Producing Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast”
Adapted for the stage by Alan Menken, Tim Rice, and Linda Woolverton
Performance length: about 2 and ½ hrs. with a 15-minute intermission.
SET DESIGN: Hard
COSTUME DESIGN: Hard
You can buy this artwork and use it for your own production of “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.” click here
CAST POTENTIAL: This play supports a large range of talent and types. The cast will most certainly enjoy portraying some of these fantastical characters with wit, charm, and grace.
CROWD REACTION: This is an old favorite that should draw a large audience seeking a familiar story, characters, and songs.
Based on the classic 1991 Disney film, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast has found great success on stage as Broadway’s 7th longest running musical. It is about Belle, a young girl with a passion for the world of adventure found in her books. But when her loving father, Maurice, gets imprisoned in a mystical castle, she finds herself swept away in that world of adventure. Ultimately, Belle makes an arrangement with the castle’s master, a horrid Beast, to release her father and imprison her in his place.
While there, Belle meets and becomes friends with the inhabitants of the castle, notably a talking candlestick, clock, and tea kettle, and eventually grows to love the once tyrannical Beast. What Belle does not know, however, is that the Beast is cursed to live as a beast until he can learn to love another and earn their love too. Because of Belle’s gentle nature, the Beast does indeed learn to love and even sacrifices his life to save Belle’s. As he dies, Belle’s tears of love resurrect the monster and transform him once again to a handsome prince.
The tale is one of discovery, love, and redemption. It teaches us that true beauty lies within and that, through love, even the greatest Beast can transform into a beautiful soul. The stage version in enhanced by a few additional songs not in the movie, including the show stopping “If I Can’t Love Her” and “Human Again.”
Because this is a fairy tale, actors should be expected to play characters that are “larger than life.” Although, the greater challenge for the actor is to take these familiar characters, one’s made famous by the movie and Broadway, and creatively infuse them with their own wit and personality.
This play should support actors of all types. There’s the brutish Beast and Gaston, the beautiful ingénue, Belle, and the fun character roles, such as Cogsworth, Lumière, Mrs. Potts, and the scene-stealing LeFou. Chip is often cast as a child, but this role can be satisfied with a younger teenage boy or girl.
Because this play is a fairytale, there is a heavy emphasis on spectacle. Like the acting, the scenic elements must be “larger than life.” Generally set designs for the play consist of colorful, “cartoonish” schemes. Given the many different settings of the piece – a village, a forest, a tavern, and a castle – set designers usually establish locations through suggestive pieces or units.
The costumes are often the star of the piece (second to the actors, of course). A skillful costume designer must somehow make the actors look like inanimate objects, while still maintaining the humanity of the characters. The cast is also generally very large, so the drapers and designers will most certainly have their work cut-out for them.
Any director undertaking this project should expect a challenge, but one very worth the risk. With solid acting and singing, the performance is destined to be a crowd pleaser. But, the spectacle involved in making the piece will inevitably draw focus during the final weeks of rehearsals.
The most difficult challenge is staging the Beast’s transformation. Because the Beast’s face and physique are disguised by his large costume, double casting may be the key to executing a quick transformation on stage. I’ve seen smoke used to mask the switch. I’ve also seen a fly system used to lift the Beast into the sky, while the prince switches places with him on the stage.
I’ve always found this musical a joy to watch. Though, every time I’ve seen it, there was a noticeable lull in the second act. Most of the plot development occurs in the first act, so it becomes difficult to keep an audience engaged during the second half of the show. Fortunately, there are a few songs that pick-up the recharge the production, such as “Human Again,” “Maison Des Lunes,” and “The Beauty and the Beast.”