Thursday, February 6, 2020

Musical of the Month: Disney's Beauty and the Beast

We are so glad you seem to like our new feature series, Musical of the Month! This month's featured show is Disney's Beauty and the Beast, a show that is (gulp!) over a quarter of a century old. Here is a property that never seems to far away from headlines, be it movie versions, local productions, national tours or revival rumors. Just yesterday, Disney + announced that season two of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series will be centered around the East High gang putting on the show. (For the record, we selected this title long before yesterday. I already know what December's MotM will be!) 

Beauty and the Beast was the show that started a whole new era of Broadway musicals, and it established Disney as a major player in theatrical stage productions. It was a unique and wonderful experience - especially at the time - and it remains one of the highlights of my theater-going career. Of course, I loved the animated film, which got me in the door of the Palace Theatre, but it was the overwhelming spectacle and powerful performances that made me return several times. (If you only saw the watered down, though still nice version that moved to the Lunt-Fontanne, you have no idea what you missed.)

Musical of the Month:
Disney's Beauty and the Beast

The Plot:

Disney, of course, put it's own magical spin on the classic fairy tale with an enchanted mansion, a magical flower that portents doom, and a staff who is morphing into inanimate household items. If their master, the hurt and angry Beast can find true love before the last petal on that flower falls, all of them will be restored to good health and be human again. Enter Belle, the beauty (but very much more than that), sacrifices her freedom to save her father from the Beast, and stays with him as a prisoner. She eventually sees through his rough exterior and ends up saving him from the handsome but very beastly Gaston. She and the Beast fall in love and all is as it once was.

The Stats:

  • The show played 46 previews beginning March 9, 1994, opening on April 18, 1994 at the Palace Theatre.
  • Beauty and the Beast was nominated for 9 Tony Awards including Best Musical, winning one for Ann Hould-Ward's costume designs.
  • It was also nominated for 9 Drama Desk Awards, and original cast member Burke Moses was honored with a Theatre World Award.
  • The show grossed over $1.4 billion worldwide.
  • The show moved to the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre mid-run on November 11, 1999 and closed there after 5,642 performances on July 29, 2007. 

Origins/Productions Timeline:

  • Well, it's a tale as old as time, and actually has its origins in the French story, La Belle et la BĂȘte by novelist Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve, first published in 1740. 
  • There is also a 1946 Jean Cocteau film version which is also part of the animated film's genesis.  

  • Of course, the 1991 Academy Award-winning animated film is the direct basis for the stage version.
  • The stage musical became the first property of Disney Theatricals.
  • The pre-Broadway run took place in Houston in 1991.
  • The Broadway production spawned more than 45 professional productions and tours, both in the United States and internationally.
  • The 1997 West End production won the Olivier Award for Best Musical.

  • A live action version of the animated film (incorporating ideas from the stage version as well) came out in 2017, and was a big financial success.
  • On April 24, 2019,  Broadway revival was announced last year by Disney Theatrical Groups, though no details or a timeline were given.

  • On February 5, 2020, Disney+ announced that the show would be the basis for season 2 of High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.


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