Once Upon a Dream

ABBIE SAUNDERS gets all animated over a musical Disney binge. She may even have been singing along.

abbie saunders ADC theatre Disney lateshow Musical Once Upon a Dream orchestra

ADC Theatre, 4th-7th May, 11pm, £4-6

Directed by Henry Scarlett and Ben Atkinson


“Tonight will be the Disney-est night of your life”.

So for someone who despises musicals and would prefer some of the more terrifying Disney films from my childhood to stay suppressed, I was sceptical as to whether I could make it through with my sanity intact. Particularly as it shows at the un-child-friendly time of 11pm, and Lord knows I like an early night. (Editor’s note: written at approx 3am)

But this show is worth the sketchy walk home after. I never thought I’d hear myself type it, but Disney is clearly the most pleasant way of uniting an audience in heart-felt nostalgia where, gaping around the room, we had felt the only connection between us is mind-melting exam-stress. (Editor’s note: says the English fresher)

And what an enchanting way of doing Disney on the stage! The live orchestra, 40 strong, were well-arranged and gave an impeccable performance. It’s only when hearing these classic tunes in a live environment that the ‘Disney experience’ of childhood comes flooding back. Songs from Beauty and the Beast welcome us in, just as we once were so warmly welcomed by animated crockery into the hauntingly large castle of the grotesque and terrifying Beast with ‘Be Our Guest’. Being a kid was weird.

Photographs by Amy Jeffs

But it works so well! Our childhood selves can leave the can of worms that is the empirical existence of a talking-French-candlestick behind, but age and experience opens up the hilarity of the vocalists’ hilariously flamboyant interpretation of Disney’s ever-pertinent message: ‘Mock the French’.

Because of this, the production doesn’t only cater for obscene ‘DISNEY TILL I DIE’ obsessives. The cast are extremely self-aware, and often the focal point of the comedy is critically noting the blatant paradoxes of Disney. If you thought the films themselves had lewd references enough, you were wrong; sex jokes about Disney provide crude but side-splitting entertainment throughout the performance, which are only heightened by the Pythonesque characterisation of the male soloists and performers.

My only reservation is the occasionally contrived nature of the solo vocalists; it sounded as though the female vocalists had been classically trained, and over-zealous vibrato sometimes gave the impression that they were taking it all a little too seriously, and the vocal execution of some songs didn’t gel generically with the comedy of the overall performance. All the soloists are exceedingly talented, but I did occasionally feel that a stronger distinction should be made between West-end style musical and cartoon parody.

It’s a saccharine treat for the Disney-lovers, for the music-lovers, and for the comedy-lovers of Cambridge. Tears of laughter and nostalgia are refreshingly cathartic after the tears of pain and stress that I’m sure we’ve all been shedding, alone, in the dark, surrounded by illegible lecture notes from terms gone by. I couldn’t recommend a more motivating (legal) lift than going to see this performance. Don’t go to Life, don’t go to Fez – you may go to bed with that warm, fuzzy feeling, but you certainly don’t wake up with it. See Once Upon A Dream, where everyone’s a winner.