“Tale as old as time. Song as old as rhyme. Beauty and the Beast.”
“Beauty and the Beast,” Disney’s classic award-winning Broadway musical about the provincial town Belle and the young prince-turned-Beast, is once again touring the country delighting fans of all ages.
The production by NETworks Presentations features the animated film’s Academy Award-winning score with music by Alan Menken and lyrics by the late Howard Ashman with additional songs with music by Menken and lyrics by Tim Rice.
The original creators of the Broadway musical have partnered again for the new touring production. The play is directed by Rob Roth and choreographed by Matt West. Roth says it has been wonderful to bring the original design team back together to work on the re-imagined version of “Beauty and the Beast.” For Roth working on the production presents him with the rare opportunity to revisit his work 15 years after Belle and the Beast first hit the stage.
The director says he has remained close with the original design team over the years and says it has been fun in “getting together to re-explore and re-invent the show for this new NETworks tour.”
There are some obvious changes that fans of the show will notice like the re-designed Beast’s castle. Gone is the larger than life structure that occupied most of the stage in previous presentations and in its place is a more open, spinning and rotating set that makes the castle feel even larger than before.
“B and B” fans may also note a few subtle changes like the elimination of Maurice’s first act song “No Matter What,” as well as the second act’s “Maison Des Lunes.” In its place is new dialogue scripted by Linda Woolverton, who wrote the original book for the production and according to producers is able to accomplish the same goal of the four minute song in about 30 seconds of dialogue.
Stepping into the shoes of Belle is Hilary Maiberger and into the over-sized hairy paws of the Beast is Darick Pead. Both admit they like the opportunity of portraying the iconic characters on the road adding that every week of the tour is an opening night as the production travels from city to city. With a sell-out stop during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend in Philadelphia the tour is in Little Rock before heading to Springfield and Kansas City.
For Maiberger the role of Belle is a dream-come-true for the Yucaipa, California resident. She says ever since she was a little girl she always dreamed of stepping into the shoes of the inventor’s daughter. A self-admitted romantic, Maiberger credits the writing of the tale as the reason the story still resonates with people of all ages. “I think it’s just beautifully written.” She continues, “I think the story is unbelievable and it brings out such wonderful traits in these characters.”
The clean-shaved and youthful looking Pead chimes in that “the writing is amazing,” adding that it is “a love story that really goes through and looks at the heart of a person.”
The Brigham Young graduate says that the role of the Beast allows him the opportunity to share in a classic love story which allows people to “look beyond our physical features and see there is something more than just what you see on the outside.”
The new production also affords Pead only about 45 minutes in make-up preparing for his role of the Beast as opposed to the often-times lengthy two hours it took previous actors to transform into the role of the larger-than-life creature.
As with any touring musical, some things do not change. It takes five production trucks to transport the Beast’s castle, Gaston’s tavern, Belle’s house, and the many other sets, props and costumes from city-to-city. Two buses are pressed into service to cart the 59-member cast and crew across the country.
Since it first hit the road, the NETworks production and two earlier versions of the musical, have been staged in more than 20 countries and have entertained more than 35 million people worldwide.
“Beauty and the Beast” opened at the Palace Theatre in New York City on April 18, 1994 and remained on Broadway for over 13 years and some 5,461 performances finishing its run at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre. It has the honor of being the 8th longest running musical in Broadway history.