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.
Professor 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: "I hope audience members will love the story as much as we [production and cast members] do...and have the opportunity to learn and reflect on eternal principles that are found within this seemingly simple fairy tale." Nelson said that the most rewarding aspect of directing this musical has been "the fantastic cast and production team that have bought into the vision and brought it to life so well." It hasn't been easy convincing everyone that staging the production in a new way has merit - many have expressed uncertainty at the prospect. This has been the most challenging part, according to Nelson. He remarked, "I believe it is our job as artists and theater practitioners to look in a new way, to present a new perspective for our audiences and help them reconsider what they thought they knew." Learn more about how Nelson's vision is being integrated into the stunning costumes, choreography, and more in the upcoming weeks! And if you haven't got your tickets, do so quickly! Some shows are already sold out!