The licensing news is somewhat unusual because both shows are currently running on Broadway, leading to speculation that this heralds the final stretches for those flagship productions. Conversely, however, there is business wisdom that says regional stagings will promote interest in the first-class New York productions.
"It is exciting to be able to offer the licensing rights while the Broadway production continues in New York," Thomas Schumacher, president of Disney Theatrical Productions, said in a statement. "Now theatregoers all over the country will be able to enjoy a live theatre experience in their own community and on Broadway when they travel to New York."
"Both shows have no intention to close," said a spokesman for the Broadway hits. The famed Palace Theatre houses Aida and the Lunt-Fontanne is home to Beauty.
In a rare response to the "chatterati" — those sometimes negative internet message-board posters who speculate about the health of shows — the press reps of Aida sent out this statement Sept. 17: "Despite the recent postings on theatre fan sites and chat rooms, Aida is NOT closing. There are no plans to close. There is an active list of stage, screen and recording stars interested in the role of Aida, many of whom are in discussions with casting, and the producers at this time."
Disney receives requests from local theatre companies "every day" to license Aida and Beauty and the Beast, according to Schumacher. "This agreement will enable us to respond through MTI," he said. The licensing for Beauty is expected to be available by summer 2004.
MTI, headed by chairman Freddie Gershon, is the world’s leading theatrical licensing agency. Visit www.mtishows.com for more information.
Initially, MTI will license Elton John and Tim Rice's Aida exclusively to Big League Theatricals, Inc., which will tour its own (presumably non-Equity) version of the show beginning in the 2004-2005 season. Disney's North American touring production of Aida completed its 50-city, two-and-a-half-year run at the end of August.
"There were a number of U.S. cities that couldn't be reached given the economics of our touring production," Schumacher said in a statement, "so we’re delighted that MTI will be licensing Aida to Big League Theatricals, Inc."
Aida is now in its fourth year on Broadway, and has played more than 1,400 performances. The show also completed a two-year run in the Netherlands in early August 2003. In four years, nearly five million people have seen the three productions of Aida. New productions will open in Essen, Germany in October 2003 and Osaka, Japan in December 2003.
Disney's Beauty and the Beast is now in its 10th year on Broadway, and is the seventh longest running show in Broadway history (at more than 3,800 performances). Major productions of the show have been seen in 14 countries in six different languages, reaching more than 25 million people worldwide. In addition to Broadway, the show can also currently be seen in Kyoto, Japan and Sao Paulo, Brazil with a new production scheduled to open in Seoul, South Korea in August 2004.
Beauty and the Beast recently completed its 90 city, 7-1/2-year North American tour in early August 2003.
For information about Disney on Broadway, click here.
Disney and MTI are also partnering on the licensing of other Disney properties for the children's theatre market, similiar to the "junior" versions of Anniem Les Miserables and other non-Disney shows.