THOMAS Schumacher never dreamed of working for Disney and yet the producer and Disney Theatrical Group president will have spent 30 years with the company when Aladdin the Musical opens at Crown Theatre Perth in July.
In 1988, with achievements including presenting the American premiere of Cirque du Soleil and as assistant manager for Los Angeles Ballet, the UCLA theatre graduate received a phone call that would change everything.
“I never wanted to work at Disney and didn’t apply, but a friend who was working there called to ask if I wanted to produce a movie,” Schumacher said.
“I’d never worked in film, I didn’t know anything about animation but I took it and began working on The Rescuers Down Under.”
Next came a long list of Disney favourites including Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Mulan, Tarzan and Lilo and Stitch while Schumacher simultaneously began to work on Broadway musicals Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King.
“For a number of years I was commuting between New York and LA with a residence in both and then at some point, in 2003 or 2004, I decided it was too hard to do both because they were both full-time jobs, so I decided to focus on theatre,” he said.
“Many of the things that have been made as films or been Disney books are material we just love. You’re always looking for what makes it unique, what makes it different from what we’ve done and what about it says ‘Put this on stage’.
“What’s interesting about Aladdin is that it didn’t initially scream musical because the film isn’t a musical, it’s an action adventure with songs. We were asked to create a two-act licensed production by semi-professional theatres around the country and it developed from there.
“The original idea for the movie had been for a proper musical and we revisited some of the key elements originally conceived to create, what I think, is a charming and fun musical.”
Schumacher, whose latest venture is bringing Frozen to Broadway, said he was proud of the Australian Aladdin cast who deliver the full version of the musical to Aussie audiences.
“I want audiences to know it’s as it plays in London and New York and that it’s a proper evening at the theatre,” he said.
“It’s not a panto and not created for children, it’s created for the Broadway audience. And it’s a ripping good time of what I affectionately call ‘The Genie Follies’.”
What: Aladdin the Musical
Where: Crown Theatre Perth
When: July to September 2018