalot, The Drowsy Chaperone).

The cast is led by Adam Jacobs (The Lion King, Les Misérables) as Aladdin, Courtney Reed (In the Heights, Mamma Mia!) as Princess Jasmine, James Monroe Iglehart (Memphis, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee) as Genie, and Jonathan Freeman (The Little Mermaid, Mary Poppins) as Jafar.  Freeman also played Jafar in the original animated film.  Furthermore, the musical features a trio of sidekicks to Aladdin, who reportedly were conceived and then discarded during the making of the original film, but who are now finally incorporated into this stage adaptation.  These roles are played by Brian Gonzales as Babkak, Brandon O’Neill as Kassim, and Jonathan Schwartz as Omar.

Aladdin is the newest in a line of Disney animated movie to musical theatre adaptations mounted by Disney Theatricals, whose producing history includes Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, Tarzan, Mary Poppins, and The Little Mermaid.  Three of these were enormous hits.  Beauty and the Beast ran for 13 years (from 1994 to 2007), grossing over $1.4 billion worldwide.  The Lion King has been a huge smash since its opening in 1997, and this past October it became the first show to gross over $1 billion from its Broadway production alone.  Mary Poppins also had a profitable run from 2006 to 2013, recouping its investment after only one year.  However, Tarzan and The Little Mermaid were notorious flops, failing to attract an audience despite the success of their precursors.  Therefore, Aladdin is not necessarily a shoo-in for mega-hit, but its fate will be more discernible when the reviews come out after its opening.

The show has had several out-of-town runs prior to its arrival in New York.  After its premiere at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre in July 2011, the musical has had stints in Ivins, Utah in June – October 2012, St. Louis, Missouri in July 2012, and it has just completed its official pre-Broadway run at Toronto’s Ed Mirvish Theatre, where it ran from November 2013 to January 2014.

It is not unusual for a musical’s producers to counter their risk by trying out a show in a different city before bringing it to Broadway.  In anticipating a Broadway run, producers may choose to enhance the budget of a not-for-profit theatre’s production of the show while retaining legal rights to the property, and generally while maintaining a degree of creative control.  Though they do not stand to profit monetarily from the early run, they can test the waters in the press to tweak creative elements before investing the whole Broadway budget, and they can also economize by keeping the same costumes and sets.  In certain cases, if the show really isn’t as good as predicted, they may even decide to cut their losses and put a kibosh on the Broadway run.  Though they would have lost their enhancement (often in the realm of one million dollars), they would be avoiding an eventual loss of much more (Broadway musical budgets can easily range $10 – $16 million).

In this light, the fact that Aladdin has had so many pre-Broadway productions implies that its producers were not satisfied with the quality of the first run and felt the need to make adjustments.  Despite any changes that may have been made after the first three attempts, Aladdin’s most recent run in Toronto still triggered a mixed response.  The Toronto Star said that A Friend Like Me was a show-stopping number, but otherwise the musical did not match up to its animated predecessor.  The Vancouver Sun predicted that kids may enjoy the spectacle and simple story, but that its gleam may be lost on adults who crave more complex characters.  Still, Canada’s National Post gave it a rave.  In any case, critical response does not always dictate ticket sales, and over time we may see the brand power of this animated classic overriding ambivalence from the press.

Aladdin To Play Toronto Before Hitting Broadway in 2014

Disney's AladdinMary Poppins will be flying away from Broadway’s New Amsterdam Theatre this March, but the theater won’t be empty for long.  Disney’s Aladdin will take over the space in 2014, though exact dates have yet to be announced.  The stage version of Aladdin will expand the 1992 film from a slim 90 minutes to a full two-act format.  The musical will feature songs from the movie by Alan Menken, Howard Ashman, and Tim Rice, but there will also be new lyrics and a new book by Chad Beguelin (Elf, The Wedding Singer).  Some of the new material was originally developed for the movie, but didn’t make the cut.

Before Aladdin arrives on Broadway, the show will have an out-of-town, pre-Broadway tryout at the Mirvish Theatre in Toronto, playing from November 13, 2013 to January 12, 2014.  Aladdin had a “pilot” version at the 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle in 2011, but Disney has stated that the Broadway version will be a brand new production.  Casey Nicholaw will direct and choreograph Aladdin, and the creative team includes scenic designer Bob Crowley, costume designer Gregg Barnes, lighting designer Natasha Katz, dance arranger Glen Kelly, and musical supervisor Michael Kosarin.

Mary Poppins To Close, Possibly Making Way for Broadway Aladdin

Mary Poppins Broadway Musical disney blue black red Everybody’s favorite nanny is leaving Broadway as Mary Poppins has announced its plans to close on March 3. The Disney musical, which opened on Broadway in 2006, will have played 2,619 performances by the time it closes. And soon it will be seen everywhere when Music Theatre International starts licensing productions throughout North America.

Mary Poppins producer Thomas Schumacher stated that “The show’s extraordinary success is due to the 500 plus actors, musicians and stagehands who have brought the show to magical life on Broadway and, most importantly, to the audiences who have fallen in love with Mary, Bert and the Banks family every night. We thank them and New York for six tremendous years.”

It is expected that Disney plans on bringing yet another of their famous movie properties, Aladdin, to the New Amsterdam Theatre soon. Disney has already debuted their new stage version of Aladdin at the 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle in a production directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw, who helmed Broadway’s The Book of Mormon.