Last year marked the 20th anniversary of Walt Disney’s first Broadway musical endeavor, Beauty and the Beast. Over the past two decades, Disney’s presence on The Great White Way has grown exponentially. As of 2015, the company has produced a whopping TWELVE Broadway shows (with more on the way). Now seems like a good time to shine a spotlight on some great, lesser-known Disney solo songs you may want to consider adding to your musical theatre audition book.
One important thing to remember about Walt Disney is that the company’s legacy extends all the way back to the 1920s. As a result, you have access to almost a century’s worth of Disney tunes to browse through and choose from. Remember, most directors and music directors don’t want to hear “Let it Go” from Frozen for the millionth time! If you’re serious about auditioning for professional-level Disney productions, take the time to sift through the company’s huge catalogue of songs in order to find the perfect selection(s) for your voice, age, ‘type’, etc. In the mean time, here are ten of my personal favorite Disney tunes to give you some ideas!
1. “Will the Sun Ever Shine Again?” from Home on the Range (2004)
Home on the Range, one of Walt Disney’s last hand-drawn animated films, probably wasn’t the commercial hit the studio was hoping for in 2004. However, long-time Disney composer Alan Menken and lyricist Glenn Slater were certainly up to the challenge of writing the film’s songs (the two songwriters would later collaborate to bring The Little Mermaid to Broadway in 2008). “Will the Sun Ever Shine Again” is a touching, country/folk-inspired ballad that could easily be sung by either a man or woman (the recording below is sung by American blues singer, Bonnie Raitt). The song’s range is very manageable, and the melody is simple enough that the actor/actress can focus on expressing the heartbreaking sentiments presented in the lyrics.
2. “The Age of Not Believing” from Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971)
Remember that 1970’s Disney classic where Angela Lansbury single-handledly fights an army of Nazi troops (and WINS)? Bedknobs and Broomsticks is one of Disney’s greatest live-action/animated hybrid films, and it features several fantastic tunes (some of which were cut from the film and restored in recent DVD releases). One of those tunes is “The Age of Not Believing”, a Sherman Brothers composition in which Lansbury’s character explains to the children in her care that adults often become skeptical and lose their childhood sense of wonder and imagination as they get older. However, that magic isn’t necessarily gone forever, and it can sometimes be found again simply by looking inside rather than out. Yes, it’s a very Disney-esque notion, and it works quite well in this song.
3. “Le Jazz Hot” from The Aristocats (1970)
A few years ago, Disney began their Lost Chords Project. The idea behind the project is to showcase lost and/or forgotten songs from Disney films over the years. These new Lost Chords albums feature original demos of forgotten songs along with new, fully-orchestrated versions as well. Below, you’ll find a brand new recording of “Le Jazz Hot”, a deleted song from Disney’s The Aristocats. It’s a sultry, jazz and blues-inspired piece written by The Sherman Brothers, and it would make a great audition selection for both Disney and Jazz enthusiasts. Warning: you may be humming this song all day after listening!
4. “Written in Stone” from Mulan (1998)
Did you know that Broadway composer/lyricist, Stephen Schwartz (Godspell, Pippin, Wicked), was originally hired to write songs for the late 90’s Disney animated film, Mulan? It’s true! However, Schwartz had a falling-out with Disney and left early on into the film’s development. Fortunately, a few songs he wrote for Mulan have surfaced over the years, including this absolutely stunning piece titled “Written in Stone” (sung below by Broadway-veteran, Lea Salonga, of Miss Saigon and Les Misérables fame). Sidenote: Lea provided the singing voices for two 90’s Disney animated film princesses: Mulan and Jasmine. Although “Written in Stone” never made it into Mulan, the song is currently featured in the film’s stage adaptation for children, Mulan, Jr.
5. “I’m Still Here” from Treasure Planet (2002)
Your first thought might be, what the heck is ‘Treasure Planet’? Treasure Planet was Disney’s sci-fi adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic adventure novel, Treasure Island. The film received lukewarm reviews upon release, and, like many Disney animated films released between 2000-2009 (excluding Pixar flicks), Treasure Planet has fallen into relative obscurity. However, the film’s songs, written by Goo Goo Dolls frontman, John Rzeznik, are really pretty thrilling. “I’m Still Here” (aka Jim’s Theme) is a great story-driven, pop/rock power ballad that would work well in auditions for Disney’s soft rock stage musicals like The Lion King, Aida, Tarzan, etc.
6. “Never Again” from King David (1997)
King David is sometimes described as a modern oratorio, with music by Alan Menken and book and lyrics by Tim Rice. The show was written to commemorate the 3,000th anniversary of the city of Jerusalem. In 1997, a limited-engagement, concert version was produced by Disney Theatrical Productions at the New Amsterdam Theatre in New York City. Since then, King David has mostly fallen under the radar (though NYU Steinhardt produced a concert version of the show in 2008). Though largely forgotten today, the show’s score features some great tunes, including “Never Again”, a heart-wrenching ballad originally sung by Broadway legend, Judy Kuhn (Les Misérables, Chess, etc.).
7. “He’s a Tramp” from Lady and the Tramp (1955) / On the Record (2004)
After the Broadway success of Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, and Aida, Disney began brainstorming new ways to showcase their wide catalogue of songs from throughout the company’s history. Eventually, they developed On the Record, a musical revue which features new arrangements of Disney tunes from the past and present. One of the most exciting songs from the revue is this arrangement of “He’s a Tramp” from Disney’s Lady and the Tramp. It’s a great jazz-y duet for two female belters, but it could easily be reworked to function as an audition solo as well.
8. “Everything That I Am” from Tarzan: The Musical (2006)
Not all of Walt Disney’s Broadway efforts have been successful. In 2006, the company adapted their 1999 animated film, Tarzan, into a full-scale Broadway musical. The show featured a book by David Henry Hwang and included several new songs written by the film’s composer and pop/rock legend, Phil Collins. The original Broadway production received mixed reviews and closed relatively quickly, but a few of that production’s original songs have endured. One such selection is Tarzan‘s eleven-o’clock number, “Everything That I Am”, a great male solo that is perfect for a performer with killer acting and vocal chops.
9. “One Dance” from The Little Mermaid (1989)
There are many cut/deleted songs from Disney films and stage shows floating around out there, but you’d be hard pressed to find one as gorgeous as this ‘I Want’ song originally written for the character, Ariel, in Disney’s The Little Mermaid. Actress Jodi Benson, who provided the singing voice for Ariel in the film, even recorded a demo of the song (which you can listen to below). As you might guess, the song was ultimately replaced by “Part of Your World.” Another fun fact about The Little Mermaid: both Jodi Benson and Sierra Boggess, who played Ariel in the original Broadway stage adaptation, attended Millikin University in Illinois.
10. “Made of Stone” from The Hunchback of Notre Dame musical (1999/2014)
Back in 1999, Disney premiered a German-language stage adaptation of their animated film, The Hunchback of Notre Drame, in Berlin, Germany. The production featured several new tunes written by the film’s songwriters, Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz. The show’s development was stalled for almost a decade afterwards, but Hunchback recently received an English-language, pre-Broadway try-out at La Jolla Playhouse in California last year (and then transferred to the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey). Although the show will not transfer to Broadway right now, we will get a cast album this year. The Hunchback of Notre Dame is one of Disney’s most ‘adult’ efforts to date, and both the film and stage musical feature some of Alan Menken and Steven Schwartz’s most ‘mature’ songs. Below, you can hear an early version of one of Quasimodo’s songs from the stage version, titled “Made of Stone” (around the 27:00 mark). The song ends with a stunning High C- though the piece has been reworked somewhat in recent productions.