Rehearsals are underway for the Peninsula Youth Theatre’s next musical – Beauty and the Beast! This is sure to be a wonderful production under the talented direction of PYT alumnus Brian Miller. Brian is choreographing the show as well. Spotlight interviewed him to find out more.
Have you been involved with any other productions of Beauty and the Beast?
Only PYT productions! I played LeFou in PYT’s first production of Beauty and the Beast in 2005 and then I choreographed the junior version in 2012.
Are you planning on projecting the character Belle as a traditional princess or more modern character?
Well, Belle doesn’t begin as a princess, really she starts out as an outsider who loves to read in a town full of people who think she’s weird. She gets wrapped up in everything else by accident, but only becomes a princess by falling in love with the Beast, who is actually a prince who has been transformed. Interestingly enough, this script already has Belle as a strong, smart, and independent character. Linda Woolverton (who wrote the original film script and the stage adaptation) really fought to make sure that Belle was not a “victim heroine,” or classical princess type. She tells a story about when she was writing the script, she had created a scene where Belle is putting pins into a map with all the places she wanted to go, and when she came back the next day, the scene had Belle in a kitchen, baking a cake! (source)
In addition to being an intelligent and brave character, Belle is written to be quite funny. She’s extremely curious and a little snarky in the best way.
I plan to push Gracie and Rachel to portray Belle as she is written- a strong and smart character with big dreams and an even bigger heart.
You directed PYT’s Cinderella last year. I know it was a British style pantomime, but do you plan on injecting any of that type of humor into Beauty and the Beast?
There will be some of that humor in Beauty and the Beast, but stylistically there are many differences. Pop culture references and colorful converse don’t fit into Beauty and the Beast, but it is still based on a cartoon. I’ve worked at California’s Great America Theme Park for a number of years, and that has informed my aesthetic. The director of the original production of this show also came from a theme park background, and the show really lends itself to some over-the-top humor. Gaston and LeFou have a considerable amount of slapstick and Lumiere and Cogsworth have some hilarious dialogue. All of this is balanced by very well-developed characters who have very real moments. Even though we are looking at a talking teapot and other larger-than-life characters, they are all emotionally grounded.
When you are directing a show, such as Beauty, do you think more about characterization, plot or music?
If I was just directing, I think I would be focusing primarily on the characterization, but because I am also choreographing, I am thinking quite a bit about the music. I think that this show has a very interesting plot, but there’s nothing in here that’s going to surprise anyone very much; most people seem to be pretty familiar with the Disney iteration of this story. The musical version is a huge spectacle with big dance numbers, huge costumes, and a large set. However, at the core of this show is the characters and their relationships, and that’s why it has become a self-proclaimed “tale as old as time.”
What do you think will be your biggest challenge with this show? What do you hope to bring to it?
Beauty and the Beast is a huge show. There are lots of people, extravagant dance numbers, and tons of complicated details. My biggest challenge for a show like this is the logistics. I’m directing and choreographing which means that I am responsible for staging every scene and choreographing every number… and that is quite daunting. There is a lot to do and not very much time to do it! I do have a wonderful assistant choreographer, and that is very helpful, but even then we only have two rooms and two and a half hours a night to squeeze in everything! I know that I still have a great deal to learn about directing and choreographing, and this is a crash course!
My biggest hope is that everyone has a good time. Theatre is fun! I’m thinking that the show will be fantastic because of the excellent writing, the music, and of course the two talented casts we have, so I’m less worried about that.
What do you want the actors and audience to “take away” from this show?
As long as there is a reaction, I am happy. I’m hoping that audiences find the show funny, thought-provoking, and that they are entertained for a while. There is something special about disconnecting from phones and the rest of the world and seeing a piece of live theatre, and it can be way better than a movie.
There is also something special about being a part of a musical theatre production that is unlike anything else. My hope is that the actors have a wonderful time, as I said before, and I also hope that they learn something about the art of theatre.
Beauty and the Beast plays March 3 – 11, 2018 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts. This will be a popular show – don’t miss out – buy your tickets here.
Blog and photos by Karen Gough