Tale as old as time, Beauty and the Beast is a story that carries on from generation to generation. This is Disney’s first musical brought to the Broadway stage and their second best-selling musical after Lion King. This Disney landmark property has been a delight to watch onstage, keeping fans from coming back for 13 years. It’s a story of love and family brought to life by astonishing sets, lavish costumes, show-stopping musical numbers, and never-before-seen special effects.
Based on the 1991 Walt Disney Pictures’ award-winning film, Beauty and the Beast features music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Tim Rice and Howard Ashman, and book by Linda Woolverton. The story, in turn, was based on a classic French fairy tale written by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont.
Original Broadway production
The original 1991 animated Disney film was famously described as “the best Broadway musical score of 1991,” even if it wasn’t on Broadway at that time. Because of that, Disney CEO Michael Eisner was encouraged to venture into Broadway. All the eight songs from the film were reused in the musical, including a musical number that’s cut from the motion picture. Menken composed six more songs for the production along with lyricist Rice. Costumes were designed by Ann Hould-Ward.
Three years after the film was released, Beauty and the Beast premiered on Broadway in April 1994 at the Palace Theatre. The show ran there until September 1999 and transferred to the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre in November 1999. The musical closed in July 2007 after 5,461 performances, becoming the tenth-longest running production in Broadway history. It closed to make way for Disney’s next musical venture, The Little Mermaid.
Beauty and the Beast were directed by Robert Jess Roth, with choreography by Matt West. Danny Troob made orchestrations, the costume designer was Ann Hould-Ward, the scenic designer was Stan Meyer, and the lighting designer was Natasha Katz. The original Broadway cast includes:
- Susan Egan as Belle
- Terrence Mann as Beast/Prince
- Tom Bosley as Maurice
- Burke Moses as Gaston
- Gary Beach as Lumiere
- Beth Fowler as Mrs. Potts
- Heath Lamberts as Cogsworth
- Eleanor Glockner as Madame de la Grande Bouche
- Stacey Logan as Babette
- Brian Press as Chip
- Kenny Raskin as LeFou
- Gordon Stanley as Monsieur D’Arque
Original London production
Production of Beauty and the Beast reached London’s West End, and it opened in April 1997 at the Dominion Theatre. It lasted for only two years and ended in December 1999. It starred:
- Rachael Beck as Belle
- Michael Cormick as Beast/Prince
- Ernie Bourne as Maurice
- Hugh Jackman as Gaston
- Grant Smith as Lumiere
- Robyn Arthur as Mrs. Potts
- Bert Newton as Cogsworth
- Gloden Mercer as Madame de la Grande Bouche
- Alinta Carroll as Babette
- Paul Cheyene / Anthony Hammer / Zach Meyers as Chip
- Zachary McKay as LeFou
- Brian Langsworth as Monsieur D’Arque
The story of Beauty and the Beast dates back to the late 18th century France, telling the story of Belle, a beautiful and intelligent young woman who feels out of place in her small, provincial town, and a prince who was turned into a beast as a curse by an enchantress.
On one cold winter’s night, an old beggar lady comes to a young prince’s castle, asking for shelter. As a return, she offers a rose. The prince turns her away just because of her appearance. The old woman warns him not to be judged by their appearances, but the prince rejects her again. Then, she transforms into a young and beautiful enchantress and casts a spell on a prince, turning him into a hideous Beast. His servants are turned into various household objects. She gives the prince the rose to use like an hourglass. By the time the last petal falls, he will forever be a beast, unless the spell is broken if he learns to love another and earn love in return.
Ten years later, a young woman named Belle makes her way into the town one morning. She longs to live in a world like her books that are full of adventure, while the townspeople think that her love for books is odd, as she is the most beautiful girl in the town. Her beauty has attracted the attention of Gaston, a local town hero, and hunter.
Her father, Maurice, heads off to an invention fair but becomes lost in the woods and attacked by wolves. When he survived the attack, he enters the Beast’s castle and locks him away in the dungeon for trespassing. Belle discovers that her father is in danger after seeing LeFou, Gaston’s sidekick, wearing the scarf she knitted for Maurice. She heads to the woods to look for him, and she ends up at the castle where she finds her father imprisoned in a dungeon. Belle makes a deal with the Beast to let his father free, but she remains instead.
