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Broadway's last Belle looks back on her brief turn in this long-running musical

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Broadway's last Belle looks back on her brief turn in this long-running musical

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Anneliese van der Pol is not the first actress to play Belle in Broadway's version of "Beauty & the Beast" (That honor went to stage veteran Susan Egan. Who -- these days -- is probably best known to Disneyana fans as the voice of Megara in "Hercules") ...

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Nor is Anneliese the first Disney Channel star to trod the boards at the Lunt-Fontanne (Christy Carlson Romano of "Even Stevens" & "Kim Possible" fame stepped in the role last year, playing Belle to Steve Blanchard's Beast for eight months) ...

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But that said, Ms. van der Pol will still wind up in the record books. For this "That's So Raven" star will the 17th & final actress to play Disney's book-loving heroine when this long-running Broadway production closes on July 29th.

Mind you, though Anneliese is probably best known for playing Chelsea Daniels in that popular Disney Channel sitcom, this 22-year-old already has considerable musical theater chops. Back in 1999, the Los Angeles Times praised Ms. van der Pol's performance as Eva Peron in the Buena Park Civic Theatre's production of "Evita." She then went on to play Laurey in the Austin Musical Theatre's version of "Oklahoma."

But even with these professional credits under her belt, Anneliese still had to earn the privilege of playing Belle. Disney Theatrical put Ms. van der Pol through three separate auditions before they finally decided to offer her the role.

"It was like a dream come true for me," remembered Anneliese. "To not only get to the chance to appear on Broadway in a show that I love, but to also be selected to be the final Belle to go into this show. I really feel honored that Disney Theatrical selected me for this role."

Anneliese van der Pol

Getting ready to go into "Beauty & the Beast" proved to be quite a challenge for the young actress. Ms. van der Pol endured 10 days of very lonely rehearsals, where it was just Anneliese and the show's choreographer alone in a studio going over the show's blocking.

"We'd do that for five or six hours at a time," she explained. "I didn't actually get the chance to rehearsal with the full company until the day before I officially went into the show."

Anneliese has some bittersweet memories of her Broadway debut on April 3rd of this year. By that I mean, it was sweet for Ms. van der Pol because her entire family was there at the Lunt-Fontanne that night to share her triumph. But as for the bitter ...

"I can't really say that I enjoyed my first night in the show," Anneliese recalled. "I was so worried about screwing up. I actually burst into tears once the curtain came down. Standing there backstage, I was just so relieved to have it over with."

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But since then, Ms. van der Pol has settled into the show and has really begun to enjoy herself. Since she's such an accomplished dancer, Anneliese likes getting the chance to kick up her heels a bit in "Be Our Guest." But as for Ms. van der Pol's very favorite part in this long-running musical ... Well, that may surprise you.

"There's this scene in the second act where Belle & the Beast are supposed to be up in the library, bonding while reading, as the rest of the company are downstage performing 'Human Again,' " she said. "And because our mikes are turned off while everyone else is singing, Steve Blanchard and I can just sit up there and talk, get to know one another. I really look forward to that moment in the show."

When I asked how she and the rest of the company were handling the closing of the show, Anneliese explained that they were far too busy to be depressed.

"In addition to our usual performances, we've actually got three extra rehearsals scheduled for next week," she explained "Donny Osmond is coming back into the show to play Gaston at our last performance. I can't wait to meet him. Everyone in the cast has been telling me that Donny's a sweetheart, a really down-to-earth guy."

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When pressed to reveal what she learned from her all-too-brief stay on Broadway, Ms. van der Pol immediately sounded like an old pro. She talked about how -- when you're working in a show like "Beauty & the Beast" -- you really have to make sure that you keep yourself healthy by drinking plenty of water & taking your vitamins daily. She also spoke of the challenges of performing in an older theatre ("I didn't even know that I had allergies until I started working in the Lunt-Fontanne").

But -- beyond that -- what Anneliese enjoys most about the show (Besides -- of course -- getting to meet her many "That's So Raven" fans at the stage door) is just playing the character of Belle.

"I love that she's so smart and strong," Ms. van der Pol said. "In most Disney movies, it's always the guy who rescues the girl. But in 'Beauty & the Beast,' it's actually the girl who rescues the guy. Which I think is a really great lesson for little kids."

If you'd like to share this lesson with your own family, you'd better hurry. Sunday, July 29th is your very last chance to see Disney's "Beauty & the Beast" on Broadway.

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Tickets have been going fast as this production presents its final few performances. If you really have your heart set on seeing "B & B" before it goes bye-bye, the remaining weeknight performances currently have the best ticket availability.

As for the final performance on July 29, those seats are extremely limited. Members of the public who are interested in attending that final show are encouraged to try and WIN tickets through two current ticket giveaway promotions:

On the Radio: Listen to WPLJ 95.5 each day through July 20th for a chance to win tickets to the final performance.

