And They All Lived Happily Ever After

by Kasey Kopp, dramaturg

BATB BYU #2After being heaped with accolades and praise from critics and patrons, BYU’s production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast ended its completely sold out run on December 10th. During the post show discussion that followed the performance, cast members and creative team members reflected on the experience of participating in the production and the way that it had shaped and influenced their life for the better. It proved to be a very emotional and bittersweet night for all involved.

Although there was initially some uncertainty as to how the production would look and feel, many feeling that the production concept would not translate to the stage, these fears appear unsubstantial in retrospect. As one cast member explained, “Generally, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is much like a gilded rose…the story is beautiful, but it is steeped in so much spectacle that it somewhat loses its magic and charm. The effects and spectacle become the main storytelling device. Our production attempted to strip away the gold and look at the beautiful rose that is the story of Belle and the Beast.” In visually depicting the musical in a new way, audiences members were more attuned to the story of Beauty and the Beast and, as one audience member explained, “fell in love with this story in a new and exciting way.”

As I reflect on the experience of working on this production, my heart is full of gratitude and joy; it is very bittersweet. Although also initially wary of my favorite musical receiving a new interpretation, I have come to experience firsthand the message of this beautiful story. Working on the show as a crew member and watching the show each night, I would tear up during the titular ballad when Mrs. Potts sings, “Bittersweet and strange, finding you can change, learning you were wrong.” For me, this is the power of this piece–it reminds us that we have the capacity to change and that as we look beyond the exterior and give those around us a second chance, we can find the beauty within. While I thought I understood this prior to working on this piece, this was the biggest takeaway for me from this production.

To conclude, I have included some of my favorite production photos of this beautiful “tale as old as time.” I hope you enjoy them! Continue reading

The Beauty and Her Beast, An Interview with Twyla and Johnny Wilson

by Kasey Kopp, dramaturg

As we’ve explored, Belle and Beast’s love story is known (in some capacity) across the globe–whether that be the well-known Disney musical or a legend or formative story. This week I sat down to learn about the backstory of the power couple who brought this well known romance to the BYU stage and some of the rewards and challenges of performing together.

Johnny and Twyla Wilson as Beast and Belle, respectively.

Johnny and Twyla Wilson as Beast and Belle, respectively.

Johnny and Twyla Wilson were married in 2013 and have loved performing together in this well-known and beloved musical, bringing to life the characters of Belle and Beast. This is not their first time playing opposite one another. They have appeared together in the Frank Wildhorn musical, Bonnie and Clyde, and recently starred as Mary Poppins and Bert in Disney’s Mary Poppins.

When asked about her reaction to receiving the role of Belle, Twyla said that she was “terrified.” She explained that Belle is such an iconic and much-beloved Disney princess and she worried about her performance of the heroine. She said that she was so grateful that “George (Nelson, director) allowed me to bring so much of myself to the character. I get to bring a lot of Twyla to Belle each night and it’s so wonderful and rewarding when I’m told they like my interpretation of Belle because there is so much of me in her.”

Although at times difficult to not break character, the Wilson’s are completely professional in their performances and remain grounded, really taking in the unique and special experience of playing opposite each other on the BYU stage.

When asked about playing opposite his wife and what that experience is like, Johnny said, “The love in a show with any couple is always the foundation of the character’s interactions and so people who aren’t already in love have to build that…since we already bring that, it makes building characters who have that relationship a lot easier because we’ve already got the first task of the job done.” Continue reading

Behind the Scenes At Beauty and the Beast

by Kasey Kopp, dramaturg

This week we take a look at all the work that goes on backstage in order to create a magical night for audience members. As we come to the end of our successful (and sold out!) run, we would like to take you behind the scenes to see just what exactly goes into creating the magic you see onstage!

On the nights of a performance, actors and crew members begin arriving around 5:30 pm. With a cast of over 30 people, the time that people are scheduled to arrive (“call time”) is staggered, allowing those that do not have wigs or extensive makeup to arrive a little later. Regardless, it can become quite crowded backstage!

After signing the attendance role in the green room below the stage, actors begin applying their makeup and getting into costume. Members of the hair and makeup team will supervise and assist with the wigs and any problems that arise with applying makeup. Probably one of their greatest challenges is helping the actresses playing Mrs. Potts and Chip to get into wigs and costumes in under 7 minutes during the show!

Cast members getting into makeup backstage. Photo credit: Nathalie van Empel

Cast members getting into makeup backstage.
Photo credit: Nathalie van Empel

Cast members getting into makeup backstage. Photo credit: Nathalie van Empel

Cast members getting into makeup backstage.
Photo credit: Nathalie van Empel

Cast members getting into makeup backstage. Photo credit: Nathalie van Empel

Cast members getting into makeup backstage.
Photo credit: Nathalie van Empel

Once they are in costume and makeup, actors will attach their microphone and go upstairs for a mic check with a member of the sound team. Every member in the company wears a microphone and completes a sound check prior to every show. If any problems arise during the run of a show, a member of the sound crew is in the green room, below the stage, ready to replace batteries or swap out a defective mic.

