116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Go back about five years and Susan Egan was enjoying a career that had transitioned from acting on Broadway to making albums and performing concerts.
Around that time, her longtime friend and musical director Benjamin Rauhala floated an idea for a show that would feature the women who portrayed princesses on Broadway singing songs from their productions.
“(Rauhala said) ‘I know all the girls who played all of those roles on Broadway,’ ” Egan recalled in a January phone interview. “Wouldn’t it be fun if we all go together and sang the entire canon of princess music?
“And it was a lark. It was supposed to be a one-time thing. What we learned immediately is it really is a touchstone for people. It’s a place of nostalgia. ... This multigenerational thing that is more than just a song, it connects with peoples’ childhoods and their hearts. It’s a way for them to connect with each other. We had no idea what we had stumbled into.”
Before long, the “Broadway Princess Party,” as it came to be called, had grown into a touring production, playing cities nationwide. A couple of years ago, though, Rauhala and Egan — who originated the lead role of Belle in the Disney Broadway production of “Beauty and the Beast” and also voiced the character Meg in Disney’s animated feature “Hercules”-- realized their little-production-that-could was reaching a ceiling.
Two years later it has morphed into “Disney Princess — The Concert,” which debuts with an 80-plus-city tour across America this winter and spring. It is coming to the Paramount Theatre in downtown Cedar Rapids on Friday, March 18, 2022.
What: “Disney Princess — The Concert”
Where: Paramount Theatre, 123 Third Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids
When: 7 p.m. Friday, March 18, 2022
Tickets: $33.50 to $66.50, creventslive.com/events/2022/disney-princess---the-concert
“Ultimately, the only way to really grow it was to make a phone call to Disney and say ‘Hey, are you interested?’ And they said, ‘Funny you should ask. We’re about to launch a Disney Princess worldwide campaign’ and they didn’t have a live component for it,” Egan noted.
“The show now is what we always dreamed it could be, but we didn’t have the budget to build it. And we can own the assets.
“We had formed a really great show that captured peoples’ hearts. But to get to blow it up with a 40-foot screen behind us with the original animation that’s edited specifically for our show, to be able to get to record tracks with a full orchestra with these charts, to be able to work with the creative minds at Disney, who are at the best of the game, right, has been really thrilling,” she said.
Egan has committed to touring through this year as one of the singers in “Disney Princess” and plans to then work as executive producer of the tour. For the first 80-plus performances, Egan is joined on stage by Arielle Jacobs (Broadway’s Jasmine in “Aladdin”), Disney Channel star Anneliese van der Pol (“That’s So Raven,” “Raven’s Home” and Belle in Disney’s final production of “Beauty and The Beast” on Broadway), and Syndee Winters (Broadway’s Nala in “The Lion King”).
Egan sees “Disney Princess The Concert” as a hybrid of a concert and a stage musical — with a narrative element to go with the music. And as someone who started in theater (after “Beauty and the Beast,” she went on to such roles as Sally Bowles in “Cabaret” and Millie in “Thoroughly Modern Millie”) before marrying in 2005 and spending the next dozen years doing albums and concerts, Egan finds her role as executive producer to be right in her wheelhouse.
“It’s what I’ve been doing on a daily basis for the last two years of COVID is creating this production with my partners, both at Disney and Broadway Princess Party,” Egan said. “All of those years doing concerts helped me bridge as a producer.”
She said she knows what these shows mean to people, and “told them their stories and how we can take that heart and put it into a concert format without losing the story and the themes involved and not make it just a revue that’s a series of songs, but something that has a narrative and a heart to it. And this show does.”
Egan became interested in theater as a youngster growing up in Orange County, California, when her parents would take her to all manner of plays. She began acting in productions in middle school, and after high school enjoyed a meteoric rise.
After finishing high school, she was recommended for a role in “Bye Bye Birdie” in St. Louis. Tommy Tune was playing the lead at that city’s outdoor Muny Theatre as a test run to see if he wanted to join a planned touring production of the musical. That summer, Tune recommended that she move to New York City and try to break into the theater scene there.
Egan did just that, and her first role was for “Beauty and the Beast,” which would be Disney’s initial foray into Broadway. Egan went to the audition even though she never saw herself playing a princess.
“I almost didn’t go to the audition for ‘Beauty and the Beast.’ She’s described as the most beautiful girl in the village. Like I am not that girl,” Egan said. “I didn’t want to go, and my agent even said ‘Oh, you’ve never met this casting director. You should go just to meet this casting director.’
“Oh my goodness, it’s such a testament, and I talk about this with students: ‘Don’t edit yourself. There are going to be plenty of people who tell you can’t do something. Don’t be one of them. Go explore every opportunity. What if I hadn’t gone? I mean, this is the show that 25 years later is still changing my life. Just go.’
“So no, I never saw myself playing a princess,” she said. “I’m kind of a goofball and longed to be the comedian. So I do try and fit that into this (’Disney Princess’) concert, for sure. I’m the funny one.”
The “Beauty and the Beast” production was not greeted with open arms by some in the Broadway community, and it was savaged by critics upon its debut. Egan learned a lot from the initial hubbub surrounding the musical, which went on to have a 13-year run on Broadway.
“I have to say it was something that paved the way in a positive way for my entire career,” Egan said. “At the time it was very disheartening. I was 23, 24 when that show opened. But I was surrounded by amazing people: Terrence Mann, Gary Beach, Beth Fowler, Jeffrey Katzenberg was running the department for Disney at the time. And they just kept everything positive.
“We got bad reviews and (co-star) Gary (Beach) took my hand and went out front and he said, ‘Look at the line. It’s around the corner. We’re going to run as long as we want to run. Don’t let these things get you down. The audience is enjoying it. The show is wonderful.’
“There were a lot of politics involved with New York producers not wanting Disney to do it on their own. They wooed that (Disney) money for many years and (Disney head Michael) Eisner was like, ‘Why would I partner with you when I can do it by myself?’ And he was right. And then Jeffrey said something that has stuck with me for all of these years. He’s like, ‘Wow, another negative article came out about the show. Wow, we must be doing great.’ And I looked at him like, ‘What?’ He said ‘You know, they only want to knock you off the pedestal if you’re on a pedestal.’
“So there you go.”