You know how a lot of Disney movies have been adapted into Broadway plays? Like Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, etc. ? Well, one film that I wish would be turned into a Broadway show is The Sword in the Stone (1963), a Disney animated feature that was released after Disney’s Golden Age and long before the Disney Renaissance at the end of the 1980s. This film generally slips under the radar (and I freely admit it isn’t their best work) but it still contains some amusing and memorable moments.
Based on T.H. White’s book The Once and Future King (1958), The Sword in the Stone tells the story of a young page named Wart (real name Arthur, voiced by Rickie Sorensen, and Richard and Robert Reitherman) who meets a strange wizard named Merlin (Karl Swenson) and a talking owl named Archimedes (Junius Matthews). Merlin is convinced that Wart has a big future in front of him, but it won’t come to pass unless he gets a proper education (that Merlin will provide).
Wart’s “education” can be divided into several segments based on the animal he is turned into (and the appropriate lesson he learns): a fish (brains are better than brawn); a squirrel (Love is the greatest force on Earth); a bird (knowledge and wisdom are real power). It’s this last segment, where Wart become a bird that really wants me to see this story as a stage show because THIS is where we meet Madam Mim (Martha Wentworth), a slightly-deranged witch who is as evil as Merlin is good. Wart (still in bird form) ends up falling down her chimney by mistake while fleeing a hawk and quickly comes to the witch’s attention. Hearing that the Wart is acquainted with Merlin (“the world’s most powerful bungler” as she puts it), Mim decides to prove to Wart that SHE is the most powerful, and not Merlin, by performing a song that I would dearly love to see rendered on the stage.
Mim demonstrates various abilities: she can change size (from giant to very tiny), make herself even uglier than she already is (by her own admission) and also change herself into someone beautiful as well. I’m not sure how a live show would accommodate all of these changes exactly, but I’m sure it could be done somehow.
After her song, Mim demands to know which one is better, but Wart still believes that Merlin is the best because his magic is for good (Mim doesn’t like this at all). Recognizing that Merlin sees something “good” in the boy, Mim declares that for her that’s “bad” and therefore she’ll have to destroy him. Moving in for the kill, Mim demonstrates one more ability, she can change into animals just like Merlin can, and what animal do you use to catch a bird? A CAT!!!
Fortunately for Wart, Merlin steps in shortly afterward…
I absolutely love this song, it’s pure Disney madness from beginning to end. If “Mad Madam Mim” were performed on a Broadway stage today, who do you think could pull it off the best? I’m not sure myself, but I’d love to hear your thoughts about it 🙂
*all images are the property of Walt Disney Studios
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