You almost have to feel sorry for Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber.
After all, his latest musical -- "Bombay Dreams" -- opened on Broadway last week to fairly middling reviews. Which means that this $14 million production (Which features one memorable sequence where the cast dances on stage in a fountain that shoots water 25-30 feet up in the air) is unlikely to recoup its costs.
What's got to be doubling galling for this Tony Award winning composer was to hear people's complaints about the show's Bollywood-influenced score. How the songs for this show weren't nearly as good as the ones Webber wrote for his earlier shows, "Jesus Christ Superstar" and "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat."
"What would be doubly galling about a comment like that?" you ask. Well, for one, Sir Andrew didn't actually write any music for "Bombay Dreams." All Webber did was produce this musical. It was actually composer A.R. Rahman -- working with lyricist Don Black -- who created the show's score.
And -- as for the other reason that Sir Andrew might be upset about someone bringing up the score to "Jesus Christ Superstar" and "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" ... Well, you see, Webber has actually written the score for a show that was very similar to his earlier successes. One that takes a well-known Bible story and brings the tale to life using pop music.
"What show is that?" you query. "Noah's Ark." Something that Sir Andrew actually wrote for the Walt Disney Company back in the early 1990s.
"So why hasn't this Andrew Lloyd Webber show ever seen the light of day?" you persist. Well, that's because this elaborate musical extravaganza was never intended to be presented on a stage. It was meant to be staged on a large body of water. Disney World's Crescent Lake -- to be exact. That sickle-shaped stretch of water that separates WDW's Yacht and Beach Club Resort from Disney's Boardwalk.
"Why would Disney want to stage a show there?" you ask. Well, let's think back to what happens each night over on Bay Lake and Seven Seas Lagoon. That's right. The guests who are staying at the Contemporary, Polynesian and Wilderness Lodge resort hotels as well as the Fort Wilderness Campgrounds are treated to a performance of the "Electrical Water Pageant." A show that's been entertaining WDW guests for over 33 years now.
Well, given that the guests who are staying at the Yacht and Beach Club, the Boardwalk as well as the Dolphin and the Swan resort hotels are paying top dollar for their rooms as well, Michael Eisner got it in his mind that these folks deserved a special nighttime waterfront show as well.
And -- given that this show was supposed to take place out on the water -- Disney's CEO thought that it was a natural for this new WDW extravaganza to use the storyline of "Noah's Ark."
As to who should compose the score for this nighttime waterfront show ... Well, Disney had just then begun negotiating with Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber about possibly producing a movie version of his long-running stage hit, "Evita." (Which the Walt Disney Company did eventually actually produce, by the way. Released through its Hollywood Pictures division in December of 1996, "Evita" eventually won an Oscar for Webber and his lyricist, Tim Rice, for the new song they wrote for the film's score, "You Must Love Me." Anyway ...) And -- given that Sir Andrew had already written scores for two other shows based on Bible stories -- it just seemed natural to ask Webber if he'd be interested in working on the project.
Sir Andrew said "Yes." And -- from there ... Well, that's where things get kind of murky. What is know is that "Noah's Ark" was in very serious development for a number of years with Walt Disney World's special entertainment division. Don Frantz -- the gentleman who produced and directed "SpectroMagic" for the Magic Kingdom -- was put in charge of the development of "Noah's Ark." Sir Andrew is said to have knocked out a pretty memorable score for the show. Storyboards and models were built. And then ...
Well, the story I keep hearing is that -- one afternoon -- when the entire "Noah's Ark" creative team is scheduled to meet with Michael Eisner, Disney's CEO comes rushing into the conference room and begins babbling about this wonderful equestrian show that he had just attended. And how wouldn't it be a great idea if Disney World were to have this wonderful new outdoor show that featured horses?
And -- with that -- plans for WDW's "Noah's Ark" show were quickly put on hold. And Frantz and Webber got to work on "EQ," a new Disney World nighttime extravaganza featuring -- you guessed it -- horses.
But -- after a while -- "EQ" proved to be unworkable. Or -- at the very least -- derivative of the "Arabian Nights" equestrian show that was being presented nightly over on 192. Which was why this particular project never made it off the drawing board.
But -- as for "Noah's Ark" -- for a time, this Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber production was considered as a possible addition to Disney-MGM's entertainment line-up. A special nighttime extravaganza, similar to Disneyland's "Fantasmic!" show.
But eventually, Disney World's management team thought: "Why should we try to create a show that's just like 'Fantasmic!' when we can just bring the Anaheim hit here to Orlando?" And once that idea started making the rounds in the Team Disney building in Lake Buena Vista ... "Noah's Ark"'s days were decidedly numbered.
Not to worry, though. The folks associated with WDW's "Noah's Ark" project have gone on to do other exciting things. Take -- for example -- Don Frantz. In the early 1990s, Don was instrumental in the creation of Walt Disney Theatrical Productions. Frantz then served as the Associate Producer of Broadway's "Beauty and the Beast," then followed that up with a senior production position on Disney's Tony Award winner, "The Lion King." Before the 1990s ended, Don left the Mouse House and began producing elaborate stage productions and special events for companies around the globe.
As for Michael Eisner ... well, anyone who's been a regular reader of JimHillMedia.com knows that Disney's CEO has had a rough couple of years.
And -- as for Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber -- well, "Bombay Dreams" may not become the hit on Broadway that this show eventually turned out to be in London. But Webber has hopes that the long-delayed movie version of his long-running smash, "Phantom of the Opera," will be an enormous success when this Joel-Schumacher-directed film finally reaches the screen on December 25th.
As for "Noah's Ark" ... I'm told that the score for this show is kept under tight lock and key. So it's unlikely that we'll ever get to hear any of those songs anytime soon. As for what the show was supposed to look like ... The two or three pieces of production art that I've ever seen for this proposed WDW waterfront pageant suggested that "Noah's Ark"'s floating sets were to have be crafted out of miles and miles of neon tubing. Which is allegedly how they'd be so easy to spot from shore.
Which is why -- whenever I'm visiting Walt Disney World and find myself walking along the Boardwalk after dark -- I find myself getting a little wistful. Thinking about the show that we all almost got to see.
Until -- of course -- Michael Eisner decided that he liked horses more than he liked Bible stories.
No surpise you had info on this! I am reading the first issue of Disney Adventures magazine, and there is a brief mention of Noah's Ark coming to WDW in 1992. So a quick Google search, and BAM! Back to your site which I regularly read to find this story. Thanks for helping learn about what this was, or I guess, wasn't.