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A D23 Special Event: Hercules at the Papermill Playhouse

(D23 Special Event: Hercules at the Papermill Playhouse 3/18/2023)

Hey Ohana,

One of the most important things in my wife and mines’ relationship is to continue doing things we enjoy together and it’s the main reason Married to A Disney Addict exists to begin with. It’s also true that Disney in general tends to dominate the “things we do together” haha, but we’re not complaining. When we got married we made that very common promise that we would always make time to do things with each other (e.g. that stereotypical “date night” promise) no matter what happened in life. Like most, we started out with our weekly “dates, but again like most, as life moves along that has changed. No longer are just the two of us going out to dinner and a movie or attending a murder mystery every week. Instead our “date nights” tend to consist of watching a Disney movie with our sons on a Friday night eating pizza or playing a board game, but we do occasionally get to enjoy a mom and dad night out. And that’s exactly what we did this past weekend!

Krystle is a charter member of Disney's official fan club, D23 and a few months ago I got a text saying “LOOK AT THIS!” with a link connecting me to a special D23 event taking place at the Papermill Playhouse right here in our part of the state (and country for that matter)! We’ve seen a few of these D23 events over the past few years, but they always tended to be somewhere else or at some time that we couldn’t attend, but this time was different! Less than an hour away AND taking place the day after Krystle’s birthday I knew I had to grab tickets and so we did! While we will be doing a follow up to this post with a full review of the show itself, we wanted to share our experience of the D23 special event aspect of the evening first.

(Hercules!!! Krystle had to rock her Minnie denim jacket and D23 bag)

The D23 event included dinner at the playhouse restaurant (the Carriage House), tickets to the show, an autographed playbill, and a cast panel after the show! They offered 2 different levels: a regular ticket and a VIP ticket - the only difference being where your seats were. While I did try to snag a couple of the VIP tickets they were sold out by the time I got online, so the regular tickets were what we ended up with. Being totally honest, I’m actually glad that happened because from what we saw, what VIP got compared to what we got didn’t really justify the price difference (about $200) in our opinion. While our seats were definitely further back (we were in the rear left orchestra) from what we saw most of the VIP seats were either in the front Mezzanine or in the rear center orchestra. It being such a small theater meant that basically every seat was as good as the rest

Our evening started when we arrived at The Carriage House for dinner at 4:45pm (needed to arrive by 5pm). We were greeted by D23 CMs who told us a little about the evening’s events, provided us with our event wristbands and tickets, and told us that there was a little “pixie dust” waiting for us at our table! We were informed upon purchasing our tickets that at dinner we may be seated with other D23 members and expected as much as we were just a party of 2. However, we must have arrived at just the right time because we were sat a what looked to be the last remaining two-top! While we would have enjoyed the opportunity to sit and chat with other Disney fans, it did make the evening feel a little more like a nice date night for just the two of us! And as for that “pixie dust” waiting for us…We each received a copy of the book “Go the Distance” (a retelling of the Hercules story)!

(We each got a copy! Krystle has been reading this series but didn't have this one...guess I'll have to give it a try!)

For dinner, we had a choice of 3 appetizers, 3 entrees, and 2 desserts. We were told as we sat to “order quickly” as the show started promptly at 7. Krystle and I both went with a tortellini and spinach soup to start, Krystle enjoyed the salmon while chose the chicken as our main entrée and of course, we both had to go with the baklava for dessert (I mean we were seeing a traditional Greek tale lol). All of it was very good. The highlight of the meal though had to be the Specialty themed cocktails: Krystle enjoyed the Sparkling Muses (she loves Prosecco) while I went with the Underworld Dark and Stormy (I’m a rum guy). Both were very good. The service was great and although there was almost a 40 minute wait between our entrée and dessert we made it to the playhouse (literally right across the patio from the restaurant) with Krystle to be able to wait in the obligatorily long line for the women’s restroom, while I grabbed a couple drinks from the bar.

