With spectacular new sets, costume designs and state-of-the-art technology fused with this beloved, classic story, the timeless romance of Belle and her Beast will be brought to life on stage by an Australian cast performing with all the spectacle and grandeur that audiences expect from a Disney production.
The creative team from the original, ground-breaking Broadway musical have returned to reimagine this classic tale. Olivier Award nominee Matt West directs and choreographs, leading a team that includes original composer Alan Menken, lyricist Tim Rice, book writer Linda Woolverton, scenic designer Stan Meyer, costume designer Ann Hould-Ward and lighting designer Natasha Katz.
The team collectively received five Tony® nominations and a win for Hould-Ward’s costume design, when Disney first debuted Beauty and the Beast on Broadway 28 years ago.
“We are thrilled to return to Australia with Beauty and the Beast as re-imagined by members of the brilliant original creative team,” said President & Producer, Disney Theatrical Productions, Thomas Schumacher.
“This beloved show – and Belle herself – are somehow as contemporary today as when the film premiered in 1991; even more meaningful to those who first discovered them decades ago and to an entirely new generation.”
“Each time we’ve returned to Australia over the last quarter century we see audiences grow larger and more appreciative and the deep pool of extraordinary home-grown musical theatre talent grow even deeper. We cannot wait to come back,” said Schumacher.
“Sydney is the nation’s home of world-class theatre and we expect this production will draw more than 400,000 musical lovers to the Harbour City during its Australian premiere season,” said NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet.
“Bringing blockbuster musicals like Beauty and the Beast to Sydney first is key to turbocharging the NSW visitor economy. This production will generate millions in visitor expenditure, create jobs and position Sydney as the cultural events capital of the Asia Pacific,” said Perrottet.
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 – 28 years after it opened – 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, 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.
Only once before – in Menken and Ashman’s previous film musical The Little Mermaid – had a Disney film been 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 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. 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.
“The Walt Disney Company is thrilled that this new locally produced musical will debut at Sydney’s iconic Capitol Theatre next year,” said Kylie Watson-Wheeler, Senior Vice President and Managing Director of The Walt Disney Company in Australia and New Zealand. “Beauty and the Beast is a much-loved classic that will fill the hearts of a new generation.”
“We’re delighted that Thomas Schumacher will be here with us once again to work hand in hand with our Australian team of performers, musicians, creatives, technicians, and management team at Disney Theatrical Productions.”
“Staging this glorious production will make an important contribution to the return of a vibrant and thriving live entertainment scene in Sydney and we thank the NSW Government and Destination NSW for their support,” said Watson-Wheeler,
Beauty and the Beast will be produced in Australia by The Walt Disney Company and Disney Theatrical Productions, under the supervision of Thomas Schumacher.
The Australian premiere of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is proudly supported by the NSW Government through its tourism and major events agency Destination NSW.
The new production of Disney Theatrical Productions’ Beauty and the Beast will have it Australian premiere at Sydney Capitol Theatre in June 2023. For more information, visit: www.beautyandthebeastmusical.com.au for details.
Image: Gavin Lee as Lumiere and Courtney Stapleton as Belle lead the UK company in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast – photo by Johan Persson