‘Beauty and the Beast’ is more than a ‘tale as old as time’
Ziegfeld production opens Thursday
The Ziegfeld Theater Company is ready to unleash the Beast in Park City.
The Ogden organization will bring its production of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” starting Thursday, May 25, at The Egyptian Theater. The production will run for two weekends.
The musical’s director Morgan Parry said Ziegfeld Theater enjoys performing Disney shows, because they bring different types of actors to auditions as well as draw new audiences.
“We do a lot of shows geared to adults, so it’s fun for us to do some family-friendly shows,” Parry told The Park Record.
Ziegfeld Theater Company thought it would be fun to present the Tony Award-winning musical, based on the 1991 Academy Award-winning animated film, on the heels of the live-action movie released earlier this year.
“We wanted to do this because everyone would be excited about the movie,” Parry said.
But Parry wanted to direct the musical for another reason.
“‘Beauty and the Beast’ is such a wonderful story about love and acceptance and not judging a book by its cover, which is an important theme today,” she said. “And sometimes when you see it on screen as a younger person, you really don’t realize how poignant the message is or how courageous Belle is.”
Parry loves that Belle, portrayed by Aria Critchley, is her own person.
“She has an opportunity to marry Gaston, the guy everyone wants to marry, but doesn’t,” Parry said. “She has a father who sees the world in such a different way and challenges her to see the world differently by encouraging her to read and chase after her dreams.”
The teachings Belle’s father instills in her is the reason she is different, Parry said.
“The whole town only can focus on appearances, and everyone has accepted life and don’t look for anything beyond,” she said. “I love that Belle is so different because she reads and because she thinks and this is such a great message for young girls to aspire to.”
Parry also wanted to direct the musical because of the music, written by Alan Menken, and the lyrics, penned by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice.
“I feel like Disney always does so many great songs that are incorporated into their films,” Parry said. “They also added new songs to the live performances that are delightful.”
Gaston sings one called “Me” as he tries to convince Belle to marry him, and there are two new songs that were added for Belle to sing.
One is called “Home” and the other is called “A Change in Me,” and Parry said they are both poignant.
“‘Home’ is in the first act and Belle sings it after she decides to take her father’s place to live with the Beast, this scary dude, forever,” Parry said. “‘Home’ is a about finding home and what the word home really means and what it will look like without her father. And
I like that Belle is willing to do this for her father.”
“A Change in Me” comes in the second act, after the Beast lets Belle go home.
“When Belle gets home to her father, he asks her what the Beast was like and why she wasn’t scared of him anymore,” Parry said. “The song is about how she has changed and what she has found beautiful about the Beast.”
Highlighting each song is choreography by Kacee Neff, brought to life by Critchley and ta cast that includes Daniel Pack as Gaston and Byrant Clair Larsen as the Beast.
“Daniel surprised me when he auditioned for the role of Gaston because he just finished performing Charlie Brown, which is so different,” Parry said. “Charlie Brown is sweet and unassuming, but Gaston is a jerk.”
Larsen brings a new dimension to the Beast.
“When you direct this show, there is so much focus on Belle, but Bryant did a lot of research and read a lot of what the Beast is going through by being cooped up in the castle for all of these years,” Parry said. “He also brought out the fact that the Beast has all of the weight of the sad state of everyone who lives in the castle with him, because he’s responsible for what happened to them.”
Still, it’s Belle who is considered the musical’s star.
“Aria is 16, and she brings so much to the character by playing herself: a youthful girl with dreams and high expectations of life,” Parry said. “She really understands the shift Belle goes through in the story.”
Rounding out the cast is Aaron Gordon and Austin Payne as Lumiere and Cogsworth, respectively, and Ashley Mordwinow as Mrs. Potts.
Chip is played by two actors: Isaac Allred and Nick Barber.
“I wanted to set this apart from other ‘Beauty and the Beast’ productions by making this one very relatable,” Parry said. “I wanted Gaston and the three girls who have crushes on him to feel more modern to drive home the point or question of what standards are girls today holding themselves to, as well as what standards that we as a society are holding men to.
“I also wanted to show the processes Lumiere and Cogsworth and Mrs. Potts go through as they turn human again.”
Parry said directing the show was a great experience.
“The whole cast adores each other, which is wonderful for a musical,” she said. “I think it’s one of the most wonderful casts I’ve worked with, and I would love people to come see them in action.”
The Ziegfeld Theater Company will present Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 25, to Saturday, May 27, and on Thursday, June 1, to Saturday, June 3, and at 6 p.m. on Sunday, May 28 and June 4, at the Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St. Thursday tickets for youth ages 12 and younger are $15. Thursday tickets for adults range from $19 to $35. Youth tickets for Friday through Sunday are $19. Adult tickets range from $24 to $40. For information, visit http://www.parkcityshows.com.
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Park City Film’s in-person screenings will include a string of Academy Award-nominated films.