BWW Interview: Bruce Moore of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST JR. at Gettysburg Community Theatre

BWW Interview: Bruce Moore of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST JR. at Gettysburg Community Theatre

Beauty and the Beast, Jr. opened at Gettysburg Community Theatre on April 27th with a wonderfully talented cast of children and teens. With just one weekend left to see this family-friendly show, Broadway World had an opportunity to gain some perspective on this production from director Bruce Moore.

BWW: To start us off, just tell us a little about yourself.

Bruce: I was born and raised in Gettysburg, PA, and I have performed in three Broadway shows and sung in six movies-five of them for Disney. My Broadway credits include "Gypsy", which starred Tyne Daly and subsequently Linda Lavin. I also appeared in "My Fair Lady" starring Richard Chamberlain, and the long running "Grease", where I sometimes played Teen Angel, sometimes Doody and was in the ensemble backing up a rotating cavalcade of stars including Sutton Foster and Lucy Lawless. Major highlights in my career were singing the Disney animated features "Aladdin," "Pocahontas," "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," "Mulan" and "Beauty and the Beast." I have also performed Off-Broadway, on tours, and in several other regional theatres throughout the country. Favorite shows include "Little Shop of Horrors" - Seymour, "The Drowsy Chaperone", "Sylvia", and "Musical of Musicals". I have directed four shows at the Gettysburg Community Theatre and currently teach an adult and a children's musical theatre class. Summer Musical Theatre Camp is one of the highlights for me at the theatre. I love teaching the students, passing on knowledge and watching them grow as performers.

BWW: I understand you have a personal connection to Beauty and the Beast. Could you tell us a little about that?

Bruce: I sang "Human Again" in the movie Beauty & the Beast, which was in the second release of the film. I had been asked to sing in the original film, but I was touring with the Broadway bound Gypsy starring Tyne Daly, and I didn't want to rock the boat and ask for a week off before we had even landed on Broadway. (That was a costly mistake. Had I known that I would receive residuals from the sale, rental and TV airings for the rest of my life, I sure would have at least asked to get off to sing in the film.) Luckily, when Disney re-released Beauty and the Beast, I was asked to sing in the new song that had been written for the Broadway show. At that point (about 7 years later), I had already sung in Disney's Aladdin, Pocahontas, Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Mulan. Whenever the kids sing "Human Again", I can't help thinking about how much fun and how fulfilling it was to sing in Beauty and the Beast. When the audience roars their approval, I get goosebumps.

BWW: In your opinion, why is Beauty and the Beast a good show for a junior version?

Bruce: All the kids, their parents, and probably their grandparents know the show so well, as they have seen it a score of times or more-kids love to watch the same things over and over. Nobody does movies and movie musicals better than Disney. There are a lot of great lessons in the show for kids. One of the important lessons in Beauty and the Beast is that "true beauty lies within." The prince/beast learns this the hard way, but he lucks out by Belle wandering into his castle looking for her father. For the spell to be broken and the beast to turn back into the handsome prince, he must learn to love and be loved by another. The Beast is a pretty gruesome looking creature, and his insides can sometimes seem just as bad as his outside, so it takes a really special person to see past the bad and into the good. It's hard not to be grumpy when you are so ugly. The show is also big on kindness and empathy. Empathy and kindness are sorely lacking these days. It is one of the things that has made us a less friendly country and indeed a more dangerous world. If I can teach the children to be more kind and empathetic, as Beauty and Beast does, then I will have done something I can be proud of.

BWW: For those who are familiar with the movie or the regular stage production of Beauty and the Beast, what can they expect from the junior version?

Bruce: There is no intermission and the play has been whittled down to a 75-minute production. This is the perfect time for the younger kids and just enough time to satisfy the older children, although they will all wish the show were longer. In the animated and live action Beauty and the Beast, Gaston meets a gruesome and well-deserved death. We are a bit gentler in our Jr. version.

BWW: What has been the most challenging part of directing this show, and what has been the most rewarding?

