If you wished upon some stars,” I hummed softly under my breath. “You might be wondering who the hell they are.” But then again, what did I expect at a Disney concert: Bono and Harry Belafonte?
After all, this lot can hold a tune and their pedigree’s what you would expect: steady stage work, limited success in the charts, and some appearances in Eurovision and a TV talent show.
The audience, though, are not what I had in mind at a concert where soloists blast out Disney songs backed by a 42-musician orchestra while three screens show edited highlights of the films. Fully 90 percent are adults. And this is the matinee!
This, after all, is Denmark where few tire of their weekly Disney fix. One of them has even done her hair up in a Minnie Mouse bun and, as luck would have it, is sitting directly in front of my six-year-old daughter. They sit enthralled, ready to clap everything in sight – so liberal with their applause they’d give a triangle solo a standing ovation.
The warming-up is reminiscent of the start of Fantasia, but marginally less dull. Half the orchestra peruse the audience like shepherds in a nativity play under the guise they’re looking for sheep, and yeah, one even waves at her family. Which I guess is one way of connecting with the temporary mental age of your audience.
The lights dim, the show is underway and the pace is relentless. Who knew that Mulan was so emotive, and who’d forgotten that The Little Mermaid was so garish, but it was released in 1989 when none of us had any taste.
The singing impresses though, and the overall performance is lifted by the emotional investment. Broadway tenor Stig Rossen brings a jungle timbre to the affair, the gravelly Monique Hebsgaard is a splendid baddy, romantically and comically Henrik Launbjerg displays genuine versatility, and Pelle Emil Hebsgaard’s baton skills threaten to steal the show as the genie from Aladdin – a role he’s played before, it later transpires.
It’s all going down swimmingly with the audience, whose reaction suggests they have been perfectly judged by the ‘writers’ of the show. Put together a Disney classics compilation and you’d be crucified for not finding room for songs like ‘Heigh-Ho’ and ‘Whistle while you Work’ from Snow White, but for a concert like this, their arrangements are too basic and they wouldn’t work as orchestral stage numbers.
Modern Disney – The Little Mermaid, The Lion King, Tarzan and Aladdin all feature prominently – tends to be a little more sophisticated. By prioritising show-stopping panache over show-stuttering nostalgia, the DR Disney Concert (like the humour aimed at adults in the Pixar movies) is simply growing up with a core audience whose musical appreciation has advanced beyond nursery rhymes. And for them, this was like a holiday in Wonderland.