13 years?! The Broadway version of Disney's "Beauty & the Beast" can't really have been running for 13 years ... can it?
Well, all you need to do is take a look at the photo below ...
Copyright 2007 Disney. Photo by Lyn Hughes
... Which shows 18 young men & boys who have all played the role of Chip in this long-running show at one time or another. And then you realize ... Wow ! Maybe it really has been 13 years since the Walt Disney Company made its first foray into the world of legitimate theater.
Anyway ... In honor of this auspicious occasion, the folks at Disney Theatrical decided to do something special. Which is why they invited hundreds of past & current members of the show's cast to drop by the Lunt-Fontanne theatre yesterday morning. So that all of these performers could then take part in what was being billed as "Broadway's Biggest Cast Photo."
Copyright 2007 Disney. Photo by Lyn Hughes(click to enlarge image)
And I'm pleased to report that 137 performers did decide to take Disney Theatrical up on their invitation. Making a special trip into the city so that they could then take part in this one-of-a-kind photo op. There was a veritable bevy of Belles on the stage yesterday ...
Front Row -- Andrea McArdle. Second Row -- Ann Sanders, Deborah Lew, Deborah Gibson & Anneliese van der Pol (current Belle). Third Row -- Ashley Brown, Jennifer Schrader, Sarah Uriarte Berry, Christianne Tisdale, Ana Maria Andricain & Andrea Burns. Fourth Row -- Megan McGinnis, Steve Blanchard (Beast) & Brooke Tansley. Copyright 2007 Disney. Photo by Lyn Hughes
... Including some of the more famous performers who have played this part over the years (I.E. Broadway's original "Annie" Andrea McArdle, pop star Deborah Gibson as well as the current star of Disney Theatrical's latest production, "Mary Poppins," Ashley Brown).
Even the show's creative team ...
"BEAUTY AND THE BEAST" CREATIVE TEAM CELEBRATE 13TH ANNIVERSARY : Front Row -- Alan Menken (Composer), Linda Wolverton (Book). Second Row -- Robert Jess Roth (Director). Back Row -- Matt West (Choreographer), Stan Meyer (Set Designer), Michael Kosarin (Musical Director) & Keith Batten (Associate Director). Copyright 2007 Disney. Photo by Lyn Hughes
... joined with members of "Beauty & the Beast" 's original Broadway cast ...
ORIGINAL MEMBERS OF THE "BEAUTY & THE BEAST" CAST AND CREATIVE TEAM IN ATTENDANCE AT 13TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION : Front Row -- Bill Nabel, Paige Price, Alisa Klein, Vince Pesee & Gregory Garrison. Middle Row -- Beth Fowler, Linda Talcott Lee, Sarah Solie, Eleanor Glockner, Wysandria Woolsey & Linda Woolverton (Book). Back Row -- Michael Kosarin (Musical Director), Gary Beach, Robert Jess Roth (Director), Michael Demby-Cain, Burk Moses, Stan Meyer (Set Design) & Matt West (Choreographer). Copyright 2007 Disney. Photo by Lyn Hughes
... for a special photo to commemorate this occasion.
Speaking of commemorating ... Julianne Cho from the Mayor's Office of Film, Theatre & Broadcasting dropped by the Lunt-Fontanne yesterday to present Disney Theatrical with a special proclamation. Which declared that Wednesday, April 18th, 2007 was "Beauty & the Beast Day" in the city of New York.
Julianna Cho with her "Beauty & the Beast Day" proclamation. Copyright 2007 Disney. Photo by Lyn Hughes
Then -- after everyone gathered on stage and said "Cheese" for the Mouse's official photographer ...
HAPPY ANNIVERSARY "BEAUTY & THE BEAST" ! -- 137 members of the cast, crew and creative team gather on stage at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre to celebrate. Copyright 2007 Disney. Photo by Lyn Hughes(click to enlarge image)
... -- the group headed on over to Sardi's for a private party. Where -- as part of the festivities -- longtime "B & B" cast member Steve Blanchard was presented with his official caricature ...
The Beast of Broadway! Steve Blanchard poses with his Sardi's caricature. Copyright 2007 Disney. Photo by Lyn Hughes
... which will now join the colorful portraits of other Broadway greats that are on display in this NYC restaurant.
