Looking into the heart of an all-new ‘Beauty’
By Liz Koops
Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, one of the best-loved musicals of all time has now embarked on a lavish and visually re-imagined new tour presented by Broadway Entertainment group FZ LLC and NETworks Presentations LLC. The show is set to be performed in Abu Dhabi’s du Forum on Yas Island on 30th October – 8th November and tickets are currently available at www.ticketmaster.ae.
“We are thrilled and honoured to be bringing a musical of such a high caliber to the du Forum and one that is so well-loved by all. For the very first time in the Middle East, a genuine Disney Broadway production is being performed and we cannot wait to introduce the region to the magic of Broadway. At FLASH we are always striving to provide new and exciting ways to entertain our customers and we are certain that Beauty and the Beast will succeed in thoroughly entertaining all who watch it. From the streets of Broadway to the shores of the UAE, Beauty and the Beast will be performed with the original set design as well as the cast and costumes which we are hugely looking forward to being a part of,” said Reeva Bains, vice president – marketing, FLASH Entertainment.
It’s easy to understand why. Its classic story — of a beautiful village girl, Belle, who is first repelled by, then attracted to a gruff yet big-hearted Beast –is indeed, as one of the show’s numbers has it, “a tale as old as time.” The songs (music by Alan Menken; lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice) are contagiously feel-good. And the musical’s appeal crosses age barriers: truly, “Beauty” is an experience that can be enjoyed by child and adult alike. Many of the songs – the charming “Belle,” the infectious “Something There,” and the spectacular hospitality anthem “Be Our Guest” – were written for the 1991 animated movie, which was the first – and until 2010, the only – animated film ever to be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar. The movie’s status not just in cinematic history but in critical lore was cemented when the New York Times’ then theater critic Frank Rich, called Beauty and the Beast the best musical of the year – in any format.
Disney took the cue, and soon started things rolling for the live adaptation. Several new songs, as well as the book by Linda Woolverton, were written for the stage version, which opened on Broadway at the Palace Theater on April 18, 1994, and went on to become the seventh longest running production in Broadway history. Rob Roth, who directed the Broadway premiere and is back at the helm for the new tour, says that the “story of the show is about seeing past the exterior of a person and into his or her
heart.” He says that conveying that feeling is key to any production of “Beauty.” What’s fresh about the tour, he adds, is not just the timeless moral but a new approach to the visuals.
“So few directors have the opportunity to work on a show several years later in a new form,” Roth says. “I’m lucky that way, and I’m also lucky because I never get bored with ‘Beauty.’” Stan Meyer, the scenic designer both for the 1994 Broadway version and for the new production, says that the former staging was, essentially, the 1991 movie made live. The latter is “a departure from that.” He explains: “We did a lot of research that involved eastern-European wood carving and gilded manuscripts. The new version is an illuminated manuscript come to life.”
Audiences will delight in the eye-popping storybook shapes and colors that Meyer and the other original-version designers (Ann Hould- Ward: costumes; Natasha Katz: lighting) have re-imagined. The production’s look, adds Meyer, “is more evocative of whimsy and very, very romantic.”