Note: BatbBroadwayLogo // MichaelEisnerOct10 // Susan Egan 9-2007
Note: BatbBroadwayLogo // MichaelEisnerOct10 // Susan Egan 9-2007
|Beauty and the Beast|
Vocal Selections cover art
Howard Ashman |
Beauty and the Beast|
by Walt Disney Animation Studios
1993 Houston (tryout)|
1995 Los Angeles
1995 US Tour
1997 Mexico City
1998 Buenos Aires
1999 US Tour
2001 UK Tour
2001 US Tour
2002 São Paulo
2005 Netherlands Tour
2006 Israel Tour
2007 Mexico City
2009 São Paulo
2010 US Tour
2010 Buenos Aires
2010 Germany Tour
2012 Spain Tour
2014 International Tour
2015 India Tour
2015 The Hague
Beauty and the Beast is a musical with music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, and book by Linda Woolverton. Adapted from Walt Disney Pictures' Academy Award-winning 1991 animated musical film of the same name – which in turn had been based on the classic French fairy tale by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont – Beauty and the Beast tells the story of a cold-hearted prince who has been magically transformed into an unsightly creature as punishment for his selfish ways. To revert into his true human form, the Beast must first earn the love of a bright, beautiful young woman whom he has imprisoned in his enchanted castle before it is too late.
Critics, who hailed it as one of the year's finest musicals, immediately noted the film's Broadway musical potential when it was first released in 1991, encouraging Disney CEO Michael Eisner to venture into Broadway. All eight songs from the animated film were reused in the musical, including a resurrected musical number which had been cut from the motion picture. Original songwriter Menken composed six new songs for the production alongside lyricist Rice, replacing Ashman who had died during production of the film. Woolverton, who had written the film's screenplay, adapted her own work into the musical's libretto, and specifically expanded upon the characterization of the Beast. Woolverton also expanded the storylines of the castle staff from servants who had already been transformed into household objects into humans who were gradually turning into inanimate objects. Costumes were designed by Ann Hould-Ward, who based her creations on both the animators' original designs as well as the Rococo art movement after researching how clothing and household objects looked during the 18th century.
After completing tryouts in Houston, Beauty and the Beast premiered on Broadway on April 18, 1994, starring Susan Egan and Terrence Mann as the eponymous Belle and Beast, respectively. The musical opened to mixed reviews from theatre critics, but was a massive commercial success and well received by audiences. Beauty ran on Broadway for 5,461 performances between 1994 and 2007, becoming Broadway's tenth longest-running production in history. The musical has grossed more than $1.4 billion worldwide and played in thirteen countries and 115 cities. It has also become a popular choice for high school productions.
Still recovering from Walt Disney's demise, Disney's animated films continued to experience a noticeable decline in quality while struggling to attain critical and commercial success during the 1970s and 1980s. The Walt Disney Company CEO Michael Eisner was hired to ensure the performance of the studio's next animated projects, despite having virtually no animation experience. Eisner himself had been a theatre major in college. Eisner's first hire as Disney's CEO was theatrical producer Peter Schneider, who subsequently became responsible for hiring more artists who shared similar theatrical backgrounds to contribute to the studio's next animated releases, among them lyricist Howard Ashman and his long-time collaborator, composer Alan Menken. Ashman and Menken had previously amassed great live musical success with their Off-Broadway production Little Shop of Horrors, but the performance of Ashman's first Broadway venture Smile had been disappointing. Eager to redeem himself, Ashman agreed to work on Disney's animated film The Little Mermaid (1989), which he and Menken would famously decide to approach as though they were scoring a Broadway musical. Upon release, The Little Mermaid was a massive critical and commercial success, garnering two Academy Awards, both of them for Ashman and Menken's original music. Disney established a successful renaissance period, during which Ashman and Menken became responsible for teaching the art of transforming traditional animated films into animated musicals.
