Performer Spotlight Flashback: Cheshire Cat @ The Mad T Party

“I guess you’re just what I needed…”

It’s hard to get pictures of the Cheshire Cat behind his drums, so for these photos, I went around to the side of the stage for a closer view of him in action!

It’s hard to get pictures of the Cheshire Cat behind his drums, so for these photos, I went around to the side of the stage for a closer view of him in action!

I love percussion. I’m that person who is always clapping or tapping along keeping the beat to the songs that I hear.

So a good drummer for me is the cornerstone of any band.

As for what makes a good drummer? Well, rhythm, obviously. But I also appreciate someone with personality. Style is good, too. But it’s really that personality and energy – along with rhythm – that makes me a fan of a drummer.

So it’s no surprise that I was mad about this guy from the first time I saw him at the Mad T Party!

I have rarely seen anyone so enjoy what they do that their happiness just bursts out of them as they’re doing it – but that’s what it’s like to watch this guy play drums.

I couldn’t help but think of him as such a happy kitty! Continue reading

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Performer Spotlight Flashback: March Hare @ The Mad T Party

I’m finished making sense…”

March Hare with Alice – just love this picture!

March Hare with Alice – just love this picture!

This week marks the 65th anniversary of the release of Disney’s animated version of Alice in Wonderland. In honor of that occasion, we’re returning down the rabbit hole this week to spotlight two more talented performers from the former Mad T Party at Disney California Adventure.

Today, the focus is on this very curious bunny!

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This guy was one of the first regular performers I saw at T early on and while I didn’t get to spend as much time seeing him there on the bass in later days, when he was on stage, it was always fun.

A great bass player – the instrument just naturally belonged in his hands. It was effortless and comfortable to watch him play. One got the sense he could as easily have played it with his eyes closed. And sometimes, he did!

But what made him so interesting to watch was the combination of sweetness and sudden spurts of random spontaneity that gave him his truly mad air! Continue reading

Show Spotlight: Jammin’ on the Backlot

What is Jammin’ on the Backlot?

A bored-looking DJ tries to get people to stop and dance. He tried asking trivia questions like “Name the Disney movie: “Beauty and the ___________.” Not really surprised that people kept on walking.

A bored-looking DJ tries to get people to stop and dance. He tried asking trivia questions like “Name the Disney movie: “Beauty and the ___________.” Not really surprised that people kept on walking.

After the abrupt closing of the Diamond Mad T Party, their area was briefly used for the revived Food & Wine Festival and then left vacant again until this new “party” began a few weeks ago.

This is yet another attempt to have some nighttime music in the Hollywood Backlot area of Disney California Adventure.

But there is no band and there are no dancers. It’s just a DJ trying to keep the passing crowd entertained in the evenings.

There’s really not much more to it.

Who are the performers?

On a different night, this DJ got the crowd on their feet and dancing with some great tunes. But eventually, the people would still move on.

On a different night, this upbeat DJ got the crowd on their feet and dancing with some great tunes. But eventually, the people would still move on.

There is one DJ who spins tunes for the whole night.

Whether the crowd stays for a while pretty much depends on if they’re a good DJ or not.

When and where can I find it? Continue reading

Show Spotlight: Frozen – Live at the Hyperion

“That’s what I was going to say!”

The repeating theme of the show – Love is an Open Door.

The repeating theme of the show – Love is an Open Door.

What is Frozen – Live at the Hyperion?

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Elsa’s ice castle.

This is a live-action (plus some screen effects) retelling of the story of Frozen.

There are some practical set dressing and effects (doors, a stunt with the sled in the wolf chase scene, the ice castle stairs, Elsa’s dress reveal, etc. – although the last requires a bulky, unflattering outfit being worn for the first half of the show), but it most often uses electronic screens to show the “magic” happening and change the “sets”.  However, the digital sparkles may quite delight the young Frozen fans in the theater.

The stage appears surprisingly small for the space the theater provides, which makes the story feel physically enclosed instead of expanded. And it looks somehow less evocative of its setting compared to the previous Aladdin – A Music Spectacular show held here. This is probably due to the extensive use of the screens rather than actual sets – it is very reminiscent of the background and setup of the former temporary Frozen Sing-Along and it is almost like having bits of the movie running in the background of the play, which distracts from the performances – and at times caused a bit of motion sickness to watch.  (If you’re sensitive to this, I’d suggest looking away from the screens when they start moving quickly.)

But you do get to see almost the entire film recreated in this show.

Who are the performers?

The trolls try to help Kristoff and Anna as Olaf and Sven look on.

The trolls try to help Kristoff and Anna as Olaf and Sven look on.

A fairly large cast of all the main characters of Frozen (Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, Hans, Duke of Weselton, puppeted Olaf and Sven, trolls, etc.) are here along with background characters/dancers.

The roles of Anna and Elsa are actually double-cast in this show, meaning one set of actresses portray the young Anna and Elsa, while another set portray the adult incarnations. I’m not quite sure why this was necessary as both sets of performers are adults.

When and where can I find it? Continue reading

Performer Spotlight: Lucky the Pirate

“Give me a career as a buccaneer…”

Lucky entertains by Harbour Galley.

Lucky plays by Harbour Galley.

Amongst all the entertainment cutbacks, I was happy to discover that some occasional new entertainment is still being introduced at the Disneyland Resort.

I recently encountered this happy – or should I say fortunate? – addition to the denizens of New Orleans Square in Disneyland Park in the form of Lucky the Pirate!

