“Tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme — Beauty and the Beast.”
Disney’s classic award-winning Broadway musical “Beauty and the Beast” is once again crisscrossing the country on its sixth and perhaps final national tour and it is delighting fans of all ages.
Just as in previous national tours, this show is produced by NETworks Presentations and features the 1991 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 current production, which has taken center stage at Philadelphia's Academy of Music for a limited run, is just as fresh, vibrant and stunning as it was when it was first staged at the Palace Theatre on Broadway in 1994.
The original creators of the Broadway musical have returned 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 collaborate on the tour. For Roth, who earned a Tony nomination for his directing debut with the show at the age of 29, working on the new tour provides him with the rare opportunity to revisit Belle and the Beast 22 years after the show first debuted. The musical also reunites Ann Hould-Ward, who earned a Tony award for costuming the show.
The director has remained close with the original design team over the years and says it has been fun “getting together to re-explore and re-invent the show for this new tour.”
Stepping into the shoes of the provincial town Belle is Brooke Quintana and into the over-sized hairy paws of the Beast is Sam Hartley. Quintana notes for Roth, “He loves the show like it is his child.”
Quintana and Hartley, who are both on their first national tour, admit they are thrilled to be working with the original production design team and 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. The production is about half-way through its ten-month schedule before producers pull the show off the road in time for the 2017 release of the live action film version of the musical.
Might this be the final tour of the production? “That sort of rumor goes true for every show,” admits Hartley adding “but I don't know if we know that to be honest.”
For Quintana the role of Belle is a dream-come-true. She says ever since she was a little girl she always dreamed of stepping into the shoes of the inventor’s daughter. “She's an incredible character,” Quintana confides crediting the writing of the tale as the reason the story still resonates with people of all ages. “She's so strong, she's smart and what better of a role model for people just in general.”
The actress insists that one of the things that makes the story so tangible for audiences is that “everyone has had a moment when they felt like an outcast; they didn't know a good way to just be able to be themselves and live in their own skin.” She said it is important for people to look past the outside and “see what is on the inside of everyone because you just never know what amazing good things are inside people if you don't give them a chance.”
The towering Hartly 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 new production also affords Hartly only about 30 minutes in make-up prepping 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.
Since it first hit the road, the NETworks production and two earlier versions of the musical, have been staged in 22 countries and have entertained more than 35 million people worldwide. The show has also been translated into nine different languages.
“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.