SECOND FLOOR OF SARDI'S: A Drink With Disney Theatrical President Thomas Schumacher

By Robert Simonson
28 Apr 2013

Thomas Schumacher
Thomas Schumacher
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

The first time Thomas Schumacher, president of Disney Theatrical, came to Sardi's was in 1977, "the summer Elvis died," as he put it. He didn't waste any time getting there.

"I was old enough to drink in New York, because you could drink at 18 in those days. And I came into Sardi's and had a drink and looked around at these walls. And I said, 'Wow, it looks like the Brown Derby!'"

Schumacher knew from the Brown Derby. A fourth-generation California boy (his grandfather, for whom he's named, was a survivor of the 1906 San Francicso earthquake), he had once sold ladies shoes across the street from the famous Hollywood restaurant, and was well-acquainted with its famous Cobb Salad. But walking through Times Square that hot, sordid summer, he knew where he belonged.

"I thought, 'I was born to live here.'"



He can still recall, with a boyish theatre geek's glee, the shows he attended that summer. (And, make no mistake, he did come specifically to see shows.) He saw Al Pacino in The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel, the original production of Annie, I Love My Wife starring the Smothers Brothers, and Equus with Leonard Nimoy, among others.

These, of course, weren't the first shows Schumacher had seen. By the time he reached Broadway, he had taken in dozens and participated in more. "I was going to ACT and seeing the shows that Bill Ball was staging there. They were life-changing. At the Curran, I saw Peter Brook's version of A Midsummer Night's Dream. I grew up with this fantastic exposure to dance and theatre."

His early commitment to theatre is handily illustrated in the story of how he spent his 16th birthday. "I got two things on my birthday," he recalled, "a driver's license and season tickets to ACT." So, the Friday after he got his license, he climbed in his car, drove to ACT and saw The House of Bernarda Alba."

These days, as the New Yorker that he always knew he'd become, he flies more than drives, checking on Disney's various and far-flung projects. Just prior to sitting down to this interview, he had been in Florida, meeting about Disney on Ice and Disney Live, which sends out new shows across the world on a regular basis. He journeys to Florida often, and has a history there. In his early days with Disney, when he was working in Disney's animation arm, he had an office right smack dab inside Disneyworld in Orlando. It had a large window through which visitors could see the Disney employees all working. "It was like an animation petting zoo," he said.

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