When people are asked, ‘What is your favourite Disney movie of all time?’ the answer is often the same – Beauty and the Beast. This 1991 animated film, created, of course, by Disney, is so adored that it is damned near impossible to imagine anyone not having seen it, or even worse, not have fallen in love with it. The timeless tale of loving the beauty within someone, and not judging by appearances has gone down in history as being one of the most successful films in the Disney franchise.
It goes without saying that such a beautiful musical film would make an equally, if not more beautiful, stage production. In 1994, Beauty and the Beast took to the Broadway stage, with extra songs by Howard Ashman, Alan Menken and Tim Rice. Within a few years, it had become an incredible success, and established itself as eighth longest-running show with over five thousand performances.
And now SPX WATERDALE Players Inc is bringing this show to life one more time.
SPX WATERDALE Players Inc is a well-established youth theatre community, based in Melbourne’s North East. Founded in 2004, WATERDALE presents three projects each year, ranging from big scale musicals, to plays and Gala events. With shows such as Annie and Pippin under their belt, WATERDALE has no problem taking on well-known musicals, and their tight-knit community helps create these fantastic shows.
But still, Sarah Cuthbert, the Co-Producing Director, says its ‘hard work’ getting the show on its feet. “From the start, we knew this was going to involve lots of hard work- Preparing a show, with dialogue, blocking, lots of well known songs in a small and intimate venue in just 10 weeks!”
The cast is feeling the pressure as well, according to Jacqueline Levitas, who will grace the stage as the star character, Belle. “We are under a extremely tight schedule with only a 10 week rehearsal period, so from casting up until now, things have been moving extremely quickly! As a cast member, it has been critical to have all my lines down, and to be coming to rehearsal with an open mind and a lot of focus because we cram so much into every Sunday its literally impossible to slack off. Also, with short rehearsal periods comes a short amount of time to promote the show, so each cast member was buddied up and assigned an area of Melbourne to go and promote the show together. This was a great way for cast members to bond, but also to fill seats for what's going to be an awesome show!”
With this hands on approach to promotion there is no doubt that interest has been piqued in the general public, but with such a well-known show the future audiences may have expectations. Nathan Wright, who plays the womanizing candlestick, Lumière, believes they are well prepared to handle such expectations. “I expect audiences who love the show to truly enjoy our interpretation. While it is very important to provide some originality with the characters, I believe we have kept enough of what people can expect, with enough originality to keep the show fresh and memorable. ”
James Terry, Co-Producing Director, adds, “While we have tried to stick to the original Disney style, presenting it in a concert format has meant that some more innovative and creative means of conveying the story have been employed. Our versatile ensemble is seated on stage for the entire show, portraying a variety of comical village characters- whilst the enchanted objects and principal characters lead the show in spectacular costume. I think it definitely has something for everyone.”
Of course, with translating an animated film into a stage production there are difficulties for the cast to face. Previous casts of the show have had to take these cartoon characters and make them real, a task that is deceptively difficult. However Levitas finds this challenge one that can only enhance her portrayal of Belle. “I think it’s harder to copy a cartoons performance over someone on a stage,” she says, “so it’s easier to still make your performance your own, rather than ending up like all the Belles before you. The movie character of Belle is so carefree, and so humble. She moves so gracefully, yet can be so rough and I like that about her. To me, the movie character of Belle epitomizes everything I remember from the movie, and I'd like to relive that. ”
Disney’s Beauty and the Beast not only provides an entertaining and visually stunning production, it also is packed full of heartfelt and priceless comments on life. As with any fairytale, it was created with the intention of teaching children the moral lessons of life. “The first published version of the story of Beauty and the Beast was actually in 1740,” Cuthbert says. “I think it truly is a ‘Tale as Old as Time’ with the themes of Love, Identity and Family shining through the beautiful score.”
Levitas adds, “As kids you don't really see the reality behind the talking clocks and dancing cooking utensils, but as I revisit the story you see love, fear, anger, comedy, helplessness, life, death and also learn not to judge a book by its cover.”
This magical fairytale is playing for only five shows at the Northcote Town Hall. To book tickets and relive that wonderful Disney enchantment with SPX WATERDALE Players Inc, follow this link:
Images by Bronwyn Ward.