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Release: Oct. 6, 2000

Broadway hit 'Beauty and the Beast' brings Disney magic to Hancher stage Oct. 24-29

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The hit Broadway musical "Beauty and the Beast" will bring Tony Award-winning Disney magic to the stage of the University of Iowa Hancher Auditorium Oct. 24-29. Performances will be at 8 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, Oct. 24-27; 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 28; and 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 29.

The show includes all the Alan Menken/Howard Ashman songs from the Disney animated film, plus an additional Menken/Ashman song written for the movie but not used, and seven new Alan Menken songs with lyrics by Tim Rice. The production also features the spectacular Tony Award-winning costumes by Ann Hould-Ward.

The production stars Danyelle Bossardet as Belle, Grant Norman as the Beast and Edward Staudenmayer as Gaston. Bossardet has been in both the Los Angeles company and Second National Tour of "Beauty and the Beast" and starred as Florence in "Chess" and Sandy in "Grease." Norman has starred in the title role of "The Phantom of the Opera" on Broadway, in London and on the U.S. National Tour. Staudenmayer’s credits include the National Company of "The Scarlet Pimpernel" and the off-Broadway production of "Forbidden Broadway Cleans Up Its Act!"

Based on the classic fairy tale, "Beauty and the Beast" is the story of a selfish prince condemned by a magical curse to life as an ugly beast and the beautiful, strong-willed bookworm who becomes his salvation. It is filled with the enchanted characters that charmed movie audiences, including the candlestick Lumiere; Cogsworth, the fussbudget clock; and Mrs. Potts, the kindly teapot -- all magically transformed on-stage -- as well as the preening, superficial macho villain, Gaston.

When Disney’s animated film of "Beauty and the Beast" premiered in 1991, New York Times theater critic Frank Rich raved, "What is the best Broadway musical comedy score of the year? Make no mistake about it, it is ‘Beauty and the Beast.’ I must say I was knocked out by this one -- even though, as a theatergoer, I had to regret that Broadway’s loss has been Hollywood’s gain."

Rich had picked up on exactly what the creative team had intended. The Academy Award-winning team of Menken and Ashman drew on their roots in musical theater ("Little Shop of Horrors") when writing the music for the film: Menken points out that he and Ashman "structured ‘Beauty and the Beast’ as a stage musical. With each song, we endeavored to advance the plot. Our characters sing their thoughts and feelings within the story. It’s entirely musical theater."

Disney Company chairman Michael Eisner became convinced that if there was a way to overcome the challenges of translating animated magic, like the enchanted objects and magical transformations, to the stage, musical-theater audiences would also embrace "Beauty and the Beast." After all, "Beauty and the Beast" was not a lightweight "kids’" story, but a complex and sophisticated tale about the deceptive power of appearances, filled with wit and romance and concluding with redemption.

Disney had already been considering expanding into live theater for several years. "People are social beings," says Eisner. "They want to go out, which is why we at Disney are making more and more of a commitment to live entertainment. Bringing ‘Beauty and the Beast’ to Broadway seemed like a perfect fit for us."

From the beginning of the show’s development, the Disney creative team recognized that simply staging a theatrical version of a film would have slighted both media. They focused instead on combining the strengths of the beloved story with the possibilities that only live theater can offer.

In addition to the set and costume designers typical in theatrical productions, Disney brought in John Gaughan and Jim Steinmeyer, who had created illusions for Siegfried & Roy and David Copperfield, to inject real special-effects magic into the show.

The stage musical of "Beauty and the Beast" has become a long-running hit of international scope. In April, "Beauty and the Beast" celebrated six years on Broadway. The Hancher engagement is part of a 25-city North American tour, and "Beauty and the Beast" productions are also currently running in Germany and Spain.

McLeodUSA is the corporate sponsor of "Disney’s Beauty and the Beast" through the University of Iowa Foundation, with media support from the Gazette.

Tickets for the Tuesday through Thursday performances are $55, $45 and $20. UI students, senior citizens and audience members 17 and younger qualify for a 20 percent discount.

All tickets to the Friday and Saturday performances and the Sunday matinee are $60, $50 and $35. All tickets to the Sunday evening performance are $55, $45 and $20.

Hancher box office hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays. From the local calling area, dial (319) 335-1160. Long distance is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. Fax to (319) 353-2284. Orders may be charged