BYU does ‘Beauty and the Beast’ through a more serious light

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Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” comes to the BYU stage in a way audience members may not expect.

Mark A. Philbrick
Belle comforts the Beast in BYU’s Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast.” (Mark A. Philbrick)

The director’s concept is to bring the story to light without the spectacle that normally accompanies Disney musical productions. Director George Nelson promises the script and the music will be the recognizable Disney production the audience may be used to, but this tale as old as time will be more serious.

“I love the story of ‘Beauty and the Beast’, but I’m not crazy about making it into a cartoon,” Nelson said. “I’m trying to create a different way of seeing it.”

His concept is described as “Peter and the Starcatchers” meets “So You Think You Can Dance.” Nelson hopes this more realistic approach to the musical will help audience members react to the story of “Beauty and the Beast” instead of simply being entertained.

“Theatre works for me when it really causes me to evaluate what is going on in my life,” Nelson said. This type of moment is what he hopes audience members will experience as they leave behind their expectations of past “Beauty and the Beast” productions.

Mark A. Philbrick
Beast confronts Belle as the servants watch in anticipation. (Mark A. Philbrick)

Nelson’s passion for the story is not the only spark igniting this flame. Johnny and Twyla Wilson, the married-in-real-life couple who play the Beast and Belle, certainly have a love of their craft and are excited for opening night.

“I’m super pumped to finally have an audience to share the story with and to see the impact we hope the show will have,” Johnny Wilson said.

The chemistry between the two off-stage is sure to translate into their characters onstage. Johnny Wilson said working with his wife has been great because of the trust they have already built into their acting relationship.

“It just makes the process so much more fun and easy because we can get right to the big creative stuff,” Johnny Wilson said. “We already know we’ll be able to play off of each other well, so it’s been great.”

It isn’t hard to see the care these actors have put into preparing for their roles. It can be hard not to act in similar ways to those who have played these iconic roles before, and the actors understand they don’t need to be the same as their well-known counterparts.

“80 percent of Belle is me and 20 percent is her added characteristics,” Twyla Wilson said. “The only way to make a character yours is by being you.”

Mark A. Philbrick
Gaston tries to flirt with Belle. (Mark A. Philbrick)

Kooper Campbell may not be the typical Gaston, but he seems to have a grasp on Gaston’s character that will hold true to the character’s nature.

“I’m really happy to tell Gaston’s story because it’s not all narcissism and just being a bad guy,” Campbell said. “He has desires that we all can relate to. We all have things about us that are a little like Gaston.”

George Nelson said the casting seems to fit well with his concept. Campbell’s Gaston should help audience members see Gaston in a different light than they have before, according to both Nelson and Campbell.

“When you think of some of the real awful characters that have inhabited this world, many of them have not been the big, huge guys,” Nelson said. “They’ve been the little insidious people.”

Redemption seems to be a key theme running through this production. Campbell hopes people will see this in themselves and will want to be better because of it.

Mark A. Philbrick
Gaston plunges a sword into the Beast. (Mark A. Philbrick)

“If there wasn’t opposition, it wouldn’t be worth it,” Campbell said. “I want people to see the hope and the warning that we’re trying to share.”

With opening weekend already nearly sold out, BYU’s Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” is sure to have a full house.

The musical runs Nov. 20 to Dec. 10. For more information about showtimes and ticket prices, visit arts.byu.edu

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