BWW Previews: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST at Theatre Baton Rouge

It's been three months since Disney's live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast was on the silver screen, and with a gross of over 500 million dollars, it proves that Disney's tale as old as time is still beloved. With buzz from the film still on high, Theatre Baton Rouge's production of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST opens this Friday and artistic director Jenny Ballard couldn't be happier.

"I'm a huge sucker for all things Disney," Ballard said. "Beauty and the Beast is actually my very favorite of the Disney productions; the classic cartoon that is. I went to see it for one of my birthday parties, and I still remember that experience. I loved every minute of it."

There's a reason audiences can never get enough of this classic fairy tale. Along with being a beautiful, moving story, it has one of the better morals that Disney has to offer with love transcending physical appearance.

"I think that's really important," Ballard said. "I was raised not to judge a book by its cover, and that is one of the appealing things about this story. Belle and the Beast are such progressive characters. Belle is so smart and ahead of her time, and the Beast is the original brooding, misunderstood bad boy."

Last season's TBR closer "The Little Mermaid" was a fun opportunity to build a world based on a Disney original animated film, and rekindle fond childhood memories for many in the audience.

"It was a big hit for us, and when we were planning this season's finale, we saw Beauty and the Beast was going to finish touring in time for us to get the rights. It just seemed like a no-brainer," Ballard said. "Being able to direct this show and put my own spin on it has been a dream come true."

TBR's cast boasts over 30 actors with Lauren Smith in the lead as Belle along with TBR veteran Jason Breaux as the Beast. Nathaniel Hearn takes on the villainous role of Gaston with Clay Donaldson by his side as Lefou. Rounding out the enchanted objects are BranDon Guillory as Lumiere, Collin Smith as Cogsworth, and Erin Woolworth as Mrs. Potts.

"I think that this show is going to be stunning to watch," Ballard said. "It's going to be really fun and full of energy, and dancing and a really wonderful cast."

With music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Tim Rice and the late Howard Ashman, and book by Linda Woolverton, the stage play was adapted from Disney's beloved 1991 animated film featuring additional songs. Highlights from the additions include "Home," which Belle sings after surrendering to live in the Beast's castle; "Me," a love song sung by the narcissistic Gaston; and Beast's mournful ballad "If I Love Her."

While Ballard saw the recent live action film, her aim as director was capturing the spirit of the animated movie on stage with some darker tones to make it a fully realized world.

Costuming will play a big role in bringing the characters to life, but it is also up to the actors in creating their characters, whether it being able to develop a beast's physicality or holding one's arm up like a teapot spout for the majority of the show.

"It's really cool to watch them capture these characters," Ballard said, noting all the major characters have a chance to shine. "I told them I needed them to picture themselves as cartoons instead of realistic characters. They are up to the challenge, and it's been great to see them so far."

Beauty and the Beast opens on Friday, June 9 and runs through June 25. Tickets are on sale at

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