When 18th Century French writer Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont completed La Belle et la Bête, adding it to her 13 other fairy tales, she could not have imagined that it would become a classic. Just as the Beast was transformed, so too was this story. Behold! Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, the much-praised animated musical. Then a stage re-working for Broadway followed by its film version. It’s the same one seen at The Playhouse. 

The story has long fascinated adults and children, so much so that there have been seven non-animated movie incarnations including the new Disney one. Plus three TV series. The most famous predecessor, certainement, is Jean Cocteau’s from 1946, considered a cinema classic. Actually,it took a long time before Beauty and the Beast  become an animated full-length film. That’s the 1991 two-Oscar winner, the songs by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman getting the honors. 

The 1994 Broadway show had six more songs added with lyrics by Tim Rice. Plus Linda Woolverton, who wrote the original movie script, made changes and additions, for example adding depth to the Beast and expanding story lines about the castle staff under a spell as household objects.  It ran for 13 years.

Expanding the entertainment, the Playhouse has extra events, especially for kids.  Opening Night, May 26th , outdoors, weather permitting, there’s something resembling a French provincial village and a mini petting zoo featuring small farm animals. Plus “Gaston’s strength challenge” and “Belle’s Beauty Boutique” hairstyling, 6 to 7:15 p.m. for ticket holders of that evening’s performance. No registration required

Every Sunday afternoon of the run there are Royal Tea parties with desserts and beverages along with craft activities starting at 12:45.  Space is limited; advance registration is required at $15 per person.  

Also, 20 minutes prior to the start of each performance, actor-led activities for children in the audience take place in the Hawks Mainstage Theatre.  

Composer Alan Menken has won eight Academy Awards, 11 Grammys and a Tony Award, and is best known for scores in Walt Disney Animation Studios productions, such as The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and Pocahontas. But he also wrote music for Little Shop of Horrors, Newsies, The Hunchback of Notre Dame  and Sister Act.  http://www.alanmenken.com/m/

Frequent collaborator Ashman worked with Menken on The Little Mermaid, The Little Shop of Horrors and Aladdin. http://howardashman.com/

England’s Tim Rice is an Academy Award, Golden Globe, Tony and Grammy -winning lyricist, best known for his collaborations with Andrew Lloyd Webber in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita.  Rice has also worked with Elton John in The Lion King and Aida and was knighted by Elizabeth II. 

Scriptwriter American Linda Woolverton became the first woman to write an animated feature for Disney with Beauty and the Beast  and wrote The Lion King’s  screenplay. Most recently she’s worked on the films  Alice in Wonderland, and Maleficent.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linda_Woolverton.

As for the source of this legendary story, Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont was born in 1711 and started to write in her late 30s adapting La Belle et la Bête from Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve’s original.Beaumont published about seventy volumes and became famed for instructional handbooks for parents and educators. She and was one of the first to make folk tales educational and to contain morals. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeanne-Marie_Leprince_de_Beaumont

That French lady should be much pleased with this modern version of her work. Be her guest.

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast unfolds May 26-June 25, Hawks Mainstage Theatre, Omaha Community Playhouse, 6915 Cass St. Weds.-Sat.: 7:30 p.m., Sat. June 17, 24: 2 p.m., Sun. : 2 p.m. Tickets $20-$42. omahaplayhouse.com

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