In Disney’s new touring production On the Record you’ll find, literally, “anything your heart desires will come to you.” From the Aristrocats and Ariel to Baloo and Buzz Lightyear, the show captures 64 songs from the past 75 years in a wonderfully mixed montage. Even if some of the songs are not familiar, the show will certainly make you want to break into song, dance and most likely your Disney movie collection sometime soon.
This production is certainly an all-ages show; the crowd gathered at the Wharton Center Tuesday night ranged from young toddlers to senior citizens. However, clocking in at approximately two and a half hours (with intermission), the show may be a little too long for young children.
[poster] The production is divided into 17 “sessions” that take place in a magical recording studio. The premise of the show is that the cast of eight performers comes together to sing, dance and act out the tunes while they make the ultimate compilation of Disney hits. The leads of Kristen, Julian, Diane and Nick are complimented by the chorus quartet. Kristen (played by Ashley Brown) and Nick (Andrew Samonsky) often steal the show with their powerful voices.
The set of On the Record is purposely understated, allowing the music to take center stage. This is quite a contrast to Disney’s usual over-the-top productions. Keeping with the environment of a recording studio, the initial and most frequently seen backdrop is made of giant acoustical tiles, and the most prominent props are four chrome boom mics on wheels. Throughout the show, the white tiles are washed with many different colors, adding ambience and dimension to the simple stage. The mics are used in nearly every scene as transitional objects (they become the perfect boat in “Kiss the Girl”), but grow redundant and overused as the show continues. Continuing its simplicity, the actors are all dressed in sharp gray and black outfits. The only costume change in the entire production comes with the sparkling finale.
Beginning with the classic Disney staple, “When You Wish Upon a Star,” the first act includes a prologue and eight recording sessions. Session three is a crowd favorite – “The Work Song” from Cinderella – where the foursome even emulates the high-pitched mouse voices. On-site sound engineers actually manipulate the singers’ live voices during the show to give the tune its authentic feel.
Courtney Pohl from Portland won four tickets for her family in a local radio contest by singing “The Work Song” from Cinderella. The curly-haired three-year-old said it was her favorite song in the production as well, though she sang and danced through each number.
Although session one seems to start out a little slow, the fourth session’s staging provides a change in atmosphere and gives the show a boost. A black curtain with fiber-optic stars flies in to cover the tiles, and two staircases become the staging for romantic songs like “So This Is Love,” from Cinderella, and “A Whole New World,” from Aladdin. The session rounds out with the entire cast seated on the steps singing “The Second Star to the Right” from Peter Pan.
Session five illustrates Disney’s talent (and success) with animated musicals, highlighting the Academy Award-winning The Little Mermaid. The orchestra opens with the cool Caribbean beats of “Under the Sea” and closes with the charming “Kiss the Girl.” Although the lyrics of “Under the Sea” were jumbled at times, the musicians and their talents really stood out. Also in this session, Kristen has an outstanding solo with “Part of Your World” and Diane revives the character of Ursula the Sea-Witch with some creative lighting. As the stage goes completely black, five bright green strands of illuminated rope with flashlights at the ends are lowered down for Diane and the chorus members. The five performers dance and twirl in the lights, which seem to become seaweed and Ursula’s tentacles, and they use the flashlights to eerily illuminate their faces.
[helfer] Clever staging for the song, “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” becomes a fabulous flurry of non-sensical syllables and sheet music. The session begins with chorus members bringing the music to the four primary actors waiting at music stands. However, because of the length of the lyrics, the sheets soon turn to reams of yellow paper flying around the stage. “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” (from Song of the South) and “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo” (Cinderella), as well as other songs, get added in to become a ridiculous and thoroughly entertaining remix.
“I liked the ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’ one,” said nine-year-old Taylor VanRemmen. “It was really fun.”
The number, “Be Our Guest,” from Beauty and the Beast, has been a favorite of movie lovers, as well as theater-goers, for almost 15 years, but On the Record gives it a unique twist by singing it in several different languages throughout session 12. A screen flies in at center stage and projects the scene from the movie, as lyrics in French, German, Japanese and Swedish sound from the stage.
As the cast is wrapping their “recording session” and parting ways, they finish with the cherished “When You Wish Upon a Star” from Pinocchio, before doing an incredible quick-change for the finale singing “The Bare Necessities” and “Spoonful of Sugar.”
“I enjoyed the whole show,” said season ticket-holder Sandy Helfer of Holt. “I liked ‘When You Wish Upon a Star’ best, though; it’s classic Jiminy Cricket.”
On the Record runs through Sunday, March 6, at the Wharton Center. For showtimes and ticket information visit: www.whartoncenter.com. For a complete list of the show’s songs check out the On the Record Web site.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *