The Durham Performing Arts Center is bringing back Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, based on the 1991 Disney animated film, on Oct. 8-13 as a “Broadway Encore Special.” (Columbia, MD-based NETworks Presentations, LLC’s new-and-improved version of the 1994 Broadway musical began its current tour in February 2010 and first played DPAC on June 8-13, 2010.)
Beauty and the Beast is a family-friendly fractured fairytale that features memorable melodies by Alan Menken and lively lyrics by the late Howard Ashman and Baron Andrew Lloyd Webber’s frequent collaborator Sir Tim Rice, plus an effervescent script by Linda Woolverton, based on her screenplay for the Academy Award®-winning movie.
Original Broadway scenic designer Stanley A. Meyer, lighting designer Natasha Katz, hair designer David H. Lawrence, and 1994 Tony Award®-winning costume designer Ann Hould-Ward all reprise their roles for the current national tour. But the musical staging of associate director Sam Scalamoni and associate choreographer Connor Gallagher is a streamlined version of the spectacle that original Broadway director Rob Roth and choreographer Matt West’s conjured up for the show’s premiere on the Great White Way.
“When [the Broadway musical version of] Beauty and the Beast started, it was supposed to look like a cartoon,” recalls lighting designer Natasha Katz, who earned her first Tony nomination for her work on the show. She says, “The tour is very different from the original version, but the lighting is the same. It captures the feeling of the movie. It’s got the same colors.”
Katz says, “This is not an animated film. We had to turn [Beauty and the Beast] into a theatrical experience [that could satisfy] audience expectations.” She notes that the biggest difference between the Broadway version and the current national tour of Beauty and the Beast is, “We don’t have a huge castle. We have wonderful vignettes of the castle. So, instead of lighting a big piece of scenery, I’m lighting places in the castle.
“That’s made the show more cinematic,” claims Natasha Katz. She adds, “There are more closeups in the show, instead of wide shots….
“I set [the lighting design] up originally in Providence, RI, where the tour began in February 2010],” Katz says, “and I went to a couple of tour stops and checked in with the show.”
But her job is to train the electricians and stage managers to execute her lighting design night after night. Katz says, “We have a wonderful crew. Otherwise, the show wouldn’t look as good as it does.”
Disney’s 1991 animated motion-picture version of Beauty and the Beast, directed by Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise, featured the voices of Paige O’Hara as Belle and Robby Benson as the Beast. The film won the 1992 Academy Awards for Best Music, Original Score (Alan Menken) and Best Music, Original Song (“Beauty and the Beast,” with music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Ashman). The academy also nominated Beauty and the Beast for Best Picture of 1992, and the film had two other candidates for the Best Music, Original Song Oscar®: “Be Our Guest” and “Belle.”
The Broadway musical version of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, which incorporated the title tune and “Be Our Guest” and “Belle” as an integral part of its score, made debut on the Great White Way on April 18, 1994 at the Palace Theatre and later transferred to the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, where it closed on July 29, 2007 after a combined total of 5,461 performances. That show starred Susan Egan as the beautiful Belle and former Raleigh actor and director Terrence Mann as the (initially) ferocious Beast.
Although the show was nominated for the 1994 Tony Awards for Best Musical, Best Original Score, Best Book of a Musical, Best Direction of a Musical (Rob Roth), Best Lighting Design (Natasha Katz), and Best Actor, Actress, and Featured Actor in a Musical (Terrence Mann, Susan Egan, and Gary Beach as the human candelabra Lumiere), Beauty and the Beast only won the Tony for Best Costume Design (Ann Hould-Ward).
The 2010-13 national tour of Beauty and the Beast currently stars Hilary Maiberger as the Beauty (a.k.a. Belle) and Darick Pead as the Beast. The show co-stars Tim Rogan as the egotistical huntsman Gaston, Hassan Nazari-Robati as Lumiere, James May as the talking clock Cogsworth, Kristin Stewart as the teapot Mrs. Potts, Paul Crane as the eccentric inventor and Belle’s father Maurice, and Jordan Aragon as Gaston’s bumbling sidekick Lefou.
Beauty and the Beast’s Broadway and national-tour lighting designer Natasha Katz was born and grew up in New York City, except for her 11th grade year, when she lived in France. “That definitely informed the rest of my life in terms of cultures and getting to know different people,” she says.
Growing up in the Big Apple, Katz says, “I always knew that I wanted to work in theater, but I was never interested in acting or performing.”
She attended Oberlin College in Oberlin, OH, majored in theater, and did an internship in 1979 — for extra credit — with Tony Award- and a Drama Desk Award-winning lighting designer Roger Morgan. She says she had done some lighting design at Oberlin College, but characterized working with Roger Morgan in Philadelphia and New York on Richard Rodgers’ last musical, I Remember Mama, as “an extraordinary experience.”
After earning her first Tony Award nomination for Beauty and the Beast in 1994, Natasha Katz earned her second Tony nomination for Twelfth Night in 1999. But the third time was the charm for Katz, who won the 2000 Tony Award for Best Lighting Design for Aida. She subsequently won the 2007 Tony for Best Lighting Design of a Play for The Coast of Utopia [Part 3: Salvage], and the 2012 Tony for Best Lighting Design of a Musical for Once, which will play DPAC on Jan 21-26, 2014. The American Theatre Wing awarded her the Hewes Design Award in 2007.
What does a lighting designer do? “We start as storytellers,” explains Natasha Katz, “like everyone else in the theater. We set the mood — almost like a film director — and we tell people where to look. If the show is a musical, we work hand-in-hand with the music. If there’s a chord variation, the lighting can mirror that musical emotion.”
Katz is currently working on the lighting design for the upcoming Broadway musical version of Disney’s 1992 animated film Aladdin, which is scheduled to open on March 20, 2014. She says its her fifth Disney project. In addition to Beauty and the Beast, the other four were Aida (2000), Tarzan (2006), The Little Mermaid (2008), and the 2004 jukebox musical Disney’s On the Record.
“Working with Disney is heaven,” claims Natasha Katz. “… They’re incredibly supportive of every artist who works on the show, and they do everything that they can to make us comfortable.
“The head of Disney [Theatrical Group] is Thom Schumacher,” she adds, “and it’s not like it’s this behemoth corporation. There are real people behind the name Disney.”
SECOND OPINION: Oct. 3rd Durham, NC Herald-Sun preview by Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: http://www.heraldsun.com/lifestyles/entertainment/x249848419/Living-her-dream-as-Belle; and Oct. 1st Raleigh, NC BroadwaywWorld.com Raleigh review by Larisa Mount: http://www.broadwayworld.com/raleigh/article/BWW-Interviews-BEAUTY-AND-THE-BEAST-Choreographer-Talks-Shows-Past-and-Present-20131001.
The Durham Performing Arts Center presents DISNEY’S BEAUTY AND THE BEAST at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 8-10, 2 and 8 p.m. Oct. 11, and 1:30 and 6:30 p.m. Oct. 12 at 123 Vivian St., Durham, North Carolina 27701, in the American Tobacco District.
TICKETS: $27.25-$90.25 (including fees).
DPAC Box Office: 919-680-ARTS (2787), email@example.com, or http://www.dpacnc.com/events/how_to_buy_tickets.
Ticketmaster: 800-745-3000 or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115558/1741572.
GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 919/281-0587, Groups@DPACnc.com, or http://www.dpacnc.com/events/group_services.
VIDEO PREVIEWS: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uizVpwvlNRI.
DPAC CONTENT ADVISORY: “Most parents would find this program suitable for ages 5 and above. All guests require a ticket, regardless of age. No one under the age of 5 admitted into the theater, and children must be able to sit quietly in their own seat without disturbing other guests.”
Beauty and the Beast (1740 folktale): http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/type0425c.html (Beauty and the Beast: Folktales of Type 425C, translated and/or edited by D.L. Ashliman) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beauty_and_the_Beast (Wikipedia).
Beauty and the Beast (1991 animated film): http://movies.disney.com/beauty-and-the-beast (official website) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beauty_and_the_Beast_%281991_film%29 (Wikipedia).
Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (1994 Broadway and 1997 West End musical): http://www.mtishows.com/show_detail.asp?showid=000262 (Music Theatre International), http://www.ibdb.com/show.php?ID=1895 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beauty_and_the_Beast_%28musical%29 (Wikipedia).
The Tour: http://www.beautyandthebeastontour.com/ (official website).
Study Guide: http://www.tuts.com/Images/SeasonShowDocs/beauty_study.pdf (Theatre Under the Stars of Houston, TX).
Alan Menken (composer): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Menken (unofficial website) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Menken (Wikipedia).
Howard Ashman (lyricist): http://www.howardashman.com/ (official website) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howard_Ashman (Wikipedia).
Sir Tim Rice (lyricist): http://www.timrice.co.uk/ (official website) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tim_Rice (Wikipedia).
Linda Woolverton (librettist): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linda_Woolverton (Wikipedia).
NETworks Presentations, LLC (producer): http://www.networksontour.com/ (official website).
Natasha Katz (lighting designer): http://americantheatrewing.org/biography/detail/natasha_katz (American Theatre Wing bio), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natasha_Katz (Wikipedia), and http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=25733 (Internet Broadway Database).
Robert W. McDowell has written articles for The News & Observer, The Raleigh Times, Spectator Magazine, CVNC, and Triangle Arts and Entertainment, all based in Raleigh. He edits and publishes two FREE weekly e-mail newsletters. Triangle Review provides comprehensive, in-depth coverage of local performing-arts events. (Start your FREE subscription by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org and typing SUBSCRIBE TR in the Subject: line.) McDowell also maintains a FREE list of movie sneak previews. (To subscribe, e-mail email@example.com and type SUBSCRIBE FFL FREE in the Subject: line.)