We entered the playhouse and found our seats (second row from the back, left orchestra) and noticed that we were among our Disney people. Aside from the required purple wristbands we were all wearing, many (including Krystle) were decked in out in their Disney finest. Even a couple “Disney bounders” could be spotted. At 7pm it was show time and while we’ll leave the full review of the actual show to a later post we will say that we overall enjoyed the show very much! For being a smaller playhouse as compared to Broadway level shows, this was truly a wonderful and impressive production that we think with just a few tweaks would be amazing on Broadway…and we’re hoping that we will eventually get the chance to enjoy the show again (maybe with our boys this time)!

Loving every second!

As the show ended, there was a little confusion as to what we should do next. We had not heard from the D23 CM’ in between dinner and the show and it was noticeable that everyone around us was not sure what we were supposed to do. Finally, we found one of the CMs who told us that as the theater cleared out we could simply walk up to the front of the theater and take a seat for the cast talk…no assigned seating (another reason that I’m glad we didn’t end up paying for the VIP tickets). We were simply instructed not to sit in the first 4 rows. Krystle and I arrived a little later so we ended up sitting a couple rows back on the left side of the theater as the center section filled in rather quickly.

Once we were all seated, the CMs came around to check for our wristbands and handed out our autographed playbills (signed by the actors who played Hercules, Megara, Phil, and Hades)! It was during this time that a group of people who were sitting in the front row of the center section were discovered to not be D23 members and were asked to leave. As they left, we noticed no one else was moving so Krystle and I jumped at the chance to grab the prime seats. First row right in the center! A perfect spot to snag some pics and record the cast talk!

An awesome souvenir to remember the night

After about 5 minutes, James Monroe Iglehart (Phil) and Shuler Hensley (Hades - still in his makeup) walked out and grabbed a seat on the stage. A few moments later they were joined by Brad Gibson (Hercules), but an empty chair remained… In order to move things along our D23 CM began a brief intro of those on stage, and threw the first questions to “Hades.” About 2 minutes into his response there was a fun moment when Isabelle McCalla (Megara) joined the panel. Be sure to check our recording on the main page of the site for the full discussion. We then heard from “Phil” (who we were personally most excited about hearing from as we LOVED him as the original Genie in Aladdin on Broadway), “Hercules,” and rounded out the discussion with “Megara.” In total, they spoke for about 20 minutes each getting about 5 minutes to respond to a question directed to them by the CM serving as emcee. While we would have loved the opportunity to maybe do a little audience Q&A we understand the time constraints in place.

James Monroe Iglehart (Phil), Brad Gibson (Hercules), Isabelle McCarra (Megara) and Shuler Hensley (Hades)

As the evening ended and we made our way out of the theater, we were sure to stop by the merch counter. We grabbed a couple magnets, a shirt for Lincoln, and a bag for Krystle, before heading back to our car for the drive home. Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed the event and would definitely take part in one again if we get the chance. On the drive home (listening to the Hercules soundtrack of course) Krystle and I discussed the great time we had, but also what we thought might have been done a little differently to make the night even more special. These are mostly minute changes that we thought would just bring either a little more “pizazz” to the event or just help make sure it ran a little more smoothly. Briefly they are: included D23 lanyard passes to identify guests rather than generic purple paper wristbands, allowed for guest interaction during the cast panel (or at least collected questions prior to be asked on our behalf), and a little more logistic involvement by the CMs (e.g. ensuring that gap between courses wasn’t so long, and having guests meet up between dinner and the show to explain what to do after the show). Again, very small things in light of the wonderful evening it was.

Such a fun evening. Thanks D23 and the cast of Hercules!!!!

We want to know, have YOU ever participated in a D23 special event (or maybe were you even at this one) and what was your experience like? AND, do you want to see “Hercules” make it to Broadway? Head over to the FB group to continue the conversation and let us know! And as always…

See Ya Real Soon,

Matt and Krystle

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Krystle Woolley
Krystle Woolley
Mar 25, 2023

This was such a fun event! I hope D23 does another in our area!

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