Separate from one of my other favorite groups in this area, The Bootstrappers (who he will sometimes join for a song or two), Lucky the Pirate is an individual roaming singer and guitar player who wanders all over New Orleans Square. Though I most often find him around the Harbour Galley quick service food spot across from The Haunted Mansion or walking along the circumference of the Rivers of America.

Lucky visiting with The Bootstrappers!

Lucky visiting with The Bootstrappers!

I’ve also spotted him singing with The Bootstrappers at the Sky Room location between shops near the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction.

But no matter where he goes, he can always be found improvising a song… Continue reading

Performer Spotlight Flashback: Johnny @ TOMASINA

Mousertainment Memorandum: I hadn’t initially planned on doing this feature this week, but the rumor mill is alive with hopeful speculation that the Tomorrowland Terrace bands may make a return appearance this summer. So in accordance with that optimism, I’m going to feature someone I would look forward to seeing play there once again!

“Oh, everybody waits so long…”

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Johnny singing to the crowd!

Johnny started out as more of an occasional guitar player with TOMASINA at the Tomorrowland Terrace in Disneyland Park, but quickly clearly became one of Tomasina’s favorite musicians to work with.

As she had a tendency to do, she nurtured and encouraged him to break out of his shell and comfort zone, so by the time he’d been playing with her for a while, he had become a confident singer and performer in his own right.

She saw the starpower within this talented guy and helped him bring his light out to shine!

She also may have been a fashion influence on him…

A fun part of any show featuring Tomasina was seeing what wild outfits she would wear. And while Johnny didn’t always go for the glam at her shows, he definitely developed a habit of changing outfits between sets, so one set might see him in jeans and a t-shirt, another might see him in a suit jacket and slacks!

Totally looks like a young Elvis Presley – am I right?!

Total young Elvis look – am I right?!

Personally, I liked any slim, fitted look that brought out his striking resemblance to a young Elvis Presley. Though I think he preferred a funkier Prince-influenced style! Continue reading

Mousertainment Movies: Top 10 Favorite Disney Soundtracks

Going along with yesterday’s feature on my favorite lyricist, Howard Ashman, today I’ll turn a spotlight onto my top ten favorite Disney soundtracks – including both live action and animated films. But don’t be surprised if Ashman’s contributions appear along with his musical partner Alan Menken!

While such lists are by nature subjective, this one was challenging to settle on as several of the most classic Disney songs – “Someday My Prince Will Come” (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs), “When You Wish Upon a Star” (Pinocchio), “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes” (Cinderella) and “Once Upon a Dream” (Sleeping Beauty) – come from otherwise less memorable overall soundtracks. Although granted, Cinderella did have two other fun contributions of “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo” and “The Work Song” and Snow White had “Heigh-Ho” and “Whistle While You Work”.  But really, other than in Disney movies, who enjoys work so much that it makes them want to sing?!

Some of the other classic Disney soundtracks that were hard to exclude were Dumbo with its charming tunes “When I See an Elephant Fly” and especially the heartbreaking “Baby Mine” – and The Jungle Book with its irresistible catchy numbers “Bare Necessities” and “I Wanna Be Like You (The Monkey Song)”. But if I had to narrow it to ten favorites, here’s how the list turned out – and yes, I know it leans heavily to modern pop…

10) Tarzan (1999)

  • When Disney joins with rock stars to make music, the results can be terrific – such as this pop-infused soundtrack from Phil Collins that produced radio hits including “You’ll Be in My Heart”. But really, every song from this film is worth singing along with!  “Trashin’ the Camp” is far more fun than housework, right?

9) Enchanted (2007)

  • With just a few songs, this Alan Menken soundtrack (with Stephen Schwartz lyrics) takes you on a journey of the history of Disney princesses, starting with the Snow White-era “True Love’s Kiss” to the Cinderella-style “Happy Working Song” to the Ariel-like “That’s How You Know” and ending with that modern ode to happiness “Ever Ever After”. But the real winner for me on this soundtrack is “So Close”, the ballroom dance number – I can never ever get enough of listening to this song!

8) Aladdin (1992)

  • The last of Howard Ashman’s contributions to a Disney film still delivered great songs with his musical partner Alan Menken such as the scene-setting (though ultimately edited for political correctness) “Arabian Nights” as well as the upbeat “Friend Like Me” and “Prince Ali”. And while I found the Tim Rice lyrics a bit on-the-nose, there is no denying the beauty of “A Whole New World” or the fun of “One Jump Ahead”. However, the best song as far as I’m concerned was one of Ashman’s that never made it to the original film but was later released as archival material and covered by such artists as Clay Aiken and John Barrowman – “Proud of Your Boy”.

7) Mulan (1998)

  • Though the music was composed by pop singer Matthew Wilder (with lyrics by David Zippel) and generated the sensational “Reflection” (a major career breakthrough for former Mouseketeer Christina Aguilera) and bouncy “True to Your Heart” (from 98 Degrees featuring Stevie Wonder), it is the story-driving songs such as “Honor To Us All“, and “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” that help also to explain Mulan’s character and make this soundtrack such a moving emotional and musical experience.

6) Pocahontas (1995)

  • Another wonderful Alan Menken soundtrack (with Stephen Schwartz lyrics – in some of his best writing ever in my opinion!) is highlighted with the award-winning “Colors of the Wind”, but for me every song is wonderful in its place-setting (i.e. “The Virginia Company”), its character-defining numbers (“Just Around the Riverbend” – a personal all-time Disney favorite – and “Mine, Mine Mine”) as well as its compelling cultural commentary (“Savages”). Continue reading