Whitney Claire-Kaufman and Andrew Johnson sing your favorite Disney songs.EXPAND
Whitney Claire-Kaufman and Andrew Johnson sing your favorite Disney songs.
Courtesy of Artburst Miami

Disney in Concert Comes to the Arsht Center With Music From The Little Mermaid, Frozen, and More

Children enthralled by orchestral music? An invitation to sing along with the symphony? In an age where orchestras either need to evolve or become extinct, Ted Ricketts has found a way for families to feel comfortable at a symphony concert.

With Disney in Concert: Magical Music from the Movies, Ricketts creates a multi-sensory experience that takes the familiar music of Disney films and gives it the lush, symphonic treatment. Music from your favorite movies — such as The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Pocahontas, Aladdin, The Lion King, Pirates of the Caribbean, and, of course, what Disney musical production wouldn’t be complete without the Mouse House's instant classic, Frozen — are paired with a 38-piece orchestra, four Broadway-style singers, and a giant movie screen that plays film clips as the music plays along.

“The thing that makes the concert so appealing is that we all grew up on Disney films," says Ricketts. "Whether you’re now the grandparent or you’re the child, everyone knows this music.”

Ricketts spent 24 years as a music director and producer for Walt Disney World in Orlando, and when he retired, he says he started planning the concert. "At the time, [WDW] was doing instrumental orchestra shows. It took me three years, but I eventually convinced them that we should try doing a show that had an orchestra, singers, and clips from the films.”

That was in 2009 and Ricketts’ Disney show has since played more than 200 concerts worldwide. 

"Can you feel the love tonight?"EXPAND
"Can you feel the love tonight?"
Courtesy of Artburst Miami

Andrew Johnson is one of the four singers who have been with Disney in Concert since it began. The Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter has a resume that includes tours as a back up singer with Florence and the Machine, LeAnn Rimes, and Patti LaBelle, among others. He also has his own band that plays around L.A.

The experienced tenor says singing some of the Disney songs demands some vocal acrobatics. “The songs are put together in a certain way and Ted’s orchestrations enhance that.” Johnson, who performs solos in The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and Beauty and the Beast suites, and duets and ensembles in the show, admits to getting chills no matter how many times he sings his big solo “Circle of Life.”

“I’m getting goosebumps talking about it. When you hear the trumpets in the opening bars of the song, it’s emotional. I can feel the audience connecting to that song each time because it is such an amazing story. I’ve looked out and seen people in the front row weeping,” he says.

“When 'Let It Go' from Frozen starts to play in the show, you can hear gasps in the audience from little girls,” says Johnson about the popular song from the box-office hit that earned $1.2 billion worldwide. The soundtrack has sold more than a million albums.

What is the secret sauce that Disney has that makes the perfect recipe for a symphonic concert? Ricketts has thought about it himself and he has come up with an answer. “There’s a little bit of magic to the creativeness of Disney films. It’s a combination of great animation and wonderful music, and getting the best Broadway composers to create the character songs.”

Howard Ashman and Alan Menken (the 1980s version of Rodgers and Hammerstein), who wrote the music for Broadway’s Little Shop of Horrors, composed music for The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin. Frozen songwriters are husband-and-wife team Kirsten Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez. (Robert also co-wrote Broadway musicals Avenue Q and The Book of Mormon.)

Classifying Disney in Concert as "Symphony 101" is a fair assessment as far as the audience goes. Ricketts hopes once audiences are introduced in this way to the orchestra, it will get them to want to see and appreciate other symphonic music. “People in our audiences recognize that they are hearing something that sounds very familiar to them and then it hits them that they are listening and watching an orchestra — this light bulb goes on and they think, ‘This is good. Maybe there’s more of this I can like.’”

– Michelle F. Solomon, artburstmiami.com

Disney in Concert: Magical Music from the Movies
Sunday, December 27, at 7 p.m. at the Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami. Tickets cost $45-$105. Visit arshtcenter.org.

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