Monday, October 9, 2023

DISNEY PRINCESS - THE CONCERT - Llewellyn Hall Canberra


Presented by Disney Tours and TEG Dainty

Llewellyn Hall, Canberra. 7th October 2023.

Reviewed by BILL STEPHENS.

Although “Disney Princess – The Concert” was promoted as a school holiday show suitable for audiences from six upwards, this superbly produced concert also provided the enticing opportunity for musical theatre enthusiasts to relish the performances of several contemporary Broadway leading ladies in Steffanie Leigh, Storm Lever and Krysta Rodriguez; and Adam J. Levy, a leading man with both West End and Broadway credentials.  

There was also the added enticement of Australia’s very first Disney princess, Rachael Beck, who created Belle, opposite Hugh Jackman and Michael Cormick in the original Australian production of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast”.

The show was tightly directed, choreographed and presented with Broadway quality sound and lighting effects. Each of the four leading ladies appeared as themselves, rather than costumed as Disney characters.  Each wore individually designed ball-gowns, different for each half. They performed in front of a huge LED screen showing animated visuals of the Disney characters which inspired the Broadway shows, performing the same songs.

This clever device provided context for the younger audience members, while allowing the performers the freedom to bring their own interpretations to more than 30 songs featured in Disney films.

The concert commenced with a choreographed number performed by the entire cast, followed by a series of solos and duets often backed by harmonies sung by fellow cast members performing as back-up singers.  

Stephanie Leigh

 Steffanie Leigh, who played Mary Poppins on Broadway for three years until it closed, performed the first of many solos; a soaring version of “When Will My Life Begin” a song written by Alan Menken for “Tangled”. Later she performed a thrilling medley of songs written by the Sherman Brothers for “Mary Poppins” her pure, sweet soprano immediately confirming how practically perfect she would have been in this role. 


Krysta Rodriguez

Highlights among the songs performed by Krysta Rodriguez, whose recent roles included Sally Bowles in “Cabaret”, Anita in “West Side Story” in the Kennedy Centre and leading roles in television productions “Smash” and “Halston”,  were a stunning version of “Journey To The Past” from the Ahrens/ Flaherty musical “Anastasia”;  and a  clever staging of “I Can Show You The World” from “Aladdin” for which she was joined by Adam J. Levey fresh from his leading role in the Broadway production of  “Moulin Rouge”.

Storm Levy

Having made her Broadway debut in “The Donna Summer Musical” and even more recently completing her run as Anne Boleyn in “Six”,   Storm Lever showed her versatility in songs from “The Lion King” and “The Little Mermaid”, but it was her sassy song and dance version of Randy Newman’s “Almost There” from “The Princess and the Frog” that had the audience in raptures.

Rachael Beck

Ever youthful Rachael Beck effortlessly demonstrated why she remains one of Australia’s most admired musical theatre stars, with her hilarious antics during “Mother Knows Best” from “Tangled”, a duet she performed with Steffanie Leigh after confiding that it was her two daughters, now 16 and 14, who inspired her interpretation of this song. Later during the program she charmed with her rendition of songs from “Beauty and the Beast” for which she was joined by the other soloists.

Benjamin Rauhala

The entire performance was conducted by Musical Director, Benjamin Rauhala, from an on-stage electronic baby-grand piano, augmented by lush pre-recorded orchestral sound.  Rauhala, one of Broadway’s most sought after music arrangers - he did the musical arrangements for Academy Award Winner, Adriana DeBose’s opening numbers for the 2022 Tony Awards and the 2023 BAFTA Film Awards, and was named “Best Musical Director” at the 2020 Broadway World Cabaret Awards - introduced himself as the Fairy God-fairy, to perform presenter duties and add his voice to the harmonies when required. 

Adam J. Levy

Finally though it was the full cast version of “Let It Go”, the hit song from “Frozen”, which brought the show to a rapturous conclusion, and while the audience spontaneously sang along, a shower of flitter-flutter signalled the ending of a truly memorable performance.  

                                                               Images provided.

    This review also published in AUSTRALIAN ARTS REVIEW.