New take on classic love story

‘Disney's Beauty and the Beast' national tour stops in Gainesville with new songs, scenes


Published: Thursday, January 20, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 19, 2011 at 11:48 a.m.

Even classics need a makeover sometimes.

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The new touring production of “Disney's Beauty and the Beast” was created by the original Broadway team including costume designer Ann Hould-Ward, who won a Tony for her work on the musical. COURTESY OF JOAN MARCUS/NETWORKS PRESENTATIONS

Facts

‘Disney's Beauty and the Beast'

What: National tour of Disney musical reworked by creators of the original Broadway production
When: 7:30 p.m. Monday, 6 p.m. Tuesday, 7:30 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, 315 Hull Road
Tickets: $40-$60, $20 for students with ID
Info: 392-2787 or www.performingarts.ufl.edu

“Disney's Beauty and Beast,” the immensely popular animated film turned musical, ran on Broadway from 1994 to 2007, and now the story has been reinvented with new songs and scenes for the latest national tour, which stops at the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts for three performances Monday through Wednesday.

The new production is produced by NETworks Presentations and includes the original creators and entire creative team of the original Broadway production at the helm, including director Rob Roth, choreographer Matt West and Tony-award winning costume designer Ann Hould-Ward.



While the last North American tour of “Disney's Beauty and the Beast” closed in 2003, the new tour production began last February in Rhode Island, and Sabina Petra, who plays the nurturing Mrs. Potts, said audiences have had a positive response to the refreshed show.

“With this production, the original creators felt free to do what they always wanted the show to be,” she said during a phone interview from a tour stop in Atlanta. “They cut certain scenes and songs and added a few scenes ... They treated the whole project anew.

“They are very receptive to it,” she said about audiences' reactions. “Most of the people have not been fortunate to see it when it was on Broadway, so we are thrilled that we can bring it to them.”

Petra worked as an understudy to Mrs. Potts in the Netherlands production of the musical, but this is her first major stage production as a principal character. She said she works hard to do Mrs. Potts justice and that it's very important to her to deliver a great rendition of this beloved character.

“I love how strong she is. She's so practical and professional, but still warm and strong and selfless,” said Petra, a 29-year-old Dutch actress who moved to America four years ago. “She wants everyone to have a happy ending and that's a beautiful trait that she has.”

The production still features the memorable, Oscar-winning score from the animated film with music by Alan Menken and lyrics by the late Howard Ashman, but includes additional songs with music by Menken and lyrics by Tim Rice as well.

Petra said she believes the music is a major factor in the story's stage success and why it remains such a favorite among several generations.

“They are very classic songs that people remember and love, so the theater has the feeling of a film because it is underscored so much by the music,” she said. The costumes also add to the magic of the show. She said her teapot costume was stiff, heavy and made of wood — quite opposite of what she wears on stage now.

“The beautiful thing about my costume is that it's very light. It's easy to move in. The costume does not restrict my movement in anyway,” Petra explained. “It is very hot. I have on four layers of clothing, but it's nothing compared to the Beast ... so I can't complain too much.”

Compared to the Broadway musical, Petra said the sets are “a little more minimalistic.” A new character, a gargoyle, was even introduced to the production to change the scenes and move the sets around.

“Because this is a touring production, they had to figure out how to be inventive, how to make the costumes and sets look as grand, but also easily to move around and fold up,” she said.

Director Roth said it's been a wonderful experience to reunite with the original to work on the new production.

“As a director, it is rare to have the opportunity to revisit your work 15 years later,” Roth said in a press release. “Hopefully I've grown and developed as an artist, along with my collaborators, and we can bring 15 years of experience to this new production. We have remained very close as a team over the years of producing the show around the world, and it has been so much fun getting together to re-explore and re-invent the show for this new NETworks tour.”

Despite the tweaks in the production, Petra said the romantic story has not changed and audiences will still find the overall message touching and inspiring.

“People just really want to believe that true love exists, that people can fall in love with someone for who they are and not what they look like,” she said. “Everyone in life strives for true love ... and it just gives you a warm and fuzzy feeling to see it happen on stage.”

Contact Lashonda Stinson Curry at 374-5038 or lashonda.stinson@gvillesun.com.

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