BWW Previews: NETWorks' DISNEY'S BEAUTY AND THE BEAST to Play Wolf Trap for Five Performances, 6/6-6/8
A tale as old as time ... a physically beautiful person and a physically not-so-beautiful person fall in love. What happens next - horror, fantasy, tears, happily ever after, or a combination depends on whether we're talking about PEER GYNT, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, SHREK, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, or one of the myriad of other variations on the theme.
One of the most cheerful takes is DISNEY'S BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, first an animated motion picture and later adapted into a Broadway show. During five performances between Friday, June 6th and Sunday, June 8th, Wolf Trap's Filene Center is hosting the touring production of the family-friendly, live-action musical, which includes all the songs from the Broadway production - Alan Menkin's and the late Howard Ashman's songs from the film, as well as additional songs by Mr. Menken and lyricist Tim Rice.
The logistics of getting a show of this size set up and ready for performance are staggering. The traveling company consists of 30 cast members, two parents, twelve crew members, eleven musicians, two merchandise sellers, and two managers. The production uses 81 wigs, 580 costume pieces, 160 needlepoint squares for the bottom ofthe town drop, 67 LED lights in the magic mirror, 36 mugs in Gaston's taverns, and 350 feet of streamers released during the "Be our Guest" number. Five 18-wheel, 53-foot tractor trailers transport the sets, props, costumes, and miscellaneous equipment around the country. Two buses transport the cast and crew.
Kelsey Tippins, the production stage manager, is one of the backstage individuals responsible for making sure that the show comes off as it should. BroadwayWorld.com spoke to Ms. Tippins via email and asked her about her role. She told us that the production stage manager is "responsible for the artistic quality and all production aspects of the tour." She explained, "I call the show (lighting cues, scenery changes, etc), maintain the show artistically throughout the tour in the absence of the creative and design team (which includes giving show related notes to both cast and crew), and in conjunction with the Dance Captain and Music Director, I run all brush-up, understudy, and put-in rehearsals."
Ms. Tippins described "the constant problem-solving for every imaginable (and sometimes, unimaginable) scenario the tour faces when playing multiple venues of different size and layout." For example, "sometimes a scenery piece has to be hung in the only available location which means it lands downstage of where it ideally would, causing the electricians to need to light the piece differently and the dancers to shift their dance number downstage to adjust as well." In an outdoor venue, such as Wolf Trap, there are additional challenges, such as the need for "a few slight changes to the show to accommodate our daylight performances."
Backstage setup can be challenging as well, "for example sometimes the crew has a large area for their work areas and offices and everyone in the cast gets their own dressing room while other times the Wardrobe and Wigs & Make-Up departments are in tight quarters together in the back hallway."
Ms. Tippins told us that load-in (moving everything into the theater) for BEAUTY AND THE BEAST takes about eight hours. All the hard work is worth it, she says, when she sees the "children and adults sitting in the audience applauding and screaming for Belle and the cast, never knowing of the backstage challenges that we've overcome."
NETworks' production of DISNEY'S BEAUTY AND THE BEAST will run at Wolf Trap's Filene Center for five performances between Friday, June 6th and Sunday, June 8, 2014, at 8 p.m. (Friday through Sunday) and 2 p.m. (Saturday and Sunday). Ticket prices range from $22 to $80. Tickets are available at the box office, or at www.wolftrap.org/Purchase_Tickets.aspx .
For a Q&A with DC-area native Tim Rogan, who plays Gaston, see http://www.broadwayworld.com/washington-dc/article/BWW-Interviews-Tim-Rogan-a-DC-Area-Native-as-Gaston-in-DISNEYS-BEAUTY-AND-THE-BEAST-at-Wolf-Trap-20140605#.U5C5yPldWSo