Bruce: I let the children have a lot of room to grow and figure out who they are in this show, and I try my best to energize them. Energized kids can be really loud. I am fairly good at focusing on the job at hand and blocking the rest of the noise out, so I am rarely annoyed. When other adults walk into the room, they immediately notice and sometimes tell me that I am "too nice"-their words, not mine. When it is time for the children to quiet down, I have already gotten their creative juices going and they are at full tilt. Consequently, it can be challenging to get them down. It's kind of like having too much sugar. They are not fearful of me, and that is the way I like it. When I do get annoyed, which is truly rare, I appeal to them in my Broadway Belt voice, which is as loud as all of them combined, and they calm down.

There are so many rewarding parts. Children learn so quickly and retain so much better and faster than we adults do. They have these unused megabytes in their brain, while adult brains need to delete files when we want to learn or retain things. I marvel at their abilities. It is so gratifying to see them work and watch the fruits of their labor...and in such a short time too. The children really learn how to listen, which is the hardest thing for most folks when they get into acting-not pretending like you are listening, but actually listening and letting the things that you hear and see motivate you to say your next line or motivate you do sing the next phrase or dance that bit of choreography. Besides monologues and the like, without listening, there is no acting because acting is reacting. It is surprising how much direction can be picked up by the kids, just by asking them pertinent questions or leading them to make their conclusion(s). Occasionally someone will do the exact opposite of what I am asking, and I try to keep an open mind and occasionally their solution is just as good or better than mine. When our Belle, a 13-year-old named Maddie, came into the audition, I had no idea how much she had grown as an actress and as a singer in the last year since I taught her. Her instincts are gold. I have given her direction that is way beyond a normal teenager's ken, and she gets it on a level that amazes me. I could go on and on, but I suspect that people could actually see the show in the time it takes me to write this.

BWW: One of the things I've always loved about Beauty and the Beast is that the good looking guy turns out to be the villain. What is your favorite theme in the storyline?

Bruce: Another of the show's great strengths, is that the heroine herself is very strong. She lives life on her own terms and is determined to mold her life into something fulfilling, interesting and wonderful. She wants adventure in this great wide world. Strong women characters should always have been in vogue, but in many films, the strongest women were the villains. That is probably why I love the female villains so much in Disney films-their strength. Finally, folks realize that women are every bit as strong, important, valid, and wonderful as men. Beauty and the Beast makes the dashing Gaston, who is gorgeous on the outside and horrible on the inside, the villain. Beauty is only skin deep, but ugliness goes to the bone.

BWW: As the director, what part of this production was your favorite to work on-a favorite scene or song?

Bruce: I do love "Human Again", but only really once the show was up and running. As we were putting the show together, the opening sequence, "Be Our Guest", "Gaston" and the "Mob Song" were my favorite numbers. Naturally, they are the big numbers. The energy is just something that I gravitate to. I was always a bundle of energy as a kid, and an adult, and as the middle-aged character that I am these days.

BWW: Now for a fun question, if you were in the beast's castle when it was cursed, what would you have turned into?

Bruce: I believe I would be the chandelier in the Grand Ballroom. Lighting is everything. OK, lighting and sound are everything. I went to Versailles when I was a kid, and I was so taken with the crystal chandeliers. They were like a million bits of light twinkling. Nothing makes me happier than getting a Baccarat, Stueben, Daum, Waterford, Tiffany piece of lead crystal. Plus, I would be able to look down on everything below and know everything that happens in my domain.

BWW: Is there anything else you'd like to let our readers know about this production of Beauty and the Beast?

Bruce: I wish I had had a theatre like the Gettysburg Community Theatre when I grew up. Now I am content with "passing it on". The arts need our support more than ever, and I hope the haves support the arts and will help the have nots to see more theatre, dance, opera, film and every other medium of art.

You have one weekend left to catch this amazing group of children and teens on stage at Gettysburg Community Theatre in Beauty and the Beast. Visit www.gettysburgcommunitytheatre.org to order your tickets today!



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