Experiencing the Candlelight Processional at Epcot is something special to guests who behold it, the massed choir and 50-piece orchestra performing the music, and of course each A-list celebrity narrator who dramatically interprets the Nativity from the Gospel of Luke, the story of “Silent Night” and the classic essay, “One Solitary Life.”
For Disney Legend Jodi Benson in particular, the Candlelight Processional reaches deep into her heart and soul. “It’s one of my favorite things to do,” the Tony Award-nominated star told us. “I get to combine all the ‘parts’ of me reading a story with an incredible impact on my life; not just words on a page, I’m speaking truth for my life and of course, I’m quietly singing along.”
Ever wonder what it’s like to be a Candlelight Processional narrator? For Jodi and the other celebrities, the first day at Epcot begins with “blocking.” “You get up onto the stage, learn your entrance and exit, work with your script, do a sound check with the microphone and go over the lighting cues,” she explains. “You get your whole dry run.
“Then every day around 3 o’clock in the afternoon—and I love this part—you do a meet and greet with the student choir and Disney Cast Members. They ask questions and maybe sing for you. So, when you’re all there on stage, you’ve established a bond. You do that every day you’re here, three shows a night.
“Each time that you perform the words, you can approach it from a somewhat fresh approach. Personally, I thoroughly enjoy the choir and the symphony. Music is such a big part of my life and they are all fantastic.”
During the remainder of their Walt Disney World Resort visit, Jodi and her family enjoy the four theme parks as much as the rest of us. “We are ‘Park-a-holics!’ We really are! We do it all. My kids are big thrill riders, so we hit those as many times as we can. And of course, I have to see all the shows!
“You know, it’s kind of funny. You would think that after all these years, why don’t we just visit here and kind of ‘hang out’? But every day, off we go to the parks. I’m there all the way up until about 2:15, then I run back to the room to prepare for the show. After the fireworks, I put on my comfy shoes and we do more park hopping. It is kind of crazy! This year, we were beyond excited to see everything, especially because of New Fantasyland.”
In addition to being the voice of Ariel in “The Little Mermaid,” Jodi’s iconic performances include nods to the golden age Disney heritage. She voiced Lady in “Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp’s Adventure”; Anita in “101 Dalmatians: Patch’s London Adventure”; and played “Sam” on camera in Walt Disney Pictures’ “Enchanted.”
Many fans believe that Jodi provided some of the greatest (and funniest) moments in the Disney•Pixar Toy Story movies, in which she’s the delightfully lilting voice of Barbie, along with Michael Keaton voicing Ken. Incidentally, back in 1994, the America Gardens Theatre was enhanced to its present grandeur to present the live musical show, “The Magical World of Barbie.” Jodi was delighted to recently discover that she and Barbie have the same Epcot stage in common!
And of course, in practically every form of entertainment, Jodi continues to bring her acting and singing talents to our favorite mermaid. As you can imagine, it’s exhilarating—even a little overwhelming—to be the voice of someone who touches so many lives. “It’s a huge responsibility to maintain the character’s integrity, to represent that character well and to make sure you take the time with those who have a connection with the character. Sometimes I stop and have a ‘WOW!’ moment, thinking about the ‘big picture.’”
It’s real. And Jodi Benson wouldn’t have it any other way. “Whether I am on stage at Epcot, in a recording studio, homeschooling my kids or in a church building, it is the same ‘Jodi.’ They’re all me. And I love getting to be with people that are young at heart. That is why the match with Disney is so perfect for me. I feel that it was planned for me, long before Disney ever came into my mind.”
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