After a short hiatus, Our Divas are back on stage at Mile One Centre this month with a show that’s taken them about four years to produce.
Those four years of planning and negotiating were well-spent, however, since the end result is “Disney in Concert: A Tale as Old as Time,” a 200-cast-strong production rivalling shows seen only in Disneyworld.
After the very first Our Divas show, “Our Divas do Broadway” at Mile One Centre in 2004, audience members began approaching producer/director Terri Andrews and producer Sheilagh Guy-Murphy with ideas for other show themes. The biggest and best of them was Disney, but it wasn’t something that could be staged on a whim.
“We were going back and forth and trying to find the right people to talk to,” Andrews explained of the challenges involved in getting the rights to produce a Disney-themed show.
“Through all our talking and negotiating and searches, we found out that Disney actually has a couple of concerts that they offer, and one of them is ‘A Tale as Old as Time.’ The way it works is we not only have to have permission for everything we do, we could only do it in a certain time frame. As I understand it, if this show was being done somewhere else in the week in February that we wanted to do it, we wouldn’t be able to, because they have their concert calendar. Rather than Disney taking their show on the road, the show itself goes to different production companies.”
Not just any production company, though — Disney first had to do its research on Our Divas, though videos and resumés and so on, and decided it was bonafide and capable enough for the Disney stamp of approval.
Something else that had to be negotiated, Andrews said, was choreography, which is a big part of any Our Divas production, but something Disney doesn’t generally have in its shows. Instead, the shows usually focus on the music of a symphony orchestra and live singing of the characters, while coordinating clips from Disney films are shown on screens.
“We said dance is a big component of our shows and they said, ‘You’re going to have to justify that, and we get first right of refusal,’” Andrews said. “We said here are our choreographers, here’s the stuff we’ve done in the past, these are the levels of our dancers — these are not student dancers, these are advanced level dancers — and here’s the concept for each dance number.”
Once everything was approved, the music started to arrive, coming from California, Prague, and other off-site locations were Disney shows have been produced.
The format of the show is classic Disney, Andrews said. A narrator welcomes the audience to “A Tale as Old as Time,” introduces the main characters, and goes through a number of themes consistent with most popular Disney films: boy or girl who wants out of their provincial life; boy meets girl; intervening evil; true love conquers all. Characters like Belle, Cinderella, Aladdin, Ariel, Aurora, Cruella de Ville, Pocahontas, Hercules, and those from The Lion King and the Pirates of the Caribbean will perform live on stage with a cast of dancers, while clips from their movies are shown on three gigantic screens behind them.
Accompanying the performers will be the 50 members of the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra as well as the award-winning Quintessential Vocal Ensemble. Show numbers like the “Fantasia” theme are incredible, Andrews said.
“When you listen to the orchestrations of Disney and then put a symphony orchestra there, you’ve got this big sound. If you’re used to going to a symphony concert or a symphony pops concert, this one will blow you away,” Andrews said. “It’s not easy music at all and it’s big.”
The show was cast on voice, Andrews said, looking primarily at which singer would fit which character. Characters in the classic Disney films, like “Sleeping Beauty” and “Cinderella,” have classical singing voices, while the newer films, like “The Little Mermaid” or “Beauty and the Beast” have contemporary, pop-sounding voices. The villains tend to be baritones and altos, while the princesses tend to be sopranos who can go into a very high note without hitting a falsetto.
“They can belt, but they have to belt very sweetly,” Andrews said.
All in all, with licences, music, performers, lights and animations, the show is “super, super expensive” to produce, Andrews said, adding she and Guy-Murphy have asked themselves why they bother.
“I went in last Sunday to a singing rehearsal when we brought the cast in with the choir, and they all sat next to each other and started learning the finale of the show,” she said. “I sat in the back of the room listening to it and feeling the vibration in that room and the excitement. I went, ‘OK. This is why I’m doing it.’
“It’s a no-brainer that this is the biggest (show) I’ve done, and I’d say as far as a local production is concerned, this is the biggest one that’s been here at all. It’s difficult, but for me it’s go big or go home. I don’t want to go home.”
Those purchasing tickets for “A Tale as Old as Time” came across a minor snag earlier this month when Mile One changed from one ticket provider to another, forcing the shutdown of its online ticket purchasing. The system is now back up and running, and as a thank you for patron’s patience, Andrews and Guy-Murphy have reduced children’s ticket prices to $25.
They’re stressing the show is as much for children as it is for adults, and are encouraging kids to come in their favourite Disney costume.
Starring performers such as Cory Tetford, Kelly-Ann Evans, Petrina Bromley, Shelley Neville, Kierston Noel, Calvin Powell, “Our Divas do Disney: A Tale as Old as Time” will run in Mile One’s Molson Theatre Feb. 17 and 18. Tickets range from $25 to $90 and are available at the Mile One Centre box office, by phoning 576-7657, or online at www.mileoncentre.com.
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