“Once upon a time as a merchant set off for market, he asked each of his three daughters what she would like as a present on his return. … The third, whose name was Beauty … said to her father, ‘All I’d like is a rose you’ve picked specially for me.’ ”
While the request seemed reasonable enough, the simple act of picking a rose in the wrong place led to a whole series of complications, including captivity, anguish and a heated battle in which a would-be hero dies.
But this Grimms’ fairy tale has a “happily ever after” ending. And over the more than two centuries since its inclusion in the brothers’ famous collection, “Beauty and the Beast” has been adapted into operas, stage plays, musicals, films and even several TV series.
The latest Disney musical incarnation of the story comes to the Saenger Theatre on Dec. 29 and will run through Jan. 3. New Orleanians who might have missed the show during the last “Broadway Across America” season will have another opportunity to see it, albeit with a different cast.
The award-winning musical version of the story features such well-known tunes as “Be Our Guest” and the title track, which was a top-selling hit for Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson in 1991, the same year the Disney film version was released.
The score was written by Alan Menken to lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice. Linda Woolverton wrote the book, greatly expanding on the Grimm Brothers’ very short adaptation of the original fairy tale written by French novelist Jeanne-Marie Beaumont in 1756.
Brooke Quintana, as Belle (Beauty), is enjoying the role she is performing for the first time in her professional acting career. “It’s been great. It’s been fantastic,” Quintana said. “Everyone in the cast is so talented. We’ve been very blessed to have such a great group of people. We all get along so well and it’s been really fun. We formed a ‘Beauty and the Beast’ family here on the road.”
Prior to signing up for this tour, the Cary, North Carolina-native with Broadway aspirations had leading roles in such productions as Eponine in “Les Misérables,” Diana Morales in “A Chorus Line” and Trix in “The Drowsy Chaperone.” She describes the experience of playing Belle as “a dream of mine for a long time.”
Quintana added, “No matter how many times you’ve seen this show, it’s always worth coming back. Every time I’ve seen it I just walk away in awe. It’s an incredible show and really worth everyone’s time.”
Performing opposite her in the other half of the title role, Sam Hartley (Beast) echoed Quintana’s feelings about the show. “It’s going very well and we’re having a lot of fun,” Hartley commented. “It’s a great honor to be able to tell this story around the country.”
Like his co-star, Hartley is also performing his role in “Beauty and the Beast” for the first time. Previous leading roles in which he has been cast include Dr. Frederick Frankenstein in “Young Frankenstein,” Enjolras (the rebel leader) in “Les Misérables” and the dual role of the Wolf and Cinderella’s Prince in “Into the Woods.”
“One of the things people ask is why they should return to see the show again if they’ve seen it before,” Hartley said. “But we’re a brand new company and each of us brings our own flair and interpretation to our roles. We have our unique voices and our unique timing and that’s what makes this a lot of fun.”
Other principals in the 30-member cast include Stephanie Gray as Mrs. Potts; Thomas Mothershed as Belle’s father, Maurice; Ryan N. Phillips and Samuel Shurtleff as Lumiere and Cogsworth, two of the Beast’s house servants; and Christiaan Smith-Kotlarek as Gaston, the narcissistic village Romeo who is in love with Belle but loses his life trying to rescue her after doing battle with the Beast. Rob Roth directs and Matt West choreographs the production.