It’s been 30 years since Susan Egan originated the role of Belle in Broadway’s Beauty and the Beast, but that performance — and the Tony nomination it earned her — set the stage for a lifetime of collaboration with the Disney organization.
“I have worked in every facet of the organization,” Egan observes. “From Broadway to the Disney Channel to feature animation to parks to cruise lines, I’ve done it all.”
Egan is now adding another title to her Disney résumé: executive producer of Disney Princess: The Concert, which is wrapping up an 80-city tour with a stop at the Kennedy Center, where four real-life Broadway princesses will perform beloved Disney favorites alongside the National Symphony Orchestra.
Egan, who also voiced the role of Meg in the animated Disney film Hercules, will perform alongside Christy Altomare (Broadway’s Anastasia), Courtney Reed (Broadway’s Jasmine, currently Satine in Broadway’s Moulin Rouge), and Syndee Winters (Broadway’s Nala).
Audiences can expect a greatest hits of songs from Disney’s musicals set to luscious, new orchestrations, mixed with stories from the performers’ own lives and careers. “The princesses are typically the only women in these musicals,” Egan says, “so to stand on stage with three other Broadway stars and blow the roof off these numbers is thrilling for all of us.”
She stresses that the concert is designed to appeal to children and adults alike. “We wrote the jokes to work on two levels like a great Pixar movie where the kids are laughing at one thing and the adults are laughing at another.”
Accompanying the four women onstage is Adam Levy as the prince. Musical director Ben Rauhala narrates the show as the character of the “Fairy Godfairy” and takes us on a journey through Disney musicals from past to present. “The audience knows what is coming, so by the time we get to Frozen they are just losing their minds with excitement,” Egan smiles.
Disney Princess: The Concert was originally the brainchild of Rauhala, who came up with the idea while performing on a Disney cruise ship with musical theater friends, many of whom had performed princess roles on Broadway. In 2018, Rauhala assembled a group of these performers for a series of informal concerts called Broadway Princess Parties that quickly sold out venues like New York’s 54 Below. Soon they were getting requests to perform the concert in larger venues, alongside symphony orchestras.
When Egan performed with the group and saw audience members arrive in full princess regalia, she was reminded of the Comic Cons she frequently attends in support of her work in animation. “There is a huge nostalgia factor for anyone who was 7 to 11 when those shows came out who are now in their thirties,” Egan points out. “They spend money and time to dress up as these princesses. These concerts could be another place for them to wear those dresses.”
So she called her contacts at Disney, and the timing was fortuitous. Disney was getting ready to launch a worldwide campaign to expand their princess franchise to adults and needed a performance component. “They had also realized that the girl who loved Ariel in 1985 is now 39 and loves Ariel just as much but doesn’t want the big pink bubble letters. She wants something sophisticated.”
Disney approved a tour that included many collaborations with symphony orchestras, but due to COVID restrictions, all previous performances of Disney Princess: The Concert were performed with recorded music. “But now we finally get to premiere these new arrangements that we worked on a year and a half ago for a 70-plus piece orchestra,” Egan enthuses. “And we get to do it at the Kennedy Center with the National Symphony Orchestra!”
Egan was a loud supporter of Jade Jones’s performance as Belle in Olney Theatre Production’s recent Beauty and the Beast. “Wasn’t she magnificent?” she says. “I amplified that as much as I possibly could.”
When asked how Egan feels about having her career so closely tied to the Disney brand, she is frank. “I can see the whole picture. I understand the objections people have to the princesses, especially the older ones. But to be behind the scenes in meetings with people who are in control of the brand and to see how open they are about lyrics they aren’t proud of and how they want to move forward with increased representation, I am so proud to be a part of something that is continually evolving.”
And representation hits home for Egan. “I’m 52. If you had told me when I was 22 that I would be reliving my princess glory days at 52, I would have been horrified! A part of me sometimes whispers that I am too old to be on stage with the younger performers. But you know what? Princesses get older and I am here to represent. We have a lot of moms and daughters come. Like the 55-year-old mom who is there with her 30-year-old daughter. That mom should be able to see herself as a princess. Sure I have more smile lines than the rest of the millennials I am on stage with, but that’s cool. Lucky me. There is plenty to smile about.”
The program for Disney Princess: The Concert is online here.
COVID Safety: Proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 and a valid photo ID are required to attend all indoor performances and events at the Kennedy Center. Children under age 12 who are vaccinated can show proof of vaccination for entry without a photo ID when accompanied by an adult. Masks are required for all patrons over age 2 regardless of vaccination status. See the Kennedy Center’s complete Vaccination and Mask Policy here.