Disney is Rockinâ€™ DiversityÂ Â
By Janet Alston Jackson
Sentinel Contributing WriterÂ
“Our world is such a diverse place. It’s what we need right now.”
Chris Chatman can barely contain his excitement as he talks about his role hosting the “Disney Live! Rockin’ Road Show,” a new musical from Feld Entertainment, producers of “Disney On Ice.” He’s extremely proud to represent African-Americans in the stage production featuring classic Disney characters on a road show adventure, coming to the Nokia Theatre September 26 and 27 in Los Angeles.
“I think it’s great that there is more diversity with major roles,” says Chatman referring not only to “Disney Live!,” but the much anticipated, upcoming Disney animated comedy, “The Princess and the Frog,” featuring an African-American princess (Anika Noni Rose).
Chatman says his mixed heritage not only helps him to see the world from different views, but enhances his job hosting “Disney Live!” He was born to a Black father and a Filipino mother who divorced when he was five. His step-father is Mexican-American.
“The best part is that I can communicate and interact with audiences on an equal playing field, regardless black, white, Hispanic, or Filipino,” says Chatman. “The kids coming for the first time see a diverse show, and the children from the audience brought on stage to participate, are of different ethnicities.”
Chatman was born in Gardena, Florida and began performing at age seven singing karaoke in his grandmother’s living room at his family’s monthly potluck dinners. After high school he attended Cal State Fullerton until his junior year, when he landed the role of Handy Manny in the 2007-2008 tour of “Playhouse Disney Live!”
Chris broke into the world of film with a lead role in the direct-to-DVD movie “Sunday School Musical.” That summer his friends were heading to Colorado to audition for “American Idol” season eight. When they asked him to tag along, he ended up auditioning too. His friends were cut, but he advanced to the final 54 contestants.
“Kara (DioGuardi), one of the judges on “Idol” told me ‘Dare to suck.’ I took it that I needed to put myself out there more. I was really being safe as a performer,” says Chatman. “I felt being safe I won’t mess up. But when it counted the most, I didn’t blow the judges out the water. I’m proud I made it that far.”
After the “American Idol” experience, Chatman continued to hone his talents, and he returned to college to finish his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Musical Theater in 2009. Months after graduation, he auditioned and landed “Disney Live!”
Chatman sees a changing world reflected in his hosting role. “As a performer from a mixed background, it shows that our country is growing. We are coming out of a rut that we were in,” says Chatman. “With President Obama in office you can see a change coming, and I think it’s great. Diversity is key now.”
Janet Alston Jackson is a LA Sentinel contributing writer and can be reached
All New “DISNEY LIVE! ROCKIN’ ROAD SHOW” comes to the Southland
Performance ScheduleÂ Â
LONG BEACH – Terrace Theatre (300 E Ocean Blvd Long Beach, CA 90802-4825)
Sunday, September 20th: 12:00PM, 3:00PM, 6:00PMÂ Â
THOUSAND OAKS – Fred Kavli Theatre at Thousand Oaks Civic Auditorium (2100 E. Thousand Oaks, 91362)
Friday, September 25th: 3:00PM, 6:00PMÂ Â
NOKIA Theatre L.A. LIVE (777 Chick Hearn Ct. Los Angeles, 90015)
Saturday, September 26th: 12:00PM, 3:00PM, 6:00PM
Sunday, September 27th: 12:00PM, 3:00PMÂ Â
Ticket Prices: $65.00 / $35.00 / $25.00 / $20.00
To order tickets by phone: 800-745-3000
Â Online: www.disneylive.com OR www.ticketmaster.com