Inspired by Mermaid's success, production on an animated musical adaptation of the "Beauty and the Beast" fairy tale began shortly afterward, during which Ashman finally confessed to Menken that he was dying of AIDS, a secret he had been keeping from the studio in fear of being discriminated against or fired. Before the film had even been completed, executive vice president Ron Logan suggested to Eisner that he consider adapting Beauty and the Beast for Broadway, an idea Eisner quickly deflected. While the film, written by screenwriter Linda Woolverton, was premiering at the New York Film Festival, an ailing Ashman was being cared for at St. Vincent's Hospital; the lyricist succumbed to his disease four days later on March 14, 1991, dying eight months before the film's November release. Beauty and the Beast became the last project on which Menken worked with Ashman. The film was released to immediate critical acclaim and commercial success, outperforming The Little Mermaid by becoming the highest-grossing animated film in history, as well as the first animated film to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture. Once again, Academy Awards were won for Ashman and Menken's music. Several critics noticed the film's live musical potential, among them prolific New York Times theatre critic Frank Rich. Lamenting the Broadway selection at the time, Rich famously praised the songwriting duo for having written "[t]he best Broadway musical score of 1991", while hailing the film as a "better [musical] ... than anything he had seen on Broadway" in 1991. Rich's review would ultimately provide Eisner and Katzenberg with the confidence needed to seriously consider the film as a potential Broadway project. Disney was also inspired by the successes of Broadway musicals such as Cats, Les Misérables and The Phantom of the Opera, strongly believing their production could be just as profitable.
Virtually unknown at the time, Robert Jess Roth was appointed the production's director based on his various successes directing live shows at the Disney theme parks. Eisner and Katzenberg had opted against hiring a more established director in order to retain creative control over the project, believing that an A-list director would likely feel more inclined to challenge their vision. Roth himself had previously pursued Eisner about investing in a Broadway show – originally suggesting a stage adaptation of Mary Poppins (1964) – only to have his idea declined, citing cost of investment and time concerns. However, Eisner invited Roth to ask him about pursuing Broadway again in the future once he had finished directing three additional Disney theme park shows. Ultimately impressed with Roth's adaptation of The Nutcracker, Eisner finally suggested an adaptation of Beauty and the Beast, inspired by the success of a condensed stage version of the film at Disneyland, although briefly discouraged by the idea of having humans instantly transformed into inanimate objects live. Since the film had not yet been released on home video, Roth spent an entire day re-watching Beauty and the Beast in theaters while brainstorming how to present its fantastical elements onstage, and eventually worked with choreographer Matt West and set designer Stan Meyer on their own proposal, with contributions from Menken and Woolverton. In a hotel in Aspen, Roth convinced Eisner and Katzenberg to green-light a Broadway adaptation of Beauty and the Beast using a combination of 140 storyboards, costume sketches, fabric swatches and demonstrating one illusion. Eisner retained final approval over all creative elements of the production, "from the lowest chorus swing performer to the director, stars and design team." Menken was initially skeptical of Roth's qualifications, as he had never directed a Broadway show before. Meanwhile, the producers were concerned that audiences might not be interested in seeing the same story that they had enjoyed on film on Broadway. Among the skeptics was theatrical producer Steven Suskin, author of Opening Night and Broadway, who argued that the production was more likely to be successful in reverse: "(The movie is) basically written as a theater piece. I'm sure it would've worked in the theater first, and it then would've worked in the movies," believing audiences would have difficulties accepting a new version of such an immensely popular work.
Beauty and the Beast became Disney's first Broadway venture, although a stage adaptation of Disney's animated film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) had premiered in New York in 1979, produced by Radio City Music Hall Productions, Inc. Theatre Under the Stars' executive director Frank Young campaigned heavily to have the show open in Houston, even getting Governor Ann Richards involved in order to secure the stage rights.
