Disney on Ice: Dare to Dream

We’ve been to enough Disney on Ice shows at this point that I could probably serve as a creative consultant. Still, no matter how many we’ve seen, there are always a few pleasant surprises.

If you’re unfamiliar with Disney on Ice, check out our reviews of Follow Your HeartWorld of Fantasy100 Years of Magic, and Treasure Trove. They should give you a good idea of what to expect.

The newest version of the show – Dare to Dream – is notable as the first Disney on Ice performance to include Moana. And, let’s be honest, that was really the main attraction for us.

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Adventure Theatre: Ella Enchanted

  • playing at Adventure Theatre MTC (Glen Echo, MD)
  • dates: now through March 19, 2017
  • directed by Mary Hall Surface
  • book by Karen Zacarias
  • music by Deborah Wicks La Puma
  • Roar Score: 4/5

It’s been a while since we caught a show at Adventure Theatre. When the kids were younger, shows there were one of our reliable standbys. Unclaimed weekend? Odds are, we found our way to Glen Echo Park for a show at either Adventure Theatre or its neighbor, The Puppet Co.

So it was with some excitement that we recently attended the opening of Adventure Theatre’s newest show: Ella Enchanted.

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Kennedy Center: Bud, Not Buddy

  • playing at Kennedy Center (Washington, DC)
  • dates: now through January 15, 2017
  • directed by Clarke Peters
  • script by Kirsten Greenidge
  • music by Terence Blanchard
  • Roar Score: 4/5

Christopher Paul Curtis’s novel Bud, Not Buddy first slipped onto my radar in 2012. Yes, the book was published in 1999, and it won both the Newbery Medal and the Coretta Scott King Award in 2000. But it was in 2012 that I saw Curtis speak and read from his book in Chicago at the International Reading Association’s annual conference (now the International Literacy Association).

I was blown away.

So I was incredibly excited to catch the stage adaptation of the book this week at the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater. With a couple familiar faces in the cast and a full jazz band on stage, the show didn’t disappoint.

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Kennedy Center: Into the Woods

  • playing at Kennedy Center (Washington, DC)
  • dates: now through January 8, 2017
  • directed by Noah Brody and Ben Steinfeld
  • music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
  • Roar Score: 5/5

I have a checkered history with Sondheim’s Into the Woods. I came to the show very late. I listened to the recording and was not overly impressed. I saw an amateur production and left even less enthralled. Then I saw the 2014 Disney movie and was blown away. I saw the story for what it was (and could be), and I fell in love.

And my kids? Even more so. At 4 and 6, they absolutely adored the film, and we went to see it multiple times in the theater. And when she was 5, my daughter had the opportunity to solo Red Riding Hood’s “I Know Things Now,” so the show has become a family favorite.

Obviously, it was with much excitement that we went to the Kennedy Center to check out Fiasco Theater’s “experimental” production of the musical, which had an acclaimed Broadway run and is in town for the holidays.

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The Illusionists: Turn of the Century on Broadway

A bit of background: my kids (like all kids) cycle through various obsessions. One of their current obsessions is a National Geographic show they found on Netflix called Brain Games. The show highlights all of the ways we can trick our brains into believing what we see even when it contradicts what we actually know to be true.

One of the recurring hosts on the show calls himself a “deception specialist,” so of course that’s exactly what my daughter wants to be when she grows up. We’ve tried telling her that it’s not a real career (unless you’re a thief), but she’s hearing none of it.

She’s fascinated by magic, illusions, sleight of hand, and people who specialize in deception. So it was with great anticipation that we checked out this year’s version of The Illusionists show on Broadway.

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Kennedy Center: Where Words Once Were

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  • playing at Kennedy Center (Washington, DC)
  • dates: now through November 27, 2016
  • directed by Colin Hovde
  • written by Finegan Kruckemeyer
  • Roar Score: 5/5

We’ve long been fans of “children’s theater,” which is really an unfortunate and unfair category since so many shows that fall under this umbrella are truly phenomenal plays that deserve a wider audience than just children or families with young kids. One of the benefits of living in the DC region is that there’s no shortage of wonderful plays and theaters targeting young audiences.