Still, as happy as this "Beauty & the Beast" anniversary celebration may have been, there was an element of melancholy to the event. Given that -- since Disney Theatrical has already announced that this show will be closing on July 29th -- this may be the last time this group ever gets together.
That said, given that "Beauty & the Beast" is now the 6th longest-running show in Broadway history (Logging more performances than such well-known shows as "Miss Saigon," "42nd Street," "Fiddler on the Roof" and "Hello, Dolly!") ... Well, it's hard not to take some real pride in having been associated with this " ... Tale as Old of Time."
Anyway ... If you're heading to NYC in the next three months and would like to catch one of the last performances of Broadway's "Beauty & the Beast," you can learn all about ticket prices, show times & performance dates by clicking on this link.
It's cool to see all those Belles and other characters in these pictures. Wish I had gotten to see BatB on Broadway.
Incredible play, such lovely set, wonderful actors/actress...The songs were really catchy and kept a dark tone with the story here/there. Can't believe it's been running for 13 years, I saw the play in my freshmen year (2003) and it was either Ashley Brown or an actress from Sopranos playing Belle, it was so magical seeing the special effects happening right in front of your eyes. Shame that it's gon'na end its show this year and make room for a Little Mermaid, who's next ,Adia for Peter Pan? *chuckles* that doesn't sound like a bad idea actualy. Fantastic article Jim, keep up the good work please.
Unfortunately, Aida closed about 2 years ago, much to my dissapointment.
Oh, thought that was still playing, thought I saw it playing when I was in New York. It looked really intresting from the ads they had. I think Disney's Peter Pan could defintly work as a broadway show, sure everybody remembers Cathy Rigby's Peter Pan but it'd be nice to see a new verison brought to the public.
Ugh. Thank Walt they're finally putting that show out of its misery.
It was nice to see the photos and remember what this show once was. After they moved to the Lunt-Fontaine the show fell into such disrepair and the cast was walking through the performances.
Didn't Jim do a piece a while back on this topic?
Too bad Susan Egan (Broadway's original Belle, aka Megara from Hercules) didn't make the Belle reunion - her web site states she had a performance in California the night before.
It's worth a trip if you have the opportunity to visit NYC. We've seen it twice there - once in NYC with Andrea McArdle (geez, she can PROJECT - I bet they could hear her from 46th street during the performance!) and Ashley Brown (who was gracious enough to meet her young fans for photos at the backstage door, to the delight of my 5 year old son).
All the wonderful things you've heard are true, but the one thing I remember from our last visit was Steve Blanchard's performance. It's one thing to see the Disney animators have the beast bound over stairways and railings through his castle, it's another to see it onstage - very fluid and without hesitation; it really lends to the characterization that the young prince has been living as a feral animal for many years.
I'm so sad that this musical is closing - it's such a great show and was the beginning of a new era of Disney entertainment. We got to see the musical four times - three from the road troupes and once there on Broadway. Andrea McArdle was playing Belle then and did a great job. We were a few rows off from the stage and Gaston (I forget who was playing him then) was so playful with audience reactions - it was just everything you'd want in a play and all three of my kids enjoyed it as much as we adults. As this musical moves to High School stages, I will soooo miss it being on Broadway.
Great article. Unfortunately I have never seen the "Beauty and the Beast" stage show. Or the "Lion King". I have some hope of seeing "Mary Poppins" though. BTW, Jim, how's that show doing? I've heard a lot of negative commentary which I hope isn't true...
I'm very sad to see Beauty and the Beast close down. I saw the show in 2002 and was very impressed.
Have to disgree with Sol Grundy, who has apparently not seen fit to see the show before criticizing it.
The show never "fell into … disrepair" nor could one ever claim that "the cast was walking through the performances." The Disney Theatrical Group takes great pride in their policy of keeping show, set, lighting, and costumes in "opening night" condition. Likewise, the cast feels that it is part of their role to be sure that everyone is treated to a top-flight performance--they know that this is the very first Broadway show for thousands of nascent theatregoers.
I saw the show in 1994, 1996, 2003, and most recently when Donny Osmond was playing the role of Gaston late last year. There was as much energy and joyous verve in the performances each and ever time as there was on opening night, and the audiences every time rose in spontaneous standing ovations.
Chuck Wagner, one of the longest performers of Beast, couldn't make it. He is the Dad/Ringmaster on 136th edition (blue unit) of Ringling Bros..