Though Disney has been able to bring back many of its full and part time Cast Members during the resort's reopening, one group that is still on furlough is Equity Actors, as the union that represents these Cast Members has been in dispute with Walt Disney World since reopening, requesting that Disney require face masks and regular COVID-19 testing for all performers, which are measures that Disney continues to push back on.
As a result of this disagreement, stage shows like For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration, Festival of the Lion King, and Finding Nemo The Musical at the resort remain dark, but Disney has been finding creative ways to reopen "alternate" versions of some of its shows that do not use equity actors.
Over at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Up! A Great Bird Adventure has been reworked to be performed without actors and renamed Feathered Friends in Flight. Similarly, at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Disney has debuted a modified version of the Disney Junior Dance Party! that debuted in late 2018, named Disney Junior Play and Dance! which still features a DJ host spinning favorite songs from Disney Junior TV shows, with onstage appearances by Disney Junior characters including Mickey Mouse, Vampirina, Fancy Nancy and Doc McStuffins.
And now it looks like Disney is debuting yet another show designed to replace one that previously features Equity actors. But instead of simply making modifications to existing shows, this will be an entirely new experience in an existing theater.
Disney Society Orchestra begins performances at Disney's Hollywood Studios
Over the weekend the Theater of the Stars at Disney's Hollywood Studios, which was previously the home of the long-running Beauty and the Beast Live show, became home to a new concert series featuring the Disney Society Orchestra. This concert-style show features a six-piece orchestra playing music from Toy Story, The Little Mermaid, and The Muppets, leading up to a finale that includes appearances from Beauty and the Beast characters.
Right now it is expected that this new show will play for a limited time in place of the regular Beauty and the Beast: Live on Stage show, which should return at some point. However, there is unfortunately no way to know exactly when that will be as Disney is already looking to cut costs across the resort, and there doesn't seem to be an end for the dispute with the actors' union in sight.