And the Kennedy Center certainly never fails to deliver. Case in point: the latest production in their Theater for Young Audiences series (which also happens to be a world-premiere Kennedy Center commission), Where Words Once Were.

The show conjures an overcrowded, dystopian city that houses what is presumably the last of humanity after the sea levels rise and cover the world in water. The City, ruled by an authoritarian government straight out of 1984 or Brave New World, has learned to weaponize language.

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Disney on Ice: Follow Your Heart

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At this point, I think it’s fair to say we’re seasoned vets when it comes to Disney on Ice. Yeah, we’ve been to our share of shows.

If you’ve never been or are curious about specific touring shows, be sure to check out our reviews of Treasure TroveWorld of Fantasy, and 100 Years of Magic. They should give you a good idea of what to expect.

But we’re here today to talk about the brand-new show, Follow Your Heart, which actually breaks the Disney on Ice mold in a few key respects. Although I didn’t learn this until after the fact, it still explains quite a bit: this show was written by Shea Fontana, who is a veteran of several Disney animated series and is currently head writer for the DC Super Hero Girls franchise.

In other words, it comes with a fair bit of impressive star talent behind the scenes, which should be getting more publicity than it is.

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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: In Concert

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  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: In Concert
  • Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall (Baltimore, MD)
  • Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Justin Freer
  • Thursday, August 4, 2016
  • Roar Score: 5/5

This is the beginning of something wonderful. Beginning this summer, orchestras across the country (and around the world) will join forces with CineConcerts to present the entire score of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone played live while the film plays overhead on a massive screen.

This isn’t the first time movies have been screened in time with a live orchestra, but it IS the beginning of the Harry Potter Concert Series. All of the symphonies that signed up for the series have agreed to ultimately put on performances for all eight Harry Potter films. There’s not a schedule for the entire series yet, but if you’re a Potterphile, this is extraordinary news.

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Harry Potter Film Concert Series

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It’s certainly no secret that we here at The Roarbots are big fans of the new trend of films showed live with a full symphony playing the score. We’ve fawned over the Wolf Trap performances of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and we’ve covered similar shows focused on Pixar, Disney, and Dreamworks Animation.

And now? Well, who wouldn’t be excited about Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone with a live orchestra playing John Williams’s sweeping score? Not us, that’s for sure.

The Harry Potter Film Concert Series is a new concert tour that features a live symphony orchestra performing, to picture, every note from the Harry Potter films beginning with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. For Potterphiles, this is just about the best news this summer could bring (well, aside from the book release of the script for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, but that’s another story…)

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Dreamworks in Concert

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Performances at Wolf Trap rarely disappoint. As the National Park Service’s only park dedicated to the performing arts, the venue is a wonderful place to watch live music (when the weather cooperates, of course). We’re huge fans of Wolf Trap, and their summer concerts that combine films with live orchestral accompaniment have become a Roarbots tradition.

It began way back in 2008 when they screened The Fellowship of the Ring with a full orchestra. The next two years saw performances of The Two Towers and Return of the King. I was at all of them, and they were amazing. Since then, they’ve branched out, and some of the highlights have definitely been Pixar In Concert and Disney in Concert.

This year’s DreamWorks in Concert fits the mold of those two shows perfectly. In short, there was a full orchestra on stage, playing music timed to video clips projected on a big screen over the stage and outside the amphitheater for everyone sitting on the lawn.

Please, Wolf Trap, do more of these. (psst….Star Wars, just sayin’)

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Cirque du Soleil: Paramour

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(See here for more Cirque du Soleil reviews from The Roarbots!)

After more than 30 years and nearly three dozen different shows, Cirque du Soleil has clearly become an institution. Over the years, they’ve taken their fair share of risks and exploded the boundaries of what was considered possible not only on stage but also by the human body.

