We are waiting in the Emerald Room in the heritage wing of the Taj Mahal Palace, Colaba. It’s 11am and Thomas ‘Tom’ Schumacher, the president of Disney Theatrical Group (the theatre branch of the franchise) walks in with a tired smile. “How do so many people come on to the streets precisely at the same time? Everybody is walking and honking in unison,” he exclaims, referring to the throng gathered near the Gateway of India. We settle down on the plush white chairs and Schumacher talks about Disney’s entry into the Indian market and about being in a business that believes in magic.
Schumacher grew up in San Francisco, California, and graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), with a degree in theatre. His pre-Disney work includes being an associate director for Peter Brook’s celebrated production, Mahabharata, in 1994. Soon after, Schumacher moved to Disney in the summer of 1994 and has not looked back since. “I have been with Disney for 28 years now. I started with animated films and then moved on to the theatrical division — partly because of my personal, deep connection with theatre and partly because I wanted to live in New York,” he says.
Established in 1994, Disney Theatrical Group has significantly expanded its reach over the last decade. Presently, there are nearly 17 theatre productions being staged across the world. Schumacher credits this colossal success to the sentimental power of its tales. “Our stories have the magical power of empowering you to be strong, unique and exactly who you are. I think we all need that magic in our lives today,” he says. “The values of family, love and determination that Disney stories impart are integral to audiences across the world.”
Speaking of global audiences, he shares that the decision to bring the production of Beauty and the Beast to India was purely an experimental one. “India is extraordinarily rich in terms of preforming arts. It’ll be very exciting to see the audiences’ reaction to a western production of this scale,” he says. And despite the buzz the premiere has already created in the city, Schumacher is says the future of Disney’s Broadway-style productions in India depends on how this production is received.
Movie : Lilo & Stitch and Lion King
Broadway production : The Lion King and Aida, written by Elton John
Character: The Broadway version of Rafiki (the Lion King) and Mary Poppins
Villian: Ursula (The Little Mermaid)
What: Beauty and the Beast
On: October 23
Where: Dome@NSCI, SVP Stadium, Worli
Tickets: Bookings open on bookmyshow.com