On the Web: Visit www.Broadwayworld.com by July 22 and submit a “Beauty on Broadway memory” for a chance to win tickets to the final performance.

Beyond that, If you'd like to experience the magic one last time, there are three easy ways to get seats to this acclaimed stage musical:

  • Online at www.disneyonbroadway.com
  • Via Ticketmaster at (212) 307-4747 or www.ticketmaster.com
  • In person at the Lunt-Fontanne box office (205 West 46th Street).

Get your tickets now before the final bow !

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  • I got to see Anneliese van der Pol in the role in May and thought she was very good.

    I've been looking around the internet but not been able to find anywhere that describes how they pull off the Beast/Prince transformation at the end, anyone got a link?

  • What are the chances of building a full theatre at Downtown Disney, or some other location on WDW property to showcase a rotating (maybe yearly) lineup of the Disney broadway musicals?

    I would love to have seen B&TB, am still dying to see The Lion King and am LITERALLY chomping at the bit to see Mary Poppins.

    But I prefer to vacation in a safer (and more tranquil- comparitively) environment- so the chances of me going to NYC any time soon are pretty slim.

  • You know what I like about you Jim? The variety in the articles you write. I love how you always have something new each day. I love how you don't drag along tiny bits of info on subjects like the Pixar acquisition and "the Beauty and the Beast stage show" or lets not forget the last summer's "Cars" review month. No, I say ‘nay’ to all those other columnists like Al Lutz who write on different subjects then move on just to “keep things fresh”. Bah! He's so unpredictable. But you though Jim, I love how I can come and expect the same thing everyday of the week. It's like watching Nick Jr.-- where they play the same episode all week long for Preschool comprehension or was it a cheap excuse not to make new episodes? Also I love the way you skip days completely unannounced with nary an article to be found; saving the readers the time and energy and enjoyment of reading the same article over and over again just phrased differently. So I say, "Bravo Jim Hill" May you find your place among the Shrek Movies as the patron saint of mediocrity. And may you find yet another subject to write nine hundred articles about. Ooh maybe try dragging out a sentence of actual information per day then winging the rest with your classic "Jim Hill" filler!!!-- You know? Your expectedly negative opinions on how bad err...umm I mean how "high" your standards are regarding everything Dreamworks...err I mean Disney! I mean Disney!!! (Phewww) Why, compared to other "re-runists" err I mean "columnists" trying to make a living off of 1 subject a year, I'd say your doing a bang up job! And shame on Floyd Norman for giving us really interesting articles that are different each time you write! Floyd...a bit of advice---you want to play with the big shots "Jim Hills" of the world? Be more like Jim!!!--Drag out one story you have over a span of 19 weeks-- then when you've beat it down like a dog in the gutter...move on...That's the prescribed and patented Jim Hill method! Shame on you Floyd for being so interesting each week! When I stop by Jim Hill Media I expect 2 things: 1. I expect negative and repetitive articles on Disney/Pixar, and 2. Articles on reasons why we should watch Dreamworks over Disney/Pixar... (I'm surprised I haven't seen their pop ups on this site yet Jim what with all the brown nose---err I mean insider "scooping" you do on them!) I don't come to the site for any other reason-- So I say Kudos to Jim Hill, "Re-runist" of the year! By the way, I wonder if we compared Jim Hill's past articles to his new ones (based on interest level alone) similar to how he compares "Success" with Pixar $ returns, if Jim Hill would even be aloud to write any more articles based on the "viewer wall street" dissatisfaction levels... I think more and more people would see this whole JimHillMedia.com acquisition of his own site to be a costly and bad idea with all the disappointing Subject re-runs err... I mean "articles" he keeps pouring out... Ah, gone are the days of the Western River Expedition articles 1-37... I suppose stories are bound to run out soon enough. Some people just don't know when to quit I guess...

  • Wasn't saying it just once enough?


  • Wow...Jim's got a fan in Baxter...Tony Baxter, legendary Imagineer perhaps?

    Enough of that. I realize the That's So Raven paycheck must be pretty good, but wht is she doinf there? This girl belongs on the stage, or singing somehere. She was a fantastic Belle. When I got the tickets and read that she was starring, I thought, "Oh brother, Disney cross promotion at it's finest." I was right and I was wrong. She was excellent and is a deserving actor to close out Belle's run.

    July 29th wasn't even listed on Ticketmaster. Their last performance for sale was the day before.

    Hey evilash...there are pipe bombs going off in the Downtown Disney parking lot. Trust me, NYC is pretty damn safe these days, especially since Disney took over Times Square. Get your butt into the Big Apple and see a real Broadway show, there's nothing like it.

  • Jim Hill brings you along to the Lunt-Fontanne. Where the curtain finally came down on this long running Disney Theatrical production this past Sunday night

  • ANNELIESE VAN DER POL  she  really actor in thats so raven............................................................................................ she awesome

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