The year 1991 was good for yellow dresses. That was when Disney released the film “Beauty and the Beast,” and little girls everywhere began asking not to be a princess, but to be Belle — this once-little girl included.
The Academy Award-winning movie spawned the Tony Award-winning Broadway production, one that played for more than 13 years. Now, “Beauty and the Beast” is on the road. It’s bigger and longer than the movie version, yet remains that same tale so many fell in love with — from talking candlesticks to that yellow dress.
“I’m putting beading and lace and pearls and developing my own yellow dress,” said costume designer Ann Hould-Ward of Belle’s famous gown. “But I know that the minute you see it, you as a little 10-year-old girl need to see a yellow dress.”
Hould-Ward designed the costumes of the original Broadway production — and won a Tony for doing so — and came back years later to design the costumes for the tour.
“We really went back to the drawing board,” she said, “but you go back with the history of what you already created. I had the process of a tremendous amount of historical research of the proper period, plus the animation, and I had to funnel those things together for the Broadway production, then it’s another funnel to the production you see now.”
What we see now is an expanded version of the film.
“You spend some more time with (the characters). You get to know a little more about them and about their past,” said Liz Shivener, who plays Belle. “You get see why it is that Cogsworth is so high-strung and what makes the Beast so cranky. It’s these characters that you already love and you know, but you get a deeper look at them.”
This is Shivener’s first tour, and she said it’s quite a good gig to play Belle.
“What’s great about Belle is that she’s not only a great character, but I see her as someone I would really like to know and hang out with,” she said. “She lends herself to the stage because she’s likable and she’s bold and she’s not just smiling in the corner oblivious to what’s going on. She’s clever and she’s smart.”
Like the beloved movie, the stage production of “Beauty and the Beast” includes the six original songs, but it also adds seven more, one of which was cut from the film, but has been restored onstage.
“They were looking for a big Act 2 number like ‘Be Our Guest’ is for the first act; they wanted another show-stopper, and lo and behold, there was this song already existing, so they revisited the lyrics,” Shivener said of the recovered number, titled “Human Again.”
“Things are abuzz because things are developing between Belle and the Beast,” she said. “This is the ‘what if’ song. It’s incredibly hopeful and beautiful. It’s an enormous grand waltz with skirts twirling.”
A grand waltz and twirling skirts?
It’s almost like being a little girl again.