Interview: ‘Disney Junior Costume Palooza’ Producer Jonathan Shank

One of the top critically acclaimed family entertainment pieces post-COVID, the touring ‘Disney Junior Costume Palooza’ will be at Cleveland’s prized Playhouse Square for one day only on Saturday, October 8! This all-new show will mingle Disney’s classic characters including Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy with Marvel heroes including Spidey and His Amazing Friends! What’s more? Children (and adults, for that matter) are encouraged to attend the show in costume!

This concert-style show will include singing and dancing alongside acrobatics that rivals a Cirque du Soleil production. There will be something for everyone to enjoy!

Checking in with CleveRock via Zoom weeks ahead of the Cleveland performance, producer Jonathan Shank provided the scoop about the show!

Shank has a background in artist management and has also been involved with several prominent charity concerts, and recently has been producing family entertainment shows for over 15 years.

“It’s a really fun job because you ultimately get to be in the business of being able to bring smiles to kids’ faces. It is awesome and rewarding,” Shank said. “I’ve done a lot of Disney and Nickelodeon shows and brought them to life on stage. Ultimately, you’re supporting brands the same way you would support artists. I treat Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy as if they are rock stars.”

This interviewer never had the privilege of seeing the Disney and Marvel worlds collide as a youngster, as Disney did not acquire the rights to the Marvel characters until 2009 (at which point, this writer was 26 years old). Had this happened sooner, I would have lost my darn mind.

“What an unbelievable opportunity! When Disney first mentioned to us that this was a possibility, we viewed it as both an exciting opportunity, but also a challenge on how to integrate these worlds together and how to do it in a way that seemed natural and organic to the production,” Shank explained. “I would say having Spidey and His Amazing Friends as part of this Disney Junior live production brings an entirely new dynamic, not just to this show but also to pre-school and family entertainment.”

With the show’s soundtrack being one of the prevalent parts of the production, Shank was asked what attendees can expect the music to be like during the performance.

“We do have a lot of theme songs from the shows, and then, in addition to that, we have some new originals, one of which is the ‘Green Gobby Party‘ which is part of the Spidey and His Amazing Friends number. That was written by Patrick Stumpf of Fall Out Boy. We’re thrilled to have that as part of our soundtrack. He composed some of the other songs for Spidey and His Amazing Friends as well,” Shank replied. “The Puppy Dog Palace has some great songs as well. “The Happy Booty Dance” and Minnie have some new songs that we really love. The choreography is great. Part of this is presenting in a manner where the energy is consistent and the interactivity is at a high.”

In addition to missing out on the Marvel characters being involved in the Disney experiences of my youth, my deprived childhood also robbed me of the opportunity to attend a family show in costume. Shank loves to see the creative outfits that fans wear to the show, too.

“We love seeing all of the Ghost Spiders, all of the Minnies, and the families that dress up as Mickey and Minnie and then see the kids dressed up as Mickey and Minnie as well,” he said. “We’ve seen some great costumes. Lots of Spideys and Doc McStuffins. People love to make up their own costumes as well, too. It’s a lot of fun.”

Children will be most impressed by seeing their favorite characters sing and dance on the stage, but adults might be more appreciative of the high-level acrobatics showcased by the performers.

“We cast all of the acrobats out of Las Vegas. Most of them have Cirque level experience or have performed in those shows,” Shank explains. “What we’re looking for, ultimately, is not only a certain skill level that is required in order to have the chance to do this job but also it’s bringing the characters to life. It’s something where you just have to have the patience to visit with a lot of folks to see who is going to best embody that character. There haven’t been any real family entertainment shows that feature Cirque-level acrobatics yet. This type of tumbling and flipping and skill level of this is off the charts.”

‘Costume Palooza’ is coming to Playhouse Square roughly two months ahead of the touring production of ‘Hamilton.’ Parents can purchase tickets to ‘Disney Junior’ for a family of four for roughly the price of one Orchestra ticket to ‘Hamilton.’

“Of course, we’re sensitive to pricing! A big part of that is that when family entertainment comes through, you aren’t just buying one ticket for yourself. You are being 3-4-5-6 tickets sometimes,” Shank explains. “You have to really be aware of what a family’s budget might be. If it was just an individual buying a ticket or a couple buying tickets, it’s less of a financial impact. Certainly, we think about that. We also think about all of the ancillary things like parking, concessions, etc.”

Speaking of price, Shank was asked why ‘Costume Palooza’ is worth a family’s investment.

“I’d say the production levels of this show are incredibly elevated for a family entertainment show,” he said. “The skill level and acrobatics of what Spidey and His Amazing Friends are bringing to the table are absolutely a groundbreaking moment for family entertainment. It’s bringing together all of these characters in one place. You aren’t going to be able to experience that anywhere else.”

Shank and the production team have a single goal when putting on a family entertainment show: to put smiles on families’ faces.

“That’s the ultimate payoff, just being out there, not only the smiles on kids’ faces but also the engagement with their families, their parent, their siblings, etc. and having the opportunity to introduce them to their favorite characters,” he said.

‘Disney Junior Costume Palooza’ will be at Cleveland’s Playhouse Square on Saturday, October 8. Complete show and ticket information can be found on the CleveRock event calendar: RIGHT HERE!

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