Disney Believe: Sneak Peek at Disney's New Show

Disney Cruise Line

When the 4,000-passenger Disney Dream debuts in January, passengers will be clamoring to see the ship's brand new Broadway-style musical, Disney's Believe, which includes familiar favorites, an original song and never-before-seen special effects. AOL Travel News traveled to Toronto for an exclusive preview.

Rehearsals for Disney's Believe are taking place in an ordinary commercial building that bears no resemblance to the Art Deco-style theater that will be the show's home. We visited a gym-sized space where the 24 singers and dancers are going through the paces with directors, choreographers, stage managers and other creative types who make the magic happen behind the scenes.

During our sneak peek we were introduced to the new song, "What Makes the Garden Grow," a duet between Sophia and Cornelius that we dare you not to continue humming long after you leave the theater. Other numbers are familiar tunes including the show's energetic combination of "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" and "Step in Time" from Mary Poppins.

It was instantly clear that bringing out a new Disney show is a big deal, on land and on sea. This production has actually been more than two years in the making. Now that the writing, designing, and casting are done, the crew will spend 10 weeks rehearsing in Toronto and an additional eight weeks running through the performance on the ship, which is currently under construction in Germany. All that before the first passenger even sees the opening act.

The show will pull on many a busy parent's heartstrings, and that's the point. The 50-minute performance tells the story of botanist Dr. Cornelius Greenaway, who is so obsessed with the blooming of a flower that he is all but ignoring his daughter Sophia's 13th birthday. Sophia calls on the Genie from Aladdin for help, who then leads her dad on a magical journey to reconnect with his daughter.

Other familiar Disney characters make appearances, including Mary Poppins and Bert, Pocahontas and Grandmother Willow, Cinderella and Prince Charming, Princess Tiana and her cohorts from The Princess and the Frog, plus lovable Baloo from The Jungle Book.

As I watched the performers act, dance and sing (there's no lip-synching at Disney), I found myself imagining which one will become the next Jennifer Hudson (she performed on Disney Cruise Line ships before hitting it big on American Idol and in Dreamgirls). They were even nice enough to let this amateur try out some of the choreography, which made it clear the show requires only performers with extensive experience and training (about 30% in the cast has worked for Disney before).

John Massey, the veteran Disney performer who plays Genie, says he's anxious to get on the stage and see the show come to life. "Disney magic happens and it's kind of fun," he says. "You have to think acting, singing, dancing, and technology, too."

The performers will be interacting directly with that technology, which Disney is keeping under wraps for now. Director Gordon Greenberg, who has helmed productions from Broadway to Los Angeles, explains that though the ship's 1,340-seat Walt Disney Theater will look classic Art Deco, behind the scenes will be state-of-the-art technology used in ways never seen on a stage before. A master illusionist was brought in to do what he does best, plus the show will have costumed characters whose mouths and eyes actually move. And that's just the beginning. Six high-definition projectors will add more than 200 scenic elements to the show, Greenberg says. This requires fifteen technicians working behind the scenes. "There is ground-breaking technology never used on Broadway, including rear projection, front projection, and people in the middle," Greenberg says.

In some scenes, a performer's movement will signal an infra red camera to release animation, and some of the characters will actually be face projections. "We are really pushing the envelope on how we integrate projection into the show," adds Shelby Jiggetts-Tivony, the show's creative director.

Disney's Believe will be staged three times during one night of each cruise, with other performances other nights on the Disney Dream. The shows – featuring the same performers –will look familiar to those who have cruised on the line's Disney Magic and Disney Wonder, but with some updates.

Passenger favorite The Golden Mickeys, an award-style musical show, has a new number featuring Ariel from The Little Mermaid in an aerial ballet. The show will also feature a new waltz scene inspired by Beauty and the Beast and a new romantic duet performed by Rapunzel and Flynn Rider, the lead characters in the soon-to-debut Disney animated feature Tangled. On the stage another night is Villians Tonight!, a comical, musical look at Disney bad guys and gals.

Other entertainment onboard includes an updated version of the Pirates deck party, divided into three separate events: a family-oriented show with costumed characters, an expanded fireworks display set to music, and a late-night Club Pirate event (with costumes encouraged).

And the music onboard won't just be coming from the theater. The ship's horn will impressively honk opening notes from five familiar Disney tunes – not just When You Wish Upon a Star like the earlier ships.

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