Adaptation of traditional fairytales into animated film features is a hallmark of Walt Disney Pictures. The 1991 animated feature of Beauty and the Beast is an enduring story that won Academy Awards for Best Song and Original Score and the only animated film to be nominated for Best Picture. The natural evolution to translate and transform the story into a live Broadway musical seems like a magician’s ultimate challenge. But Disney Theatrical Production’s creative team achieved the task to bring animated characters to human life: They created elaborate sets and costumes, composed beloved songs, choreographed captivating dance productions, and developed dazzling movements and illusions that transformed the stage at Durham Performance Arts Center (DPAC) into an enchanting theatrical experience.
The opening night brought both children and adults for the new touring production. The first production of Beauty and the Beast played on Broadway in 1994 and continued for 13 years. Rob Roth, the Director of Disney’s Broadway production of Beauty and the Beast, said, “It has been wonderful to bring the entire original design team back together to work on this new production. As a director, it is rare to have the opportunity to revisit your work fifteen years later. We have remained very close as a team over the years of producing the show around the world, and it has been so much fun getting together to re-explore and re-invent the show. The theme of ‘Beauty’ is about seeing past the exterior into the heart of someone, and this is reflected in the design for the show, which is about transparency and layers, seeing past one thing and into another.”
The special effects included puppetry, blasts of streamers, David Copperfield-like transformation of the Beast back into a man, and so many visual features and movements by performers that kept the audience members at the edge of their seats. And one eight-year-old boy sat that way through the entire performance. “I like Lefou (Gaston’s side kick friend),” he said.
To convey the “magical” power of an enduring story of love accompanied with music and spectacular theatrical productions, “Disney’s gas logged over 15,000 performances in more than 120 cities and 21 countries such as Canada, Japan, Mexico, Ireland, South Korea, United Kingdom, Spain, Brazil and Argentina. The play has been translated into eight languages: Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Japanese, Korean, Russian, and Italian,” according to the press release.
Beauty and the Beast opened Tuesday, October 8 for eight shows and will run through Sunday, October 13.