Disney delights in circle of love

22 April 2023

Six sensational singers and a superlative Perth Symphony Orchestra celebrate Disney’s big birthday in style, writes Julie Hosking.

Disney 100: The Concert, MM Creative Productions 
Riverside Theatre, 21 April 2023 

Can you feel the love tonight? Yes, we can. 

It’s as if Tinkerbell flitted around Riverside Theatre sprinkling fairy dust. There are little princesses dotted throughout the audience and a sense of something magical to come as Perth Symphony Orchestra players position themselves under a giant screen. 

A century has passed since Walt Disney launched what would become a global empire with a cartoon series called Alice Comedies but judging by the mix of ages for this birthday celebration, the animated powerhouse has lost none of its appeal. 

MM Creative Productions, the brainchild of Perth pals and celebrated singers Amy Manford and Genevieve McCarthy, offer a mix of old and new favourites. We start with a stunning overture from PSO, led by the ever-eloquent Jessica Gethin. Arranged by Brad Kelley, it’s a marvellous mashup incorporating music from the likes of Alice in Wonderland, Pinocchio, Peter Pan and Bambi, as scenes from the beloved films play above the orchestra. 

Manford glides on stage, sparkling in a regal gown, to channel Ariel for Part of Your World, the first of a series of crowd-pleasing numbers from 1989’s The Little Mermaid. The WAAPA graduate is note perfect. The other singers — McCarthy, Euan Fistrovic Doidge, Mark Hill, Drew Weston and Chloe Zuel — join her for an upbeat Under the Sea, while Doidge delivers a delightfully wicked rendition of the witch Ursula’s Poor Unfortunate Souls

Amy Manford shows her stunning vocal range in ‘Disney 100L The Concert’. Photo: Sunflower Sessions Photography

The mood shifts with the songs, from McCarthy’s plaintive When Will My Life Begin (Tangled), to the toe-tapping energy of Hill’s Never Had a Friend Like Me (Aladdin), and a suitably cheeky rendition of Bare Necessities (Jungle Book), that sees Hill and Weston buddy up. 

When Doidge’s distinctive cries signal the arrival of The Lion King, the audience cheers. The Kiwi-born artist’s rich, warm voice fills the theatre on Circle of Life, the others providing harmonies, which segues into Just Can’t Wait to be King and Can You Feel the Love Tonight before circling back. It’s a spine-tingling showstopper. 

The second act unfolds in a similar vein. Gethin almost bounces onto the podium to kick off proceedings with an overture from Disney’s first full-length animated film, 1937’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, that climaxes in a joyous refrain as the couple head off to their happily ever after.   

The six singers come and go, each given moments to show their virtuosity as they perform solo, in pairs and as a group. The songs that resonate the most undoubtedly depend on your feelings for the films. Beauty and the Beast provides plenty of highlights, including some nice comedic touches in Be My Guest and Zuel and Doidge harmonising beautifully on the title track. 

Although my teenager was hoping to hear Once Upon a Dream from the 1959 classic Sleeping Beauty, we are both blown away by PSO’s rendition of the film’s Battle with the Forces of Evil. Adapted from Tchaikovsky’s ballet by George Bruns (who went on to compose for One Hundred and One Dalmatians and The Aristocats, among other Disney classics), it’s another reminder that Disney soundtracks are so much more than sweet and silly songs. 

The six singers, backed by the Perth Symphony Orchestra, had the audience enraptured. Photo: Jarrad Seng

More modern creations, including 2021 Oscar-winning Encanto (words and music by the prolific Lin-Manuel Miranda) and 1998’s Mulan, are also given their due, with Zuel’s stirring Reflection worthy of the female warrior-to-be.  

When Manford returns to the stage to sing an old favourite, however, we are spellbound. Her operatic training to the fore, she trills and thrills her way through When You Wish Upon a Star, 1940’s Pinocchio coming to life behind her. It would have been a fitting end to the evening, but there’s more.  

PSO once again builds the tension with a stirring medley from 2013 hit Frozen, moving from fierce and majestic to gentle and playful as a voice asks: Do You Want to Build a Snowman? I’ve always had a soft spot for this sisterly entreaty, and it’s nicely played here, as is Hill’s super saunter through Olaf’s In Summer and Zuel’s endearing For the First Time in Forever.  

It all leads inevitably to the power ballad Let it Go, with Manford leading the singers in full voice, backed by the superlative orchestra. As silvery confetti falls from the ceiling, young and old are on their feet. Thanks for all the love. 

Pictured top: Perth Symphony Orchestra plays a powerful rendition of Snow White’s ‘Battle With the Forces of Evil’. Photo: Jarred Seng

Click here to find out more about MM Creative Productions.

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Author —
Julie Hosking

A journalist with more words to her name than she can count, Julie Hosking has worked for newspapers, magazines and online publications in Melbourne and Perth. She has been a news editor, travel editor, features editor, arts editor and, for one terrifying year, business editor, before sanity prevailed and she landed in her happy place - magazines. If pushed (literally), she favours the swing.

Past Articles

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