Roth summarized Beauty and the Beast as a story about "seeing past the exterior of a person and into his or her heart". Woolverton learned that Disney had commissioned her to adapt the animated film she had written into a Broadway musical while she was vacationing with her family in Maui, and her initial response to the idea was "Yikes." In the process of adapting her own animated screenplay into a full-length, two-act libretto for the stage, Woolverton contributed several distinct changes to the material, specifically instilling more emotional "depth" into each main character. The writer expanded the story by both "fleshing out" each character and allowing room for new musical numbers. Namely, Woolverton made the Beast a more threatening yet sympathetic figure; the writer expanded upon his characterization by developing the Beast into "a fuller character", aided by the addition of his own song, "If I Can't Love Her". Meanwhile, the book-loving Belle was adapted into a more headstrong and determined heroine. Belle and the Beast's relationship benefits from a new scene Woolverton wrote specifically for the stage, during which the couple read in the castle's library; Belle introduces the Beast to the tale of King Arthur and reads the book to him, to which the Beast responds by showing genuine vulnerability for the first time.
In 1993, Woolverton explained to the Los Angeles Times that "the mythology in the story would be changed to explain, for example, a 6-foot-tall candelabra." Perhaps Woolverton's most significant modification involves the enchanted objects, and the decision to have the enchantress' spell gradually transform the castle's staff of loyal servants into household objects throughout the entire duration of the musical, as opposed to having already done so immediately at the beginning. Essentially, becoming completely inanimate if the spell is not broken in time would equate to each character dying, which ultimately augments the story's drama. Consequently, this plot decision enhanced the story into a tale about people being forced to make difficult decisions, as opposed to solely a story of a man struggling to retain his humanity, in turn providing the audience with an opportunity to care about the supporting characters dramatically.
Generally, Woolverton's book remained quite faithful to the original text; the plot is essentially the same, but particular detail has been added in order to "flesh out" the story. The feather duster and wardrobe characters – only minor characters in the animated film – were broadened into fully realized supporting characters and named for the first time; Woolverton named them Babette and Madame de la Grande Bouche, respectively. Taking her job seriously, Woolverton worked relentlessly on revising the script, and often took the cast's suggestions into consideration (though not always yielding to their opinions). Despite the musical having been based on a pre-existing story by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont, Woolverton retains a sole writing credit for her work.
Broadway producers are usually eager to cast big-named performers in their musicals, but Katzenberg, famous at the time for avoiding working with actors of such caliber, decided against this practice for Beauty and the Beast. Eisner concluded that most of the film's original voice actors would be too busy to reprise their roles onstage. In her Broadway debut, then-22-year-old actress Susan Egan was cast as the musical's original Belle. Egan, who had not yet seen the film, had been auditioning for several other Broadway projects at the time – namely My Fair Lady, Carousel and Grease – in which she was much more interested. Despite longing to originate a Broadway role, the actress was initially reluctant to audition for Beauty and the Beast because she thought that "it was a terrible idea for Disney to put a cartoon on Broadway." Additionally, Egan felt she was not attractive enough to play a character touted "the most beautiful girl in the village", but her agent managed to convince her otherwise. Without any film to reference, Egan determined that Belle is supposed to be a "quirky" character and approached her funnier than how she is depicted in the film, in turn garnering laughs from the producers – who were amused by her unique interpretation – and eventually earning several callbacks. Meanwhile, her competition of 500 actresses, many of whom were simply offering imitations of voice actress Paige O'Hara's original performance, continued to be eliminated.
Egan's final week of auditions, during which she sang for Menken for the first time, was particularly challenging. On her last day of auditioning, Egan auditioned opposite several different actors trying out for the roles of the Beast and Gaston. As the day concluded, Roth directed Egan to approach the role as "a straight ingénue", and she was ultimately cast upon proving capable of playing Belle both straight and comically. Only afterward did Egan celebrate by finally renting and watching the entire film for the first time. Although Egan did not feel particularly pressured about the role, she was grateful to be surrounded by a supporting cast of veteran Broadway performers.
