You better work, Disney! At RuPaul’s DragCon NYC September 6, the stars and creatives behind the House of Mouse’s three currently running Broadway shows shared a behind-the-scenes look.
The team behind Frozen’s looks plus three of Broadway’s leading men—Bradley Gibson (The Lion King), Michael James Scott (Aladdin), and Noah J. Ricketts (Frozen)—stopped by to spill the tea on that famous Disney magic.
Below are 11 things Playbill learned during “Disney On Broadway: Serving Hair, Face, and Looks for 25 Years,” a panel moderated by RuPaul Drag Race Season 11 alum Nina West and Season 9 alum Alexis Michelle.
1. Bradley Gibson, who plays the adult Simba in The Lion King, says seeing the show as a kid was the first he’d seen himself represented on stage. “To see that and feel that [being on Broadway] was possible, it really opened my mind and heart.” Worried that he’d disappoint his biggest supporters by being his authentic self, Gibson found inspiration in The Lion King’s story and characters. “It’s a story told through animals, but it’s so incredibly human,” he said. “We’re dealing with loss, self-discovery, making our family proud—really about finding yourself.”
2. As the original Genie when Aladdin debuted Down Under, Michael James Scott experienced a new type of exposure. “I’m grateful for Disney to put a black man’s face on billboards in Australia—they had never seen that kind of diversity and color on a main stage ad. I was like the representative of color in the world,” said Scott, who now plays the role on Broadway.
3. Noah Ricketts, who portrays Kristoff in Frozen, sees himself in the young fans who show up at the stage door each night. “When I saw young Simba as a kid, I was like, ‘That’s going to be me!’ Now it’s come full circle and it’s pretty crazy. I didn’t realize it, that I’m changing people’s lives—young, black, gay boys just like me.” If the stage door wasn’t enough, the DMs on Instagram and Twitter confirmed the star’s power as an inspiration.
4. All three of the stars revealed what costumes they’d wear from a Disney on Broadway show. Both Ricketts and Scott chose Toni Braxton’s wardrobe as Belle in Beauty and the Beast, but Scott was a little more specific: her fringed yellow dress from the curtain call. “I would come out in that dress, take my bow, and then sing ‘Unbreak My Heart,” he said. Gibson, for his part, would wear Jasmine’s outfits, thanks to her revealing midriff costume.
5. The stars have favorite Disney magic moments from their own show, too. Rickett's co-star in Frozen, a reindeer named Sven, comes alive through puppetry he’s never seen before. Scott loves his Elsa-style Genie reveal: “Two gorgeous ensemble boys come on stage and rip off this zoot suit I have on and, ta-da!, it’s a white version of my Genie costume with Swarovski crystals.” Gibson’s favorite part of the show is the stage and puppetry—“people still cheer every night,” he says when Pride Rock spins up from the ground and animals walk down the aisles during “The Circle of Life.”
6. Mistakes happen—one night Scott ended up as a sort of pirate genie. “This particular artist, bless-his-heart, threw so much glitter on me,” he explained. “I’m one of the gay genies, I am like ‘yaaaas give me the gl-gl-glitter.’ This was so much, though.” During the performance, he started sweating and the glitter ended up in his eye, resulting in a version of “Friend Like Me” with one eye closed.
7. Like many of RuPaul’s outfits, Elsa’s icy reveal is couture, said associate costume designer David Kaley. “It takes six weeks to bead it, all done by hand. It’s made with Swarovski crystals and there are three versions specifically for the performer who will wear it.” Star Caissie Levy, standby Alyssa Fox, and understudy Charissa Hogeland all have custom-fit gowns for the standout moment.
8. The stand-by for Elsa, Alyssa Fox (Wicked), has to be in the building for nearly the entire duration of the show. Once she gets into the building, she does a lot of stretching and a full 15 minute vocal warm up—just in case she has to go on.
9. Makeup designer Anne Ford-Coates shared that most of the actors do their own make-up every night. “We design it and figure out how we’re going to tell this story through the makeup as designers, but then we give it to them and they own it.” Ford-Coates also emphasized that skin care is crucial to success; when doing a show eight days a week, focus on your skin care. “Be on top of keeping your skin hydrated and balanced. Follow the correct order of applying, too: primer, base, powder, and setting spray. That’s what waterproofs us.” Moderator Alexis Michelle added that water makes the best primer.
10. Frozen's hair and makeup supervisor Tyrel Martori said the department calls itself “Hairendelle.” In total, there are 75 wigs worn each show and 125 are maintained at any given time for the production, with six people on staff.
11. Elsa and Anna’s wigs are made with entirely European-sourced human hair. “[Anna] has the most intricate set of wigs of any actress that I’ve ever worked with,” said Martori, of the character’s 10 hair pieces, which reflect the character’s freezing heart storyline.
Take a look at our gallery from the event below.