Broadway in the Parks: Great Buggy Way

I’m not shy about my affection for Animal Kingdom. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that I do like the “It’s Tough to be a Bug” attraction, even if I have seen it countless times. Back when you actually had to stand in line, I loved catching a glimpse of the posters donning the space around the theater. It seems the stars of A Bug’s Life didn’t only make a fun full-length feature, and a silly/squirmy 3D show, they also like to dabble into Broadway classics on their spare time.

Here are a few of their recent productions. (Thanks to Ryan from Main St. Gazette for allowing me to borrow his bug invested photos for this post!)

While The Grass Menagerie could possibly be upbeat or terrifying (depending on the reason for that magnifying glass), Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie is about a mom and a daughter who refuse to accept reality. The play premiered in 1945 on Broadway and has been revived 5 times. The most recent revival, starring Jessica Lange and Christian Slater, was presented in 2005. (The bottom right poster is from an Off-Broadway Roundabout Theater production from 2010.)

So the bugs put on the *tempting* A Stinkbug Named Desire, while, its namesake, A Streetcar Named Desire, just opened its 8th revival in April with an African American and Hispanic cast. Written by Tennessee Williams, the first run of the play premiered in 1947 and starred Marlon Brando, Jessica Tandy, Kim Hunter, and Karl Madden. Brando, Hunter, and Madden would later star in the 1951 film with the addition of Vivien Leigh. (Fun fact: A Streetcar Named Desire won the 1948 Pulitzer Prize.)

Best line ever: “I don’t want realism. I want magic!”

As much as I love the theatre, I’m not sure I would have really jumped at seeing The Dung & I. It sounds gross and… boring. Based off the 1951 Rodgers & Hammerstein musical, The King and I, ran for four years and has been followed by three revivals. The King and I is a love story between a King and teacher he has hired to modernize his country. The original production received 5 Tony awards including Best Musical, Best Actor, and Best Actress. (An Estelle fact: I sang “Getting to Know You” in choir in 4th grade and still remember the words.)

Anyone who knows the ladybug from A Bug’s Life knows that she is actually a he so My Fair Ladybug must have been an eye-opening presentation for many! Over in New York City in 1956, Julie Andrews (our dear Mary Poppins!) and Rex Harrison starred in the Alan Jay Lerner musical, My Fair Lady, which was based on George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion. It was the winner of 6 Tony Awards including Best Musical and Best Actor for Rex Harrison.

Tonight.. tonight… Web Side Story could either be about spiders or the internet. I guess we’ll never know. But the Romeo and Juliet type love story of West Side Story should be known to all. (Tell me it’s true!) The only Sondheim musical to be included in the bugs’ resume (that we know of) won two Tony awards when it opened on Broadway in 1957. One, not surprisingly, for its choreography. The show was revived in 2009 with the inclusion of Spanish lyrics by translated by Lin-Manuel Miranda (In the Heights).

Barefoot in the Bark sounds just about as dangerous as the idea of Barefoot in the Park, two newlyweds living together for the first time. Neil Simon’s play opened on Broadway in 1963 and starred Robert Redford and Elizabeth Ashley. Running for four years, it become Simon’s longest running hit and the 10th longest running non-musical on Broadway. (Note: It won only one Tony that year for Best Director, Mike Nichols.) The play has only been revived once in 2006 with Amanda Peet and Patrick Wilson (yum) starring as the newlyweds.

I’m going to be honest. What’s attractive about A Cockroach Line? It sounds like a reason to move out of wherever you are. I wonder how long that one ran. On the other hand (or foot), its namesake, A Chorus Line, ran for 15 years on Broadway. The story of a bunch of aspiring dancers and singers who are auditioning for a show is funny, emotional, and has some awesome dancing (by Michael Bennett). (Don’t watch the movie — it is not good.) ACL won a total of 9 Tonys in its opening year, and a special Tony in 1984 when it became the longest running Broadway show in history. (In 2012, it is currently in the 5th spot for such an accolade.)  The show was recently revived in 2006. I saw it with Mario Lopez. He wore a tight shirt. Nothing further.

The sun will come out… you can thank me later for getting that stuck in your head. Antie from Annie, the story of an orphan being raised in some terrible conditions by a crazy caretaker and her hopes of getting adopted. It opened in 1977 and won 7 Tony Awards including Best Musical and Best Book. It was recently announced that a revival of Annie will be opening on Broadway in November of 2012. (You won’t see me buying tickets. It BUGS me.)

Does this particular poster need any introduction really? Beauty and the Bees sounds… stingy and painful and Beauty and the Beast is a favorite amongst Disney animated classics. The first of the shows brought to Broadway by Disney Theatrical Productions, it opened in 1994 and ran for 13 years. Out of all of its Tony nominations, it won uno… for best costumes. The show did include seven new songs that were not in the movie.

I wonder which is more terrifying Little Shop of Hoppers or Little Shop of Horrors. Maybe we’ll find out someday. But for now, let’s bask in the rich Disney history that is Little Shop with a book and lyrics by (names you know) Howard Ashman and music by Alan Menken. Teamwork gold! The show actually ran off-Broadway in the 80s and didn’t open in Broadway until 2003. (I saw it twice during that run; one time with Joey Fatone.) While there is a love story, it’s sort of a creeptastic story about a geeky florist who raises a plant to drink human blood. (Another Disney thread, the 1986 film was directed by Frank Oz.)

There you go… bugs and a Broadway lesson all rolled into one!

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