This post delves more into Big Band Beat, a show that recently made the list of The Gaijin Ghost’s Five Favorite Rides & Shows at Tokyo DisneySea.
If you read that list, you may recall that Big Band Beat only made the cut because another show in the port of American Waterfront—namely, A Table Is Waiting—had recently been retired.
It was never a question of entertainment value: Big Band Beat certainly delivers on that front. The venue for this show is the Broadway Music Theatre.
And indeed, it feels like the kind of production you would pay good money to see live on Broadway in New York ... circa the 1930s or 1940s, when the swing era was at its height.
The show opens with the song “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing),” and what follows is a 30-minute infusion of jazz and show tunes. There is tap-dancing, there are chorus girls, and yes, Mickey Mouse even performs a drum solo.
Lady and the Tramp, the spaghetti-eating dogs, are nowhere to be found; but popular standards like “The Lady Is a Tramp,” “Cheek to Cheek,” and “Sing Sing Sing (With a Swing)” are.
In January and February, the Broadway Music Theatre actually hosts a special classical concert called Valentine Nights, where audience members do have to pay extra money for a separate ticket over and above their park ticket.
Admission for that show does not run cheap, either. That should give you an idea of the high caliber of entertainment this venue is known for.
Reserved tickets for Big Band Beat are available by lottery from Biglieterria in the neighboring port of Mediterranean Harbor.
It is free, but you will need to scan your park ticket in one of the machines. Select the English option via the machine’s touchscreen interface; choose your desired performance time that day; and see if you win or lose.
You only get one chance. But even if you do not win the lottery, you can still get orchestra level seats for the first performance of the day. Or you can get balcony seats for any subsequent performance that day, simply by lining up in front of the theater ahead of time.
On busy days, you might need to get there well ahead of time. And this is what earns Big Band Beat a few Disney demerits (or whatever you want to call the opposite of brownie points). Because depending on the level of park congestion, you might need to set aside a significant chunk of your morning, afternoon, or evening, just to guarantee yourself a seat in the theater, and take in this one (admittedly well-staged) show.
That is part of what made A Table Is Waiting more of a favorite with this blog. Because it was a show that was much easier to catch, anytime you happened to be in the vicinity of the open-air Dockside Stage.
Still, that elusive quality is part of what gives Big Band Beat its charm. Because when you finally do get to see it, it feels like more of an event. Keep in mind: this show is exclusive to Tokyo DisneySea. You cannot see it at any other Disney park in the world.
Incidentally, Tokyo Disney Resort does offer some vacation packages with the option of reserved seating for Big Band Beat. The seats you get should put you front and center for the show, too. So if you can afford a package, that might be one way of subverting the need to arrive super early at the theater.
The other thing that earns Big Band Beat a few demerits, however, is the fact that it is one of those venues at TDR with a militant “No Pictures” policy. Forget flash photography; there is no photography whatsoever allowed.
Unfortunately, this blog learned that the hard way.
Inside the Broadway Music Theatre, there is a pre-show announcement over the intercom system, in English and Japanese, asking guests to refrain from taking pictures of any kind. You can also sometimes see Cast Members carrying placards up and down the aisles with the same message.
Having scouted the show a few times in its efforts to achieve total conquest of TDR, The Gaijin Ghost is now well-acquainted with this procedure.
It is easy to miss that English intercom announcement, however, when it is your first time in the theater, and you are seated at the end of the aisle, and you have a Cast Member standing right next to you, bellowing out rapid-fire Japanese, while people continue to file in and there is all sorts of other white noise going on around you.
Those were the conditions under which this picture was taken. Exhibit A is the sole picture of Big Band Beat, the actual stage show, that this website has in its file of original photo content ...
Not a particularly great picture, but at least it gives you some idea of what it is like on stage, after the curtains open.
Speaking of which, before the show started, a lot of people in the audience had their smartphones and tablets out; they were taking pictures of the theater curtains. It seems that is the thing to do in restricted show venues. Just get a snapshot of the theater curtains, so you can have visual proof that you were inside that venue.
The problem is, in the middle of being disoriented by everything else going on in the theater, our naïve first-time attendee, the subject of our cautionary tale here (yours truly), mistook this pre-show ritual as a sign that pictures were A-OK inside the Broadway Music Theatre.
Put yourself in these shoes: you have the LCD screen on your camera off, and you have the focus assist light covered. The flash is off, too, of course. When the lights go down, you begin quietly shooting photos of the opening number of Big Band Beat.
Next thing you know, a Cast Member comes running up the aisle, stopping in front of you and making a forceful “X” with his arms, while hissing the universal word of “no.”
Say hello to the Picture Police. Turn out it is the same Cast Member who was in the aisle next to you, vociferating a machine-gun stream of foreign-language babble, so that you could not hear the English intercom announcement before the show started.
Suffice it to say, that is why you will not see a lot of Big Band Beat photos floating around out there on the Internet.
In case you did not catch the captions, the photos of the show used in this post are from professional photographer/Disney blogger Tom Bricker, who attended a rare preview of the 15th anniversary show update, in which photography was permitted.
All in all, aside from a couple of caveats, the show itself is pretty great. If you want to enjoy Big Band Beat, you will just have to be an adult and treat it like a night at the opera or something, where you would be forced make some memories without a bunch of Instagram photos.