“A Jolly Holiday” is Disney for adults

A Jolly Holiday: Celebrating Disney’s Broadway Hits at Paper Mill Playhouse; LEFT TO RIGHT: Dan DeLuca, Major Attaway; Photo by Evan Zimmerman for Murphy Made.

The show is built on songs from the catalog of Disney on Broadway

Kissy Simmons and Jarran Muse looking into each others eyes. Tall Christmas tree in the background
A Jolly Holiday: Celebrating Disney’s Broadway Hits at Paper Mill Playhouse; LEFT TO RIGHT: Kissy Simmons, Jarran Muse; Photo by Evan Zimmerman for Murphy Made.

Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn greets the holiday season with A Jolly Holiday, a collection of songs from the Disney company’s live theatrical productions. As performed by five talented actors/singers and set in a stage-sized living room set with an on-stage band, this is a show that combines the whimsy and good cheer that is Disney’s specialty with a more adult sensibility.

The show is built on songs from the catalog of Disney on Broadway, the theatrical arm of the Disney company. This means that while you’ll hear numbers from such classics as Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, Mary Poppins, and Aladdin, you’ll also hear tunes from the Elton John-Tim Rice version of Aida, Newsies, and High School Musical. You’ll also hear songs from the not-seen-on-Broadway Hercules, “he Jungle Book, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

The rudimentary book by Sandy Rustin attempts to have the cast members do holiday party banter while mentioning Disney shows in which they’ve appeared. Despite this, the five members of the cast—Dan DeLuca, Dion Simmons Grier (standing in for Major Attaway in the performance I saw), Kara Lindsay, Jarran Muse, and Kissy Simmons—showcase their talents in solos, duets, and ensemble numbers and provide the major part of the entertainment value of this show.

The set and lighting designs of Kelly James Tighe (scenery) and Charlie Morrison (lights) provide a sparkling display that is an audience pleaser. The show’s centerpiece is a towering Christmas tree with animated lights, decorated by the cast with golden ornaments representing the shows from which the songs come. Outstanding support comes from Geoffrey Ko, the conductor/pianist, and his on-stage five-piece band, providing just the right musical accompaniment for the variety of moods in the evening’s songs.

For those looking for a show with the sophistication of Sondheim or Cole Porter, look elsewhere. Alternately, for those looking for a kiddie show, look elsewhere. For the young-at-heart and for those who have found enjoyment through the years from the profusion of Disney stage shows, this is the perfect holiday entertainment. It is for this latter group that I recommend visiting the Paper Mill Playhouse for A Jolly Holiday.

The Paper Mill Playhouse presents A Jolly Holiday in Millburn until January 2nd, 2022. For more information or to purchase tickets, go to papermill.org or call 973-376-4343. Proof of vaccination and a photo ID is required to enter, and masks must be worn the entire time in the building.

Allen Neuner
Allen Neuner is the theater reviewer at Out in Jersey magazine. Jersey born and raised, Allen went to his first Broadway play in 1957 and has been deliriously in love with live theater ever since. Allen has been accepted into the American Theatre Critics Association, a professional organization of theatre journalists. He has been partnered to music reviewer Bill Realman Stella, with whom he is also deliriously in love, for over 20 years. They live in an over-cluttered house in Somerville.