Actor Terrence Mann was cast as the Beast. Mann had previously performed as Javert in Les Misérables, for which he was nominated for a Tony Award. For his final audition for Disney management, Mann performed for a large audience comprising Disney executives and secretaries in a theatre located on 42nd Street, which he felt was in stark contrast to the usual method of auditioning for six to eight people in a dark theatre. Actor Gary Beach was cast as Lumiere. Beach had seen Beauty and the Beast premiere at the El Capitan Theatre, prior to which he had watched a stage rendition of the film, and thoroughly enjoyed both. Beach was particularly drawn to Jerry Orbach's rendition of "Be Our Guest" in his role as Lumiere, thinking, "Now why can't I get a part like that". Two years later, Beach received a call from casting director Jay Binder inviting him to play Lumiere during their workshop of Beauty and the Beast, but kept turning down the offer due to having prior commitments to an upcoming show starring comedian Carol Burnett. It was only at Burnett's insistence that Beach finally accepted. Amidst a cast of relatively obscure actors, Tom Bosley, famous for his roles on the television series Happy Days and Murder, She Wrote, became the show's most recognizable performer when he was cast as Belle's father Maurice.
All eight of the film's original songs were retained for the Broadway adaptation. The song "Human Again" had originally been written for the film, but it was ultimately abandoned due to time and story constraints; the musical number was finally resurrected for and included in the production. Composer Alan Menken, who had both scored and written the film's songs alongside lyricist Howard Ashman, returned to the project to write six new songs for the musical. Lyricist Tim Rice joined Menken to co-write the new numbers, replacing Ashman who had died in 1991, before the film was released. Both Menken and Rice initially approached the project with some resistance; Menken's emotional attachment to the music he had written with Ashman made him fear Disney's vision of a Broadway musical would transform Beauty and the Beast into an attraction too similar to what one would find at Walt Disney World. Meanwhile, Rice, who had previously worked as composer Andrew Lloyd Webber's lyricist on the Broadway musicals Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita, was hesitant to replace Ashman in fear of worsening Beauty and the Beast. Notably, Rice had similarly replaced Ashman to write the remaining songs for Disney's Aladdin (1992) after the lyricist died. Ultimately, the collaboration resulted in approximately half of the Broadway score having co-writing credits by Menken and Ashman, while the remaining half are Menken and Rice compositions. The Menken-Rice songs are sometimes billed as "additional songs composed by [Alan] Menken and lyrics by Tim Rice." On working on the musical without Ashman, Menken explained that "The main challenge ... was blending the lyrics of Tim Rice with those of Howard. In the end, the finished score has a quality all its own; a hybrid between" Ashman and Rice's styles. Elaborating on the main difference between writing songs for the stage as opposed to film, Menken stated that the lack of close-ups and montages in a live musical production creates a requirement for more singing material in order "to provide the same kind of illumination that intimate facial expression provides."
Most of the new material focused on character development, such as Gaston's "Me", Belle's "Home" and the Beast's "If I Can't Love Her". Some new songs, Maurice's fatherly ballad "No Matter What" for example, were written to serve as "time-servers". In 1998, a seventh song entitled "A Change in Me" was written four years into production's run specifically for R&B singer Toni Braxton when she joined the cast to play Belle, and appears during the show's second act. The idea for the song originated while Braxton was still in negotiations with Disney to appear in the show for a total of three months, but various circumstances led to the singer constantly delaying signing the contract. It was not until Braxton had dinner with Menken, Rice and West that she finally agreed to sign the contract under the condition that a brand new song be written specifically for her, which an intoxicated Rice had drunkenly offered and promised. When confronted by Roth about his promise upon learning of it from Braxton a few days later, within 24 hours Rice successfully discovered a location within the musical in which to include a new song, specifically "Where Belle tells Maurice about how the time that she spent with the Beast in his castle has changed her." That song ultimately became the ballad "A Change in Me", which lyrically addresses the ways in which Belle's initial motivations have ultimately changed during her imprisonment, explaining to Maurice that she has matured and no longer longs for what she originally cited in "Belle (Reprise)". Braxton premiered the song in the form of a live performance on The Rosie O'Donnell Show. Both the song and Braxton's performance were well received, and "A Change in Me" has been included in the musical ever since. Eisner especially enjoyed the song, demanding that it be included in international productions as well, to which he personally traveled in order to teach it to the cast.
