Disney100 review: I went to the Disney celebration at Leeds First Direct Arena and it was magical

I visited the 100 Years of Disney celebration in Leeds – and it was nothing short of magical.
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Touring UK arenas, the Disney100: The Concert is celebrating the music and magic of Disney as it reaches its 100th anniversary year. The concert took over the First Direct Arena in Leeds earlier this month, with an orchestra and musical singers.

The arena was filled with beaming children adorned in merchandise, Mickey Mouse ears on their heads, one hand holding a Lightsaber and the other hand in their orchestra-loving parents’ grip.

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The expectations were high. With the Hollywood Sound Orchestra and singers from an impressive musical theatre pedigree, including the West End and Broadway, there was little reason to wonder if this concert would disappoint – and it didn’t.

Disney100: The Concert came to Leeds First Direct Arena on June 1. Photo: DisneyDisney100: The Concert came to Leeds First Direct Arena on June 1. Photo: Disney
Disney100: The Concert came to Leeds First Direct Arena on June 1. Photo: Disney

The concert began with the orchestra, before the stage was quickly taken over by the singers. As an orchestra lover, I wondered how the orchestra would compete for the crowd’s attention with singers in gorgeous dresses, animated dancing, and the big screen playing montages of Disney’s greatest films for our attention.

It was host, Strictly Come Dancing star and Disney super-fan Janette Manrara, who played a pivotal role in blending these different elements of the show together. She broke the invisible wall between the orchestra and the singers, even introducing a friendship cam with the conductor. Singers followed in her steps doing a two-step with the conductor and belting the notes of You've Got a Friend in Me from Toy Story with a violinist while the crowd awed.

The interactions meant that it rarely ever felt like one aspect outshined the others – there were moments to appreciate it all. The respectful silence in the arena, and the wide-eyed gaze of children, as the orchestra took over playing the theme songs for Star Wars, Pirates of the Caribbean and Avengers Endgame timed to scenes on the big screen are moments that stands out.

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The singers also complemented each other well; interactions of mischief, vibrant props and a little choreography made for an incredibly engaging watch. Performances as a group – from We Don’t Talk About Bruno from Encanto to Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious from Mary Poppins – unsurprisingly received the greatest cheers.

It must have been difficult to pick only a number of songs to perform from Disney’s eclectic and growing collection, but the show wouldn’t have been complete without Academy Award winning songs Let It Go from Frozen and How Far I’ll Go performed by solo vocal powerhouses. Soloist Bessy Ewa was the most memorable of the group, taking the stage by storm performing Almost There from The Princess and The Frog among other songs and bodying the Disney characters seamlessly.

Seeing people leave early, as their child was getting tired or was unable to sit for much longer, led me to think that the concert should have been held earlier as they missed out on a fantastic finale of endless rounds of Hakuna Matata from The Lion King. Nonetheless, from start to finish, the concert was filled with a certain magic and served as a reminder that Disney really has touched the souls of generations, been with us as we have aged and left an imprint difficult to fill with anything else.