There have been touring big-top shows, touring arena shows, and resident theater shows, and each has wowed and blown away audiences around the world. Not content to rest on its laurels, though, the brand continues to stretch the horizons of what’s possible and what audiences should expect from a Cirque du Soleil performance.

The touring Toruk show is evidence of how far they’re willing to stray from their core to put on a spectacle. Added to that list? The brand-new Broadway show, Paramour.

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Upcoming: Monster Jam

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Monster Jam is like my son’s dreams come true. Gigantic monster trucks crashing into each other and crushing things in their way? That’s pretty much his whole schtick while playing with his cars.

Approximately 12 feet tall and about 12 feet wide, Monster Jam trucks are custom-designed machines that sit atop 66-inch-tall tires and weigh a minimum of 10,000 pounds. Built for short, high-powered bursts of speed, the trucks generate 1,500 to 2,000 horsepower and are capable of speeds of up to 100 miles per hour. They can fly up to 125 to 130 feet (a distance greater than 14 cars side by side) and up to 35 feet in the air!

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Disney on Ice: Treasure Trove

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(Disney on Ice Presents Treasure Trove is currently playing at the Verizon Center in Washington, DC, through Monday, February 15. Buy tickets here. The show is currently touring around North America, and there are lots of dates in lots of different cities, so check the full calendar to see if it’s playing near you.)

We’ve been to our share of Disney on Ice shows, so by this point, we pretty much know what to expect. Still, it’s always a nice surprise when we see something new, and a show isn’t just the same old routines with a new name.

If you’re curious about the other shows, be sure to check out our reviews of World of Fantasy and 100 Years of Magic. They should give you a good idea of what to expect, too.

Treasure Trove is one of the newer shows currently touring around the country. As usual, they’ve tried to divide the show up so the acts target stereotypical “boys” and “girls” properties equally. However, we found this show to be particularly light on the princesses, much to both of my kids’ delight. (My daughter is not a fan of the overly “girly” princesses.)

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OLIVÉRio: A Brazilian Twist

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OLIVÉRio: A Brazilian Twist

  • playing at Kennedy Center (Washington, DC)
  • dates: now through February 21, 2016
  • directed by Juliette Carrillo
  • book and lyrics by Karen Zacarías
  • music by Deborah Wicks La Puma
  • Roar Score: 4/5

My 6-year-old daughter is suddenly a huge fan of musical theater. She’s constantly asking us to play the cast recordings for Wicked, Matilda, and Les Miserables, and she recently came home raving about a local performance of Oliver! It was therefore with great interest that we learned of the Kennedy Center’s newest offering in their Theater for Young Audiences series: a musical retelling of Charles Dickens’s Oliver set in Brazil.

Our excitement only amplified when we learned that the music was by Deborah Wicks La Puma, the woman responsible for the music in the charming Elephant & Piggie’s We Are In a Play!

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Elephant and Piggie’s We Are in a Play!

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Elephant & Piggie’s We Are in a Play!

  • playing at Kennedy Center (Washington, DC)
  • dates: now through January 3, 2016
  • directed by Jerry Whiddon
  • Roar Score: 5/5

We are huge fans of Mo Willems’s Elephant & Piggie books in this house. If you’re not already familiar with these characters, do yourself a favor and go correct that oversight immediately – especially if you have kids who love fun and being silly. I mean, there are 24 of them now; you really have no excuse.

Gerald (the elephant) and Piggie are best friends and have somewhat opposite personalities. Gerald is careful and quiet. Piggie is spirited and energetic. But they’re the bestest of best friends, and each book is a shining example of how children’s books can tackle themes such as friendship, cooperation, fear, and forgiveness with playfulness and charm.

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Cirque du Soleil: Toruk – The First Flight

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Let’s start with a couple disclaimers.