Music supervision was handled by Michael Kosarin, with sound design by John Petrafesa Jr. Unlike in the film, Belle actually performs and dances alongside the enchanted objects during "Be Our Guest", which resembles "a high-energy Vegas number" similar to the musical Ziegfeld Follies. The original Broadway cast recording of Beauty and the Beast was released by Walt Disney Records in 1994. Similar cast albums followed suit, including Australian and Japanese recordings in 1994 and 1996, respectively. "A Change in Me" has yet to be included on any official English-language cast recordings.
Stanley Meyer designed the production's set. Following Disney's instructions to "to make the animated film come to life", Meyer's set was very much a literal interpretation of the film. Meyer found it "tricky" to translate two-dimensional environments into a three-dimensional world. The West Wing's appearance mirrors that of its resident the Beast, being hideous on the outside but beautiful when the audience is finally taken inside of it. In stark contrast to popular musicals The Phantom of the Opera and Into the Woods, Beauty and the Beast's set resembles a hybrid of Gothic Victorian and Louis Quinze. Disney hired costume designer Ann Hould-Ward to design the musical's costumes because the studio enjoyed a "certain aesthetic" she had used in her previous work, and thus allowed her much creative freedom. Roth was particularly impressed with the designer's contributions to the musicals Sunday in the Park With George and Into the Woods. Hould-Ward accepted Disney's offer because she was interested in seeing exactly how a corporate company producing a Broadway musical for the first time would "change the Broadway world." Conceptualization began in summer 1992. For research purposes, Disney encouraged Hould-Ward to reference the animated film; she also researched clothing worn throughout the late 18th century, during which the original fairy tale was written, and spent one year discovering how household items looked during the mid-1700s. Additionally, Hould-Ward visited with Beauty and the Beast's original animators, spending one week learning how they created their characters to ensure that they would be recognizable to those who had seen the film. However, the designer also decided that her own creations would not exactly replicate the film's. Basing the costumes on the Rococo art movement, Hould-Ward presented her initial ideas to Eisner and then-Disney president Frank Wells. Once approved, Hould-Ward and her team spent the following year creating prototypes of each major costume. With an unusually long work schedule of two years, Hould-Ward recalled that "this kind of timeline ... wasn't the norm in a Broadway musical" at the time.
The process of designing Beauty and the Beast's costumes was more collaborative between designer and actor than most other Broadway productions Hould-Ward had previously worked on, and she frequently sought input from the cast to make sure they were able to move. Designing Belle's costumes was an "easy" task for Hould-Ward; the character is initially dressed in standard Disney heroine attire until replaced by more elaborate costumes once Belle meets the Beast. Hould-Ward based the character's famous yellow ballgown on several historic portraits. The gown became the first costume built for the production in order to accommodate Disney's mandate to market the dress in photoshoots and commercials starring Egan and Mann, six months prior to rehearsals. Weighing 45 pounds, the dress is a combination of various patterns and materials, including a hoop skirt, silk, brocade, beading, flowers and bows. Too large to fit inside Egan's dressing room after the ballroom sequence, undressing required assistance from three backstage crew members who used wires to hoist the dress up into the rafters, where it would be stored until the next performance. A lot of time was spent designing the Beast's costume, the creation of which was especially challenging due to requirements to "allow enough of the performer to show through." Hould-Ward's initial designs for the Beast were constantly rejected by Katzenberg, who reiterated that she "put the movie onstage" until the producer realized that the excessive prosthetics were limiting Mann's vocal performance. A wire frame was also used to maintain the costume's shape, which evokes heavy metal fashion until ultimately substituted for a black Oscar de la Renta-inspired velvet suit when the Beast finally transforms back into a prince. Hould-Ward designed the leads' costumes from the perspective of her daughter Leah, explaining, "when Leah comes to see it, she remembers from the movie that the Beast was in that blue jacket. Leah expects that blue jacket, and if you don't give it to her, she and a lot of other ten-year-olds are going to be sad". At the same time, the designer wanted her creations to be equally as interesting on an intellectual level for parents to enjoy also.
