The Walt Disney Company is thrilled to announce the two exceptional performers that have been cast in the lead roles of Belle and the Beast when Beauty and the Beast makes its Australian premiere at Sydney’s Capitol Theatre in June 2023.
Shubshri Kandiah (Belle) and Brendan Xavier (Beast) will bring the iconic roles to life in this new production from the producers of Frozen, Aladdin, The Lion King and Mary Poppins.
Shubshri is one of Australia’s most exciting new leading ladies, best known for her role as Princess Jasmine in Disney’s Aladdin and currently playing the title role in Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella.
Sydneysider Brendan is a talented newcomer currently performing in Frozen the Musical which was his first professional musical theatre role.
“The excitement we felt in the audition room when Brendan and Shubshri performed for us was electric,” said director & choreographer Matt West. “These two extraordinary young performers bring fresh life to these iconic roles, and we are thrilled that a whole new generation of Australian audiences will have the pleasure of witnessing their interpretation in this new production.”
Some of Australia’s most outstanding musical theatre performers and exciting fresh faces have also been assembled and will be announced at a later date including the roles of Lumiere, Gaston, Cogsworth, Mrs Potts, Le Fou, Maurice, Babette and Madame.
Based on the 1991 film – the first animated feature ever nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture – Beauty and the Beast opened on Broadway in April 1994 and garnered nine Tony nominations and one win. It played for more than 13 years on Broadway (before closing in 2007) and remains to this day one of the top 10 longest running shows in Broadway history.
The 2017 live-action retelling of the animated classic starring Emma Watson quickly became the highest grossing live action film musical of all time, a record beaten only by The Lion King live-action release in 2019.
The original Australian production of Beauty and the Beast opened in Melbourne at the Princess Theatre in 1995 starring Rachel Beck in the role of Belle, Michael Cormick as the Beast, a young Hugh Jackman as Gaston, and the late Bert Newton as Cogsworth. The production played for over two years across Melbourne and Sydney and won the 1996 ARIA Award for Best Australian Soundtrack/Cast/Show Release.
The structure and tone of the story and score – as conceived for the 1991 film by its executive producer and lyricist Howard Ashman with a continued evolution for the Broadway adaptation three years later – made Disney history.
Composer Alan Menken and Ashman’s previous film musical The Little Mermaid was the only prior Disney film structured like a stage musical where the songs are integral to plot and characterisation rather than only ornamental or digressions.
This Menken/Ashman innovation is credited with the 1990’s Disney animation renaissance that went on to create such film classics as Aladdin, The Lion King and Hunchback of Notre Dame and helped re-introduce the book musical form to popular culture.
This new stage production of Beauty features lyrics by Tim Rice and a book by Linda Woolverton. The work retains the lush period sound of the Oscar-winning and Tony® award nominated score – which brought classics including Be Our Guest and Beauty and the Beast, as well as Change in Me, added to the musical production in 1998 and retained thereafter.
New dance arrangements by David Chase, have allowed original choreographer Matt West to re-visit his work, this time as director and choreographer. Longtime Menken collaborators Michael Kosarin and Danny Troob are musical supervisor/vocal arranger and orchestrator, respectively.
Completing the design team, Tony® award winner John Shivers is sound designer, Darryl Maloney is the video and projections designer, and David H. Lawrence is hair designer. Jim Steinmeyer is the illusions designer, as he was on the original 1994 production.
Beauty and the Beast will be produced in Australia by The Walt Disney Company and Disney Theatrical Productions, under the supervision of Thomas Schumacher and is proudly supported by the NSW Government through its tourism and major events agency Destination NSW.
Beauty and the Beast will make its Australian premiere at Sydney’s Capitol Theatre in June 2023. Tickets on sale Thursday 3 November 2022. For more information, visit: www.beautyandthebeastmusical.com.au for details.
Image: Shubshri Kandiah and Brendan Xavier – photo by Julie Adams