#1: I wasn’t a fan of James Cameron’s Avatar, and I’m not particularly interested in the three sequels he’s currently working on. (I have to admit, though, that Pandora: The World of Avatar – the incredibly immersive land coming to Disney’s Animal Kingdom in 2017 – looks astounding.)

#2: I’m a huge fan of Cirque du Soleil, have seen 13 different shows (including Varekai, Dralion, and La Nouba) and have even toured its International Headquarters in Montreal.

With that out of the way, let’s talk about the brand-new mashup of those two words: Cirque du Soleil’s 37th production since 1984: Toruk – The First Flight. As I said, I’ve seen 13 different Cirque du Soleil shows, and Toruk is completely unlike any of them. It is utterly unique for the company in many ways.

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Upcoming: Cirque du Soleil: Toruk – The First Flight

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I have to admit, I wasn’t really a fan of James Cameron’s Avatar, and I’m not particularly interested in the three sequels he’s currently working on. But I am absolutely interested in what he’s doing with the franchise off the big screen.

What I’ve seen of Pandora: The World of Avatar, the incredibly immersive land coming to Disney’s Animal Kingdom in 2017, looks astounding. And as a huge fan of Cirque du Soleil, I’m thrilled to see their take on the world of Pandora, the 10-foot-tall Na’vi, and the Toruk (the flying dragon creatures).

My complaints about the movie aside, it was a gorgeous film with a fully realized alien planet and creatures that lend themselves to the Cirque du Soleil stage quite nicely. Toruk will be Cirque du Soleil’s 37th production since 1984, and I’m really looking forward to this one.

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Disney on Ice: 100 Years of Magic

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(Disney on Ice:100 Years of Magic is currently playing at the Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore, MD, through Sunday, November 1. Buy tickets here. The show is currently touring around North America, and there are lots of dates in lots of different cities, so check the full calendar to see if it’s playing near you.)

There are currently five different touring Disney on Ice shows, and if you live in a major city, then you’re likely to see one of them come your way with some regularity. Earlier this year, we here in the Baltimore/DC region got World of Fantasy, and now 100 Years of Magic is coming through town.

The shows do have some distinct differences, but in all honesty, they’re remarkably similar. Even though we were prepared for this show to be cobbled together from recycled bits we’ve seen in other Disney on Ice performances, we were still pleasantly surprised to see some new characters and musical numbers.

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Disney In Concert

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Another stellar performance at Wolf Trap. Did I show my hand too early? Come on now, we’re huge fans of Wolf Trap, Disney, and films projected with live orchestral accompaniment. So what’s not to love here?

After last summer’s Pixar In Concert, we knew what to expect from Disney In Concert, and it didn’t disappoint. And the sold-out crowd filling every seat and covering every square inch of grass seemed to agree.

In short, there was a full orchestra on stage, playing music timed to video clips projected on a big screen over the stage and outside the amphitheater for everyone sitting on the lawn. For this show, we were also treated to four vocalists who sang several of the most popular Disney songs.

Please, Wolf Trap, do more of these. (psst….Star Wars, just sayin’)

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Cirque du Soleil: La Nouba

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(Check out some of our previous adventures with Cirque du Soleil: Dralion, Varekai, and our tour of International Headquarters in Montreal.)

La Nouba was the first Cirque du Soleil show I ever saw. Since I’ve now seen more than 10 different Cirque shows, I guess you could say this is the one that made me a fan. I recently had the chance to see the show again, and it didn’t disappoint.

La Nouba premiered in Orlando in 1998 and was the third resident show created (Mystère and O in Las Vegas were the first two). The theater it calls home (on Downtown Disney’s West Side at the Walt Disney World Resort) was the first freestanding, permanent structure built for Cirque du Soleil, and Walt Disney Imagineering was involved in its design and construction.

Despite what many think, though, La Nouba is not owned or operated by Disney. Downtown Disney is its home, and it’s certainly a major draw to the area, but it’s not part of the larger Walt Disney World Resort. In other words, don’t expect Mickey and Goofy to be part of the highwire act.

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