The Beast’s enchanted household, populated by beloved characters such as Lumiere, Mrs. Potts, Cogsworth, and Chip welcomes Belle in the castle and even treats her to a fantastic cabaret show at dinner.
After dinner, Belle gets toured in the castle by Lumiere and Cogsworth, and her curiosity leads her to enter the West Wing, a place forbidden by the Beast. The mysterious rose floating in a bell jar mesmerized her, and she tries to touch it, but the Beast suddenly stops her and orders her to get out. The Beast accidentally shoves her, and she fears for her life, so she flees from the castle.
Belle gets attacked by wolves in the woods and gets rescued by the Beast. The Beast gets injured and collapses, but instead of taking it as an opportunity to escape, Belle helps him get back to the castle. She cleans his injuries, and the Beast appreciates her kindness. They form a friendship from then on, and Belle stays as she enjoys the Beast’s huge library. They eat dinner together, and they dance together in the ballroom. Eventually, their feelings for each other grow deeper, but Belle says she misses her father.
Belle discovers that her father is lost in the woods and fears for his life through the Beast’s magic mirror. Though the Beast knows there are only a few hours left until the last petal falls from the rose, he allows Belle to leave to save her father.
Belle finds her father, brings him back to their house, and nurse him back to health. Meanwhile, a mob arrives to take Maurice to the asylum. The townspeople, led by Gaston, think that Maurice is crazy after telling them of his encounter with the beast. Belle proves her father’s sanity by showing them the Beast is real, but she did not realize that it’s a wrong move. The townspeople then fear the beast, and Gaston organizes a mob to kill the beast. Belle and Maurice try to beat the mob to the castle to warn the Beast, but the mob was already there when they arrived.
Gaston fights with the Beast, and as he moves in for the killing blow, Belle arrives in time. The Beast immediately was inspired to live, so he turns on to Gaston to kill him, but spares his life after seeing that he’s afraid. Belle and the Beast reunites, but Gaston suddenly stabs him fatally. This causes Gaston to lose his footing and fall to his death.
Belle is helpless to save the Beast and begs him not to leave her. Despite this, he dies, and Belle sobs on his body and tells him that she loves him just right before the last petal falls. The curse is lifted, and the Beast transforms into a human once again. Belle does not recognize him at first, but as she looks into his eyes, she sees the Beast she knew, and they kiss. They dance once again as the castle’s household, now changed to their human form also, gathers in the ballroom.
- Overture — Orchestra
- Prologue — Orchestra
- Belle — Belle, Gaston, Lefou, and Townsfolk
- No Matter What – Maurice and Belle
- No Matter What [Reprise]/Wolf Chase — Maurice
- Me — Gaston and Belle
- Belle (Reprise) — Belle
- Home — Belle
- Home (Reprise) – Mrs. Potts
- Gaston — Gaston, Lefou, and townsfolk
- Gaston (Reprise) — Gaston and Lefou
- How Long Must This Go On? — Beast
- Be Our Guest — Lumiere, Enchanted Objects, Ensemble
- If I Can’t Love Her — Beast
- Entr ‘acte/Wolf Chase — Orchestra
- Something There — Belle, Beast, Lumiere, Mrs. Potts, Cogsworth, and Chip
- Human Again — Belle, Beast, Lumiere, Enchanted Objects, Ensemble
- Maison des Lunes – Monsieur D’Arque, Gaston and Lefou
- Beauty and the Beast — Mrs. Potts
- If I Can’t Love Her (Reprise) — Beast
- A Change in Me — Belle
- The Mob Song — Gaston and the Mob
- The Battle – The Mob and Enchanted Objects
- Home (Reprise) — Belle
- Transformation — The Company
- Finale (Beauty and the Beast (Reprise)) – The Company
- Bows (Beauty and the Beast (Reprise)) – The Company
Beauty and the Beast were nine individual awards for Tony Awards in 1994, including Best Musical, but won only one award: Best Costume Design for Ann Hould-Ward. The musical was also nominated for 10 Drama Desk Awards that year but did not win any award.
For the original London production, Beauty and the Beast was nominated for three Laurence Olivier Awards and won the Best New Musical in 1998.