What would you do if Disney reached out and asked you to come see their new show at California Adventure theme park? Well when Disney calls, I answer! I got the opportunity to travel to Anaheim, California and attend the preview performance of the world premiere of Rogers: The Musical, a one-act musical running through the end of August about the life of Steve Rogers (aka Marvel's Captain America). And being a fan of musical theatre, as well as the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), I knew I was in for a treat.
Now one thing you should know about me is that while I love Pixar, Marvel, and everything else that falls under the Disney umbrella. However, I have never been to its amusement parks, so I had no idea what I was in for.
What is an amusement park show like? It’s Disney so I assume the caliber is going to be fantastic. All to say, my expectations were high and I was ready to experience everything that Disneyland and California Adventure had to offer me. But first, some backstory.
In 2021, Disney+ premiered the Marvel series Hawkeye, which centered on the Avenger character, and bow and row virtuoso, Hawkeye. During the first episode of the series, the Avenger (whose real name is Clint Barton) is taking his kids on a Christmas trip to New York City. And what NYC vacation is complete without a Broadway show? NONE. So, Clint (much to his dislike) takes his family to see Rogers: The Musical playing at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre.
That’s right, in this universe, the Lunt-Fontanne is not the home of the current revival of Sweeney Todd. Nope, it's instead the venue for Rogers: The Musical. I'd like to see what that Playbill looks like.
While we do not get to see a lot of the musical in the episode, audiences do get to witness and jam out to the bop that is “Save the City.” The showtune is an earworm of a song written by musical theatre master duo Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman. If you have not seen the episode, I highly recommend it but for now, you can listen to the number below (which actually features a number of Broadway favorites, including Adam Pascal and Bonnie Milligan).
Needless to say, Marvel and musical theatre fans alike wanted more! What is the story behind Rogers: The Musical? Is it a bio-musical? Is it camp? Is it all of these things or nothing at all? The fans had to know! Thus, it lead to where we are now, a new musical at California Adventure
OK! Now that we have finished the backstory, let’s get back to ME! (j/k). So, there I was taking my first steps onto the grounds of Disney’s California Adventure. I was a kid again. My eyes were as big as saucers, my mouth hanging open, and all I wanted to do was throw my money at every piece of merchandise the place had to offer. However, today was about “work” and I was there to see a show!
I made my way to the Hyperion Theater, which according to the park map, is in Hollywood Land. I learned that The Hyperion has been home to some of California Adventure’s most epic productions, including Aladdin (in which the flying carpet flew over the ENTIRE audience) and where Elsa and the gang first brought Arendelle to life in Frozen. It's all produced by Disney Live Entertainment, the theatrical division that oversees the shows in the theme parks and on the cruises. The more I learned about the park’s history with productions, the more invested and excited I was getting.
To get to the theatre, I had to walk through Avengers Campus. And if it hasn’t been made clear before, I love many things: theatre, pop culture, and definitely Marvel. To say I was giddy was an understatement. Not to geek out too much, but everywhere I looked, I saw Marvel characters (Thor, Gamora, Groot, Captain Marvel…and that’s only a few). I looked to my left and Spiderman was doing acrobatics on rooftops. To my right, Black Widow was scaling off the side of a building and fighting bad guys at the Avengers Headquarters.
And me? Well, you’d think I was a kid again, the way that for a brief magical moment, I thought those characters were real and I wanted to take a photo with ALL OF THEM.
After being star-struck, I finally make it over to the Hyperion Theater. I don’t know why I was surprised but Disney rolled out all the stops for this press preview. Beside the theatre, we were given fancy-looking Rogers: The Musical badges to show that I was an invited member of the press (cue me doing a nonchalant hair toss), as well as photo opportunities with the musical’s merch and special musical-themed food (yes, there is Captain America-themed food and beverages).
After that, we were escorted into the theatre—which is huge and beautiful, by the way. As I sat in my seat, hoards of media and social influencers ran to find the best seats for the preview performance. The best and brightest of Disney TikTokers were there, phones out to record and preview Disney’s latest magical creation.
Now I won’t give too much away about the musical (though if you're dying to see it, there are tons of clips, if not the whole musical, on social media). Here are some highlights from me. There are two songs that make appearances from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). First, there is “Save the City” (with music and lyrics by Some Like It Hot duo Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman) that still slaps as hard live as it did when I first saw it on Hawkeye. Side note, shout out to the two featured ensemble vocalists who sing with Captain America in that number. They were belting and doing vocal runs all over the place.
Second, if you saw the first Captain America film (Captain America: The First Avenger), you will remember “Star Spangled Man.” That number was written by another musical theatre legend: Alan Menken with lyrics by David Zippel. And the last part I’ll mention is that…Nick Fury sings. The character (played on-screen by Samuel L Jackson) sings, dances, and raps. That is all I’m going to say but it is definitely one of the biggest crowd-pleasers of the show.
After the show concluded, we were treated to a Q&A with the show’s creators. This included Christopher Lennertz, the show’s composer, conductor, and arranger; Sarah Kobayashi, the production’s choreographer at Disney Live Entertainment; Dan Fields, the Executive Creative Director at Disney Live Entertainment; Dave Bushore, Vice President—Franchise Creative and Marketing at Marvel Studios.
A good portion of the questions asked to him was how he was able to fit so much story (Captain America has appeared in 11 MCU films) into the 30-minute show. “It was a lot to fit in half an hour and I think we did a pretty good job,” Bell said humbly, but proudly. He also discussed how the show was built around the love story in Cap’s journey (Captain America's love interest in the show and on the screen is Agent Peggy Carter). “So much of great musical theatre is based on a love story,” explained Bell. “When we kind of honed in on his story, even while Cap is having all these adventures in all the films, there's a compass and that's Peggy.”
Lennertz, who composed the five new songs for the stage production, explained that writing for musicals is creating situations where the emotion is so strong that talking won't work anymore and you gotta sing. That got very big applause from the audience. He went on explain that Cap was constantly striving for something, to be a soldier, to do the right thing, to find love. “That's where the ‘I Want’ comes in with young Steve all the way to old Steve. That's why he was the perfect person to make a musical about.”
When asked about the future of Rogers the musical (perhaps a run at the real Lunt-Fontanne Theatre?), a representative from Disneyland told me that they are waiting to see how the musical is being received. There is also the possibility of the show extending past August at California Adventure if audiences show up—and it seems like they are. Rogers plays several shows a day and the next day when the musical officially opened to the public, all the tickets were booked before noon for that entire day.
It's safe to say that Rogers is a hot ticket item at the park now. And the best part? It's completely free!
So, to wrap up my thoughts on Disney's latest theatrical attraction.
1: If you want a break from the California heat while also watching a show that the whole family will enjoy, go see Rogers: the Musical.
2: If you're a fan of fun, high-energy, and campy musical theatre, go see Rogers: the Musical.
3: If you or your friends have never seen any of the MCU movies involving Captain America, and don’t want to spend 12-plus hours catching up (but you do want to, somewhat, learn his origin story and his MCU plot line)...go see Rogers: the Musical!
In closing: musical theater lovers, assemble!