Civic Theatre enchants with Disney’s ‘Beast’Section 4A, Entertainment Feature Wednesday, November 25th, 2015
What can be said about Walt Disney’s Beauty and the Beast that is now on the road with a scheduled San Diego engagement that you may not know already?
Did you know it’s the fifth top grossing animated film in Disney history and it’s the seventh top grossing Broadway musical?
It was also nominated for nine Tony Awards with one win for best costume design in 1994. The show was composed by three of Broadways most notable composers. Tim Rice, (Evita, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar with Andrew Lloyd Webber), the late Howard Ashman (Little Shop of Horrors, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin) and Alan Menken (Little Shop of Horrors, Newsies, Sister Act).
The show opened on Broadway in April of 1994 and ran for 14 years. It was the first Disney musical that transferred from film to stage. Beauty and the Beast has also been seen by more than 30 million people and it has played in 13 countries. It is also the ninth longest running show on Broadway.
Along the way well-known performers like Hugh Jackman (Gaston), Nick Jonas (Chip), Donny Osmond (Gaston), Debbie Gibson (Belle), Andrea McCardle (Belle), Tom Bosley (Maurice) and Beth Fowler (Mrs. Potts), all graced the stage in Disney’s beloved musical.
Now, after three national tours, the original Broadway team has returned to take the show out on its fourth U.S. national tour stopping here in San Diego at the Civic Theatre downtown through Nov. 29.
Filling the enormous shoes of the beast on this tour is Sam Hartley who is making his national tour debut with Beast. In fact it’s safe to say that not only is this his first foray into tour life but it was also the first time the actor experienced a full 8-hour rehearsal day six days a week.
Oddly enough the actor only knew the film version of the show before he took on the role of the Beast.
“To be honest, I wasn’t terribly familiar with the musical,” Hartley said. “I had only seen a local high school production of it, back home in Lincoln, Neb. That has ultimately been the biggest blessing for me, since I was able to approach the role in a very clean way. What an incredible role!”
Hartley’s journey to being cast in the well-known musical came very quickly after the actor graduated from college. He only had the chance to get a handful of roles under his belt before the offer to do Beast came in. The actor explains that while talent has a part in the process, there are a few other things that helped him get the role.
“Timing is everything,” Hartley confessed. “I taught at a theater camp this summer with a casting associate on the production. Since moving to New York City two years ago, I had been lucky enough to find consistent work, but had also missed the two opportunities to audition for the previous seasons. I went in around the end of July, and was cast by August. The process was so fast, I’m still pinching myself that I get to share this gorgeous production around the country.”
And, like most of his castmates, this will be the first time any of them have worked together.
“First day of rehearsal was very much a first day of school”, Hartley said. “Everyone so excited to get started. That energy is still so palpable. It’s such a generous, supporting group. It’s a dream to be a part of.”
Now that he’s completed a quick two and a half week rehearsal process and has had the chance to get the show and the role into his blood the actor admits that getting the chance to play the iconic, and title role of the show was everything he’d hoped for.
“And more!” Hartley exclaimed. “Not only are audiences getting to see their favorite Disney movie live on stage, but we’re lucky enough to live in it.”
One might think that playing the role of the Beast would not only be a challenge vocally but also having to do most of the show in a costume that covers your entire face. Hartley confessed that the process of getting used to the costume in rehearsals and how long it takes to get into the costume for the show isn’t as daunting a task as one might think.
“The enchantress transforms a young prince in a matter of seconds”, Hartley said. “The costume is designed in such a brilliant way. It’s truly become a second skin. The only addition in rehearsal was my tail. Disney magic is very efficient.”
The tour will hit 38 cities in eight months. Most of those appearances will be for one or two nights, then it’s back on a bus to the next city. A schedule like that can be tough on anyone, even more so for someone who’s never experienced being on the road before. Hartley’s preparation for tour life was modest and straight forward.
“I’m not sure there is a way to properly prepare,” Hartley shared. “I had talked with several close friends about what it might be like, and the answer is always the same: be present. Of course moving an epically sized musical from one city to another in 24 hours can be complicated. But the minute we step on stage, it’s all worth it. We’ve had the most incredible audience response.”
Sounds like Hartley, along with cast and crew, will have a lot to do over the next eight months, but even with all of that on his plate Hartley has a few things that he’s looking forward to when he’s not performing or sleeping.
“Seeing this beautiful country,” Hartley said. “And playing such renowned venues, while finding the hidden gems along the way.”
Disney’s Beauty and the Beast sits here in San Diego for five days with eight shows. The schedule is a little different than most shows that come into the Civic due to Thanksgiving. So, visit broadwaysd.com before heading down to the theater. This schedule will not have a Thursday performance. Instead they will do two shows, a matinee and evening show, on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
For more information and tickets visit broadwaysd.com or call 619-570-1100.
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