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  • COURTESY PHOTO
    The latest touring production of Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" features new set designs and new costumes designed by the original Broadway production team.
  • STAR-ADVERTISER
    The TGIF cover of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser for Friday, September 17, 2010.
  • COURTESY PHOTO
    Liz Shivener, as Belle, and Justin Glaser, as the Beast, in Disney's "Beauty and the Beast." It opens at the Blaisdell Concert Hall on Tuesday.
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"Beauty and the Beast" is back on the road, brought to you by Disney and the director and producers who brought you the hit Broadway production and the worldwide touring production 16 years ago.

It’s still based on the uplifting, musical Disney conception of the classic fairy tale, but in this revamp, it’s been redesigned with new costumes, sets and choreography.

Classic stories are often reworked; Shakespeare would be the best example. So it was not a stretch for the producers of Disney’s Broadway musical to reinvent and refine the production for its latest tour.

"It’s very rare that you get the chance to go back and reimagine your own successful Broadway show after 16 years," said Rob Roth, who directed the original Broadway production, the original touring show and this current production. "We got that opportunity, which was really great. We learned a lot doing the show around the world, and … we took all that we learned and went ‘Gosh, now we get to do the things we wish we’d done originally.’"

The new production, which debuts Tuesday at Blaisdell Concert Hall, features beautiful new costumes and elaborate sets, Roth said. The Beast’s Castle, which in the original Broadway show was a 2-ton edifice, is now represented as a series of smaller units, created by "swaths of fabric that fit together in all these different patterns and different ways. We just like it so much better," Roth said. "It actually seems larger because there’s more open space."

DISNEY’S ‘BEAUTY AND THE BEAST’

Where: Blaisdell Concert Hall, 777 Ward Ave.

When: Opens 7:30 p.m. Tuesday; continues 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 3

Cost: $37-$67. Opening night tickets: $29-$49; 50 percent discounts for youth ages 4 to 12 on opening night and Sept. 26 matinee. 10 percent discount for seniors. 800-745-3000, www.ticketmaster.com

Info: For photos, videos and information about the tour, visit www.beautyandthebeastontour.com.

Extras: The company will hold question-and-answer sessions on specific topics before certain shows. All sessions are at 4 p.m. at Blaisdell Concert Hall. Attendees are asked to arrive 30 minutes early. Student discounts are available on newly purchased tickets to these performances. Below is the schedule:

Sept. 22 —; Wardrobe, makeup and costuming
Sept. 23 — Music and orchestra
Sept. 28 — Meet the cast
Sept. 29 — Production, tech and lighting.

Contact Marla Musick at marla@jacksonink.net to RSVP for these sessions.

 

The story itself remains true to Disney’s 1991 film. Belle is a beautiful girl, but she is also a bookish "odd duck" and the daughter of crackpot inventor who keeps getting chased out of town because his inventions tend to blow up.

Belle becomes the object of affection for Gaston, the town’s macho lunkhead, but she later becomes indebted to the Beast.

A love triangle with a twist evolves as it turns out that the Beast is actually a prince placed under a spell, and Belle begins to revive "the little bit of real human being that’s left in him," Roth said.

Roth said the production appeals to people of all ages and both genders. "You definitely do not need to have children to love ‘Beauty and the Beast,’" he said. "It’s a great date-night show. I think guys get taken there by their wives or girlfriends and then they laugh their butts off. They’re happily surprised that they get into it too."

"What makes me proud is watching families and couples and grandparents laughing and applauding and enjoying it, and when the story gets emotional, you could hear a pin drop in there. Everyone’s living in the world of their imagination for a little bit, and that’s what theater is all about."

The emotional range of the story is particularly attractive to Justin Glaser, the actor playing the Beast.

GLASER, who is playing his first principal role in a major tour, said the way the production was developed allows him great flexibility in his performance from night to night.

"There are different moments where I was told, ‘This is funny.’ But I wasn’t necessarily told how to make it funny. So I have the same basic things that I do, but they can be done slightly differently and if I find something is working better and feels more appropriate … then I’ll go with that for awhile."

Glaser said audience members will be amused by some of the physical comedy that occasionally slips into his performance, a consequence of a "huge" costume that transforms his 6-foot-5-inch frame into "more like 6 feet 9 inches tall, and much wider, and I have a tail."

"I’m running around the stage, and my eyebrows are getting loose and drooping, and my tail will get stuck in a set piece, or someone’s stepping on my tail so I can’t cross the stage," he said.

In all that costuming, Blaisdell’s air-conditioning will be a blessing, but Glaser is prepared even if something goes wrong with it. "We did an outdoor theater in Kansas City, and it was 100 degrees-plus weather … . It’s hot even in an air-conditioned theater, but to do it in those kind of circumstances, that was really something."

It takes Glaser, with help from an assistant, about 50 minutes to go from man to Beast, which includes applying makeup, prosthetics and fur pieces, and donning the costume.

All that, plus a voice that booms even over the telephone, seems to make Glaser perfectly suited for the role. But his facial makeup is so heavy that he has to overact.

"The faces that I make in this show, if I were to make in any other show, the hook would come out and drag me off the stage," he said. "But nothing would read past the first row if I were to play it more subtly."

"The character undergoes such a tremendous journey," he said. "He starts in a very angry, beastlike state, and then by the end he has to become a prince. So it’s a gradual transformation … from beast to prince physically, but the character’s transformation starts much earlier. I play with that vocally, and physically and emotionally."

"BEAUTY and the Beast" is first and foremost a fairy tale, and Liz Shivener’s experience with the production almost reads like one. Shivener, whose desire to be an "American Idol" winner launched her musical theater career, captured the role of Belle shortly after graduating from college last year.

Shivener saw Belle’s personality ranging from serious and sincere to romantic, but grounded in reality, far from the ingenue that one might associate with the character. It was that understanding, perhaps stemming from her wholesome Midwestern upbringing, that she brought to her audition and made her immediately stand out from the competition.

"Belle was always my favorite when I was little … because she’s just the most real of all of the Disney characters," she said. "In college, I did more of the straight theater. So when I was called in for this, I was like ‘OK, it’s not really my thing, but I’m going to go in there and give them a nice, honest read of Belle, because that’s just all that I could do, what I wanted to do. I was thinking I was going to be ushered right out of the room, thank you very much.

"But they said ‘Oh! Do that again.’ … All I was trying to do in the audition was make her a real person, not just a silly doe-eyed princess."

Shivener said producers have encouraged her to develop Belle’s character in her own way, rather than try to mimic the film or previous iterations of the musical. As a result, she draws mostly on her own life for inspiration.

"I identify with so much of the story," she said. "Reynoldsburg, Ohio — that was my hometown — is not really the booming metropolis, and so there’s just that idea of aspiring for more. And every girl goes through that awkward, prepubescent time of life, and that’s kind of where we meet Belle."

"I like Belle, I respect her. I think that’s important when you play her."

Glaser and Shivener both said they and the entire company are eager to come to Hawaii, with some planning to visit Kauai after the show ends its run here. "It’s not a place I would ever think I would be paid to visit," Shivener said, "so I’m just as tickled as I could be."

"If we’ve hit a difficult stretch in the tour, we can all say this is something we can look forward to," Glaser said.

 

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