The challenge of designing Belle and the Beast's costumes paled in comparison to the difficulty of creating the enchanted objects, a combination of intricate wiring, prosthetics and pyrotechnics. Scale was the most prominent "obstacle" for Hould-Ward's to overcome: "The problem was the presentation of an actor as a life-sized teapot when the characters in the film were so little in comparison". Because the castle's enchanted staff is slowly transforming into objects, shown at various stages of transformation without ever completely becoming the objects themselves, Hould-Ward was required to create several different costumes for each character in order to depict the transformation as the show progresses. Meanwhile, the costume of Lumiere alone was built by a team of forty people, including a creator of the prosthetic candle, hair and Vacuform specialist; the pyrotechnician, man responsible for equipping the costume's pyro unit with butane and man operating the butane tank were each separate people. While transforming animation into real life, Hould-Ward also worked on incorporating the human body each costume, explaining, "I wanted the reality of the real person rather than the fantasy of the object ... The essence of my job is to allow my real actors to take you to this fantastical place." A system of wired frames was used to help the actors support their characters' heavy garments. Such elaborate costumes had never been designed for a Broadway production before. Cogsworth's costume features a fully functioning clock on his face. Meanwhile, Madame de la Grande Bouche was the production's most expensive costume.
The musical originally relied on heavy prosthetics and elaborate costumes in an attempt to make the musical resemble the film as closely as possible. In an attempt to replicate the film's famous movie poster, Egan was dressed in flats while Mann was positioned on stilts to establish a more dramatic height difference. According to Egan, the studio "didn't trust the audience's ability to suspend disbelief, something theater-goers are routinely asked to do." However, the company finally began to relent as the production neared Houston tryouts after a final run-through during which the actors did not wear costumes; thus, the prosthetics were gradually lessened and replaced by make up for the Beast and enchanted objects during 1993 previews. The elaborate costumes resulted in their fair share of technical difficulties, malfunctions and performance restrictions, many of which manifested during the seven-week tryouts in Houston. The costumes left little room for the performers to change between scenes, and air conditioners were fastened to them to regulate their temperatures. In general, the weight of the enchanted objects' costumes limited their dancing. Chiropractors and therapists remained on standby to assist Fowler, whose Mrs. Potts costume required her to always keep one arm in the air. Beach compared holding up the two propane tanks used to represent Lumiere's candles to carrying two hams around a grocery store two and a half hours. To build his stamina, Beach would carry the tanks during rehearsal. Beach's hand caught fire during one performance, which he did not notice until Mann subtly pointed it out using "furtive head nods". While dancing, the inertia of Egan's heavy ballgown caused its skirt to constantly pull her in the opposite direction of whichever way she turned. Mann likened performing in the Beast's costume to wearing several heavy winter coats, comparing the wig to "four Angora cats and gaffer taping them to your head and then running around the block 10 or 12 times." Disney was outraged when, after their first performance at the Palace Theatre, The New York Times published caricaturist Al Hirschfeld's line drawing interpretation of Belle and the Beast's pose, in which Belle's yellow gown was colored pink, and the Beast's tuxedo appeared greenish as opposed to royal blue. When Disney confronted Hirschfeld, the artist defended his work, explaining, "The costumes may have been blue and yellow, but they made me feel green and pink." Hould-Ward adjusted the costumes to accommodate the locations as the production traveled to various theaters.