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 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.”
Even after the production closed on December 10th, the Wilson’s happily ever after continues on.