I confess I am somewhat a Disney aficionado. From the heart-warming, family-friendly stories, to the toe-tappingly catchy songs, anything that bears the moniker ‘Walt Disney’ is almost guaranteed to be a winner for me.
So, when the chance came to review Disney Cruise Line’s original stage production of Tangled: The Musical, I jumped at the chance.
Being able to see a brand new Disney stage production in the inner sanctum of a Disney cruise ship – without having to shell out an eye-watering amount for the privilege – was too good of an opportunity for a Disneyphile like me to pass up. Cruises start from £1,078 for a 3-day excursion (yes, really!), so to be able to watch these once exclusive shows without winning the lottery is a once-in-a-blue-moon opportunity (probably the same statistical odds as, say, an economy-halting viral pandemic).
And I wasn’t disappointed.
Available to view on Disney Parks’ official YouTube channel, Tangled: The Musical is earmarked as one in a series of “#DisneyMagicalMoments Virtual Viewing”, and it really was a magical moment from start to finish.
As with everything produced by (or in any way affiliated with) Disney, this production leaves nothing to the audience’s imagination – everything is tantalisingly, deliciously recreated onstage for the audience’s viewing pleasure.
For those unfamiliar with the tale of Tangled, it is predominantly based on the familiar story of Rapunzel – a girl with yards and yards of hair, locked in a tower by a wicked sorceress. However, this new retelling of the story involves magical, illuminated hair that reverses the effect of ageing and is able to heal even afflictions. So, challenge number one for me – how could they possibly replicate this magical hair onstage?
Of course, Disney has addressed that as only Disney can do – hiring the best of the best to produce the show. The backstage crew reads like a who’s who of musical theatre, who between them have won every major performance award there is to win, including Grammys, Tony’s, Emmys and Oscars. And, boy, does it show!
Rapunzel’s fabled hair is a real fait d’accompli, achieving so convincingly its goal that if you were watching it in real time on the stage where it was designed to be viewed, you’d be left scratching your head as you exited the theatre wondering just how they managed to make hair that long (and that illuminated, to boot!).
Magical hair aside, Tangled: The Musical is as true to the original as a stage adaptation dares to be – from familiar costumes and image-perfect casting to sumptuous sets and sensory delights – yet still packs a punch as an original piece in its own right.
This would be a masterful production on land, let alone at sea – jam-packed full of high-end theatricality, it really is quite something to behold. From masterful puppeteering (courtesy of the trusty Disney animal sidekick, Maximus the horse) and atmospheric pathetic fallacy with full moons, romantic night skies and ethereal fog aplenty, you soon forget you’re watching a stage show and quickly get lost in the magic of the spectacle before you.
To help set the scene, the dynamic duo of lyricist Glenn Slater and veteran Disney composer Alan Menken (who together penned the soundtrack for the original 2010 animated film) wrote three new songs for this piece. By far the best of these new additions was male protagonist Flynn Rider’s solo “Wanted Man”, taken straight from the leading man-slash-lothario playbook – a song that, by the end of it, had the audience eating out of the character’s hand.
As with the original, these hit-makers perfectly hit the mark with their revised soundtrack. One of the hallmarks of Disney is its universal appeal – on the surface, animated films like Tangled perfectly appeal to their target demographic (children), yet manage to seamlessly interweave tongue-in-cheek witticisms disguised as throwaway dialogue or lyrics buried within a jangly, foot-tapping melodies – the perfect antidote to allow parents to enjoy the films, too. In short, Slater and Menken have done it again – created a show-stopping score for a show-stopping production.
There were a few niggles from a staging perspective – notably the crude CGI in areas, as well as a small wardrobe malfunction in the emotionally-charged finale with Rapunzel’s wig, a central part of the resolution of the story. Whilst these elements broke the spell for me a little, these should in no way detract from an otherwise superb production, with stellar performances from all, anchored by a generally faultless production across all areas of lighting, sound, staging, costume design, casting and everything in between.
A bold production but executed delightfully by only the best and most experienced hands in the business. A pure delight to watch.
Production available to watch here: https://tinyurl.com/y2vj25xl
Reviewer: Hannah Wilde
Reviewed: 26th July 2020
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★