Disney's Thomas Schumacher takes on new Broadway role

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Disney's Thomas Schumacher takes on new Broadway role
Thomas Schumacher speaks during a press conference in Times Square in Manhattan, on Sept. 18, 2020. The longtime head of the Disney’s theater operations is becoming the division’s chief creative officer, relinquishing his role overseeing its business operations.(Jeenah Moon/The New York Times)

by Michael Paulson

NEW YORK, NY.- Thomas Schumacher, the longtime head of Disney’s theatrical arm, a key force behind “The Lion King,” and one of the most powerful people on Broadway, is relinquishing his role overseeing the division’s business operations and stepping into a purely creative role.

Schumacher, who is 65 and holds the titles of president and producer of Disney Theatrical Group, told his staff Thursday morning that he will take on a new role as the division’s chief creative officer. His two closest deputies, Andrew Flatt and Anne Quart, will now jointly run the unit as executive vice presidents.

Disney has for three decades been the biggest corporate player on Broadway, and it remains an enormously significant factor in the industry. “The Lion King,” which has been running on Broadway for 25 years, regularly outsells its competitors — last week it was, as it often has been, the top-grossing show.

Schumacher’s portfolio has included not only Disney’s Broadway shows — “The Lion King” and “Aladdin” at the moment — but also its many touring productions as well as Disney on Ice. His first Broadway credit was in 1997 (as a producer of Disney’s “King David”), and he has since become an important figure in the Broadway community, at one point serving as chair of the Broadway League, which is the trade organization of producers and theater owners.

The move comes at a time when many of Disney’s divisions have been struggling. The theatrical group is small by Disney standards, and although it has had its share of disappointments, its current shows are selling strongly even while most other Broadway shows are not.

According to a memo Schumacher sent to his staff, Flatt will have the additional title of managing director, and will oversee strategy and business operations. Quart’s portfolio will include producing and development; she will serve as executive producer of all shows.

Disney has not brought a new show to Broadway since 2018, when “Frozen” arrived to chilly reviews. Since that time, Disney acquired 21st Century Fox assets, which gave the company access to a vast new trove of titles.

One possible next Disney musical appears to be a stage adaptation of “The Greatest Showman” — the company held a workshop for the show earlier this year, but that production is still relatively early in its development process. Disney has also been continuing to work on its stage adaptation of “Hercules” — after productions directed by Lear deBessonet in Central Park, as part of the Public Theater’s Public Works program, and at the Paper Mill Playhouse, the company is planning a new version in Germany directed by Casey Nicholaw next spring.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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