Actors are also responsible for placing the props that they need on the set and for setting costume pieces that they will need for quick changes. There are numerous quick changes that take place during the show….many take place within the first few minutes of the show and (some) must be completed in under a minute! While some of these changes occur on stage and in full view of the audience, others are  completed with the assistance of dressers, working in the wings, to help company members make their cues. For many cast and crew members, these quick changes are the most stressful part of the show. Continue reading

Once Upon A Time: Beauty and the Beast Begins at BYU

by Kasey Kopp, dramaturg

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast opens (tomorrow!) Friday, November 20th, in the Pardoe Theater on the BYU campus. After months of preparation and rehearsal, the work of cast and crew will come to fruition this week and we couldn’t be more excited for you to be our guest!

This week we take a look back at the rehearsal process to see the progress of the cast and crew since day one through the stress of tech week, all leading up to our opening night. As this production is a “dance spectacular,” many of the ensemble members have expressed that the elaborate choreography has posed the greatest challenge and been the most rewarding part of participating in this production. Below are some images from the rehearsal process. Perhaps you might be able to guess which numbers are which.

And don’t forget! Stay tuned for production photos, a behind-the-scenes look at what goes on backstage, opening night images, and interviews with cast members–all in the coming weeks!

Our first cast and crew meeting, Sept. 2015

Our first cast and crew meeting, Sept. 2015

"Be Our Guest" Running the show, October, 2015

Running the show, Oct. 2015

"Be Our Guest" Running the show, October, 2015

Running the show, Oct. 2015

Continue reading

Building the Beast: An Interview with Costume Designer Shannon McCurdy

by Kasey Kopp, dramaturg

This week I sat down with costume designer Shannon McCurdy to learn about her process and what inspired her as she was tasked with creating costumes for such a iconic and challenging production.

Shannon is a senior majoring in theatre art studies with an emphasis in costume design. Her design credits include assistant designer for BYU Young Company’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Fisherman and His Wife. She recently received the O. Lee Walker Award for Outstanding Technician.

When asked about her “process” and how she began this daunting project, Shannon indicated that “knowing that George [Nelson, director of Beauty and the Beast] wanted to focus on the themes of the story and take a non-traditional approach, I focused on this idea of change and creating costumes that would reflect that.” As Shannon explained, there will be many moments when the cast will change their costumes right on stage. She also explained that she drew much of her inspiration from fashions of the turn of the century and fashion of the late 19th century, early 20th century.

While the costumes will be a departure from what is seen in a traditional production of Beauty and the Beast, Shannon mentioned that she has been careful to choose colors that are faithful to the color palette that audience members will be familiar with.

Her favorite costume in the show? Belle’s gold dress. “As cliche as it sounds,” she says, “it is my favorite piece in the show.” She explained that while it will be a more simple gown than is traditionally seen, it is beautiful and she hopes that all the girls in the audience will be thinking to themselves, “‘Gosh, I would like one of those in my closet!'” She explained that it was designed to not only be a beautiful gown, but also to highlight the body of the actress playing Belle and essentially be “a beautiful dress on a beautiful girl.” Following is a rendering of Belle’s iconic gold gown and some other exquisite costume renderings.

IMG_3104IMG_3111 Continue reading

Beauty Is Found Within: A Director’s Interview

by Kasey Kopp, dramaturg

This week I sat down with George Nelson, the director of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, to learn a little bit more about his vision for this production and what audience members can expect from this unique production.

Professor Nelson is the head of the play writing program at Brigham Young and has directed many plays and musicals during his time at the university. His credits include Thoroughly Modern Millie, You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown, The Music Man, and recently, White Christmas.  He is an award-winning author, director, playwright, and professor. His new musical Single Wide received critical acclaim during it’s off-Broadway premiere during the New York Musical Theater Festival earlier this year.

georgenelson-454x500Professor Nelson’s concept for this production is centered on telling the story of Belle and Beast – looking on the heart to see the beauty within. To accomplish this, storytelling will be integral to this production. As the show opens, a troupe of performers enters the space and discovers what appears to be an abandoned theater. They discover a storybook – the story of Beauty and the Beast – and proceed to assign roles and tell the story using the costumes and props the find onstage. Stripping the production down from its traditional extravagance, Nelson hopes that audience will connect with the story in new ways. This does not mean that magic will be lacking in this production. Quite the contrary, in fact. (Check back to learn more about this in upcoming weeks!)

In an interview with Nelson, he expressed what he hopes audience members will take away from the production: Continue reading

Just A Little Change, Small To Say The Least

by Kasey Kopp, dramaturg

As we observed last week, the story of Beauty and her Beast has been around for centuries. This week, we will chart the progression of the story from a simple French fairy tale published in the 18th century, to a full fledged movie musical blockbuster and Broadway musical. The following is a timeline that tracks significant adaptations of this tale as old as time and events that have lead up to the creation of this historic piece of film and musical theater.

Painting of Jeanne Marie Leprince de Beaumont

Painting of Jeanne Marie Leprince de Beaumont

1756: Beaumont publishes her version of the tale in France.

1938: Walt Disney releases its first full length animated feature, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  

1946: Jean Cocetau’s film, La belle et la bete, is released. It is the most successful and well known film incarnation prior to the release of the animated Disney film in 1991. It introduced a handsome suitor for Belle, who she rejects as rude and conceited. It also included human arms that supported candelabras in the opulent castle!

A still image from Cocteau's La Belle et la Bête was made in 1946, starring Jean Marais as the Beast and Josette Day as the Beaut.

A still image from Cocteau’s La Belle et la Bête was made in 1946, starring Jean Marais as the Beast and Josette Day as the Beaut.

Promotional poster for the second season of Beauty and the Beast

Promotional poster for the second season of Beauty and the Beast

1987: Beauty and the Beast, a television series adapted from the tale, is broadcast from 1987 to 1989. The story centered around the relationship between Catherine, an attorney living in New York City, and Vincent, a “beast” with a lion-like face, who dwells in the tunnels under the city. After two seasons, the series was cancelled when ratings fell after the actress playing Catherine left the show.

1989: The success of Disney’s The Little Mermaid, a cartoon musical based on the Hans  Christian Andersen story, heralds a period known as the “Disney Renaissance.” Executives turn to adapt Beaumont’s 18th century French fairy tale. It is revealed that Walt wanted to animate the piece back in the 1950’s but the animators and storytellers felt the piece too challenging to adapt and shelved the project.

1989-1991: Production of Beauty and the Beast is completed during a “compressed timeline” over a period of two years rather than the traditional four-year “Disney Feature Animation production schedule.”  This reduced time frame is due to loss of production time spent developing an earlier, non musical version of the film. Continue reading

Tale As Old As Time

by Kasey Kopp, dramaturg

In order to more fully appreciate the legacy and scope of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, it is important to realize that this story existed long before Disney set it to music. This week we reflect on this tale as old as time and learn more about the original fairy tale, upon which the musical is based.

Anne Anderson -“Beauty and the Beast” -1911 (Public Domain)

Anne Anderson -“Beauty and the Beast” -1911 (Public Domain)

While it is difficult to trace its origins, we see roots of the story in the ancient Greek myth of Cupid and Psyche. We also see incarnations of the tale in the early civilizations of India and Africa. The story was first codified and published in France in 1740 by Madame Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villeneuve. This tale, however, contained many complicated subplots and a lot of information about the early lives of both Belle and the Prince. We learn, for example,  that Belle’s mother was a fairy and that she is a child of both worlds.

In 1756, French author Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont published her far more simplified version of the tale under the title La Belle et la Bête. Following is a brief retelling of her story. A link at the end of the post will direct you to a more detailed account of the story. Is it exactly as you remember? Continue reading

Be Our Guest!

by Kasey Kopp, dramaturg

Beauty and the Beast opens November 19, 2015 at BYU. In a few short weeks, one of the world’s greatest love stories is coming to BYU in a never-before-seen, unique way under the direction of George Nelson. The story is timeless (and some would argue a classic), powerful love story between a beautiful young girl and a hideous monster. For those that may be unfamiliar with the story, I would like to provide you with a brief introduction.

A selfish, young prince falls under the curse of a powerful enchantress when he refuses to give her shelter from the cold in exchange for a single rose. He is transformed into a hideous monster and told that unless he can love another and earn their love in return, he will be doomed to remain a beast forever. Years later, a young, intelligent girl residing in a provincial French town is isolated from those around here. Desiring much more than the town and its inhabitants (including the boorish hunter attempting to woo her) have to offer, she yearns for a place to belong. When her father is taken captive by the beast, this spirited young woman agrees to stay In exchange for her father’s freedom. As time passes, we see the ways in which this initially cruel monster and this intellectual girl grow together and change for the better. But will she be able to look on the heart of this creature and break the spell before the last petal falls?

For its BYU premiere, this classic musical will receive a non-traditional staging. Instead of a faithful recreation of the animated movie, a company of players will work together to create the story of Belle and Beast and immerse the audience in what is sure to be a groundbreaking and exciting new interpretation of this “tale as old as time.” Continue reading