If theatre fans question whether Walt Disney World really is “The Most Magical Place on Earth," they'll likely be convinced once by the myriad theatre options waiting for them at the park.
The resort, located near Orlando, Florida, is home to four theme parks, two water parks, a downtown shopping area, and over two dozen hotels, providing plenty of opportunities for people to plan a perfect theatre-themed vacation in the sun. My Disney Experience allows visitors to check live wait times, make dining reservations, and plan the day with showtimes and park hours. To start, users will need to create an account and download the app onto their phone.
Throughout the parks, theatregoers can sit through Broadway-style musical spectaculars while aspiring performers may find themselves acting in a scene while waiting in line for a ride. Plus, stage door-type experiences lay waiting around every corner. Below, Playbill details how to make the most of a Walt Disney World vacation for fans of the stage.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
For anyone who loves theatre, this theme park should be the number one stop of traveler’s itineraries. On Sunset Boulevard, visitors will find a fully staged 25-minute condensed version of Beauty and the Beast with Broadway level choreography and special effects. The musical features new arrangements of “Belle,” “Be Our Guest” and the title song with all of your favorite characters dropping by in full costume.
In Echo Lake, there are two shows to enjoy: The Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular! and For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along. The former is a sit-back-and-enjoy-the-show type of affair with death-defying tricks recognizable from the film franchise. The latter offers fans of Arendelle the chance to show off their pipes with the live performers on stage plus some family-friendly humor along with a few wink-wink jokes that the adults are sure to pick up on (a balm to counter the hundreds of off-key children screaming “Let It Go”).
Over in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is Rise of the Resistance, a trackless ride that features an extended pre-boarding process that might include a bit of interrogation from a member of the evil First Order. Without giving too much away, anyone with a love for performance should be ready to act the hero if called upon.
Also worth a visit are MupperVision 3-D, with all the chaos that embodies the loveable puppets, and the Sci-Fi Dinner Theater, featuring performers acting as carhops who often improvise. At night, the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre becomes the backdrop for Disney Movie Magic and Wonderful World of Animation, two spectaculars highlighting the House of Mouse’s film history.
Just like Hollywood Studios, the magic of theatre lies waiting around nearly every corner in this nature-themed park. The highlight here is the full-scale condensed version of The Lion King, presented in-the-round and titled A Celebration of Festival of the Lion King. The hits keep coming in this 25-minute musical bonanza, including “Can’t Wait to Be King,” “Hakuna Matata,” “Be Prepared” (featuring flame throwers!), and a show-stopping megamix finale. Performers are on stilts and use puppetry just like in the Broadway show.
Staying in Africa, visitors can enjoy some music from the harp players Kora Tinga Tinga or Tam Tam Drummers of Harambe. Later, head back to the center of the park at Discovery Island for the Viva Gaia Street Band, a Caribbean-themed dance party.
Later on this year, the musical adaptation of Finding Nemo will reopen in DinoLand U.S.A. The beloved show, with music composed by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, was shuttered around the time of the COVID-19 pandemic. It will return as Finding Nemo: The Big Blue…and Beyond!, with some story tweaks but a majority of the score will remain intact.
Home to a variety of shops and restaurants, this downtown-style area is known for its big top that houses Cirque du Soleil’s Drawn to Life. The show opened in November 2021 and merges Disney animation with the troupe’s famed acrobatics. It also goes beyond Cirque's normal scope by incorporating a full story-line, including a hero’s journey, several hilarious sidekicks, and a monstrous (but seriously misunderstood) villain.
Inspired by Disneyland in California, the park has a number of OG attractions still running. The standouts here are The Enchanted Tiki Room in Adventureland and Country Bear Jamboree in Frontierland, each approximately 12 minutes long and packed with songs, humor, and Disney magic that bring a cast of animal characters to life through animatronics. Even though they’re in different neighborhoods, a pathway connects them, making it easy to hit them one after the other.
If you’re in the mood for a play, head on over to Liberty Square for the Hall of Presidents for a 25-minute exploration of American History. Animatronic figures of all 45 presidents (Grover Cleveland is both the 22nd and 24th thanks to his non-consecutive terms) share the story, including a recent addition of current U.S. President Joe Biden.
Comedians looking to get their start in stand-up can visit Tomorrowland for Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor, which invites audiences to submit jokes before the start of the show. The 15-minute jokefest features plenty of audience participation, including selected submissions and a Q&A. All four of the attractions above play on a loop, so just walk up to the entrance and get into the line and the show will begin shortly.
At night, visitors should head to Cinderella’s Castle for Enchantment, a fireworks and projection display celebrating the theme park’s 50 year anniversary. It features characters and new arrangements of songs from Disney classics like Peter Pan, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin, along with narration by Broadway alums like Angela Bassett. The start time varies depending on the year, but plan on it being at nighttime and get there at least 15 minutes in advance for a good view.
This is where imagination and reality combine for a unique experience theme parks experience. Theatregoers will want to spend most of their time in the World Showcase, which features 11 nations, offering a look at their culture, food, and entertainment. While you won’t find any musicals here, you’ll get some fantastic performances.
If you’re working counter-clockwise, the first stop is in Canada, where the band Alberta Bound often plays on the Mill Stage. Then, hop over to the United Kingdom, where visitors can enjoy a pianist at the Rose & Crown Pub.
In France, audiences can enjoy the spotlight at the Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along. There are no live performers, but Angela Lansbury provides some helpful narration as Mrs. Potts. After wandering the sights of Morocco and Japan, the American pavilion boasts Voices of Liberty, a singing troupe offering takes on numbers from the Disney songbook.
The journey around the world continues with stops in Italy, Germany, China, Norway, and Mexico. A number of character opportunities are available here at their respective nations, like Mulan and Princess Anna and Queen Elsa.
Over in World Celebration, the Stomp-esque Jammitors perform percussive beats on the trash can. Then, be sure to pick out a spot around the World Showcase lagoon for Harmonious (9 PM), EPCOT’s water spectacular, highlighting the diverse range of cultures represented in Disney films, including The Lion King, Coco, Moana, and Brave. There are shooting fountains, fireworks, and projections, all bringing some of Disney's most beloved musical moments to life.
For more, visit DisneyWorld.com.