Before it was a Disney blockbuster film, “Beauty and the Beast” was a classic French fairytale by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont, chock full of all the storybook ingredients young readers can wrap their imagination around: a forest, an enchantress, a young prince, an inventor, a castle, and a magic mirror. Did we mention the pack of wolves?
“Disney’s Beauty and the Beast” has it all. Leave it to Bethesda’s Imagination Stage to bring this grand performance to a 20- by 20-foot stage just in time for the holidays. Directed by Associate Artistic Director Kathryn Chase Bryer, the production celebrates the 25th anniversary of the 1991 animated film, “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.” It runs Nov. 19 through Jan. 15 in Imagination Stage’s Annette M. and Theodore N. Lerner Family Theatre.
“This is our first time doing ‘Disney’s Beauty and the Beast’…[but the] show has long been on our list for consideration. We know it is a family favorite and knew that it would be the perfect holiday show,” said Shea Bartlett, marketing and communications associate. But as with all things, it is a timing thing. Can we get the rights? Can we afford the very large cast?
“This year all the stars aligned and, voila!”
Familiar tunes like, “Be Our Guest,” “Human Again” and “Beauty and the Beast” will be performed by some of the area’s best entertainers in a quintessential French village setting. The storyline follows the relationship between the Beast, a prince who is magically transformed into a monster as punishment for his arrogance, and Belle, a beautiful young woman he imprisons in his castle. To become a prince again, Beast must win her love in return; otherwise, he remains a monster forever. Program copy promises “high drama, silly laughter, exuberant singing and dancing.”
“I am so excited to bring this new and fresh production of ‘Disney’s Beauty and the Beast’ to life at Imagination Stage,” said Bryer, who has directed more than 40 shows for Imagination Stage in the last 20 years. “We have a magnificent 12-actor cast — some of the best actors that D.C. has to offer. I cannot wait to see the sparkle in the audience’s eyes as they see the animated characters brought to life right before their very eyes in this elegant, musical, fun-filled production!”
Bryer admitted that doing such an epic show was not without obstacles. “It is a challenge to do the junior version of this show because the cast size is smaller and they have made cuts to the script in order…to do the show in 90 minutes. This is normally a 2-1/2-hour full-length show,” she explained. But that did not deter her. “As a director, I am thrilled by these challenges and know that we will have a more sophisticated, fresh way to interpret this script,” she said. “We will tell this story by using simple staging, hiring the best actors and artists to design the set, lights and costumes, ensuring that we only use the best artistic ingredients.”
Asked if this version took liberties or put a modern spin on the original, Bryer said, “Disney owns the rights to this script and we cannot change anything. What you will see is a shortened version (created and approved by Disney) of the full-length Broadway musical ‘Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.’ The script is not able to use all of the songs from the original, but of course, they do include the iconic tunes.” The abbreviated version, she added “fits nicely for school field trips and busy family schedules.”
“Disney’s Beauty and the Beast” is on the Imagination Stage, 4908 Auburn Ave., Bethesda, from Nov. 19 through Jan. 15. Purchase tickets online at www.imaginationstage.org or call 301-280-1660. View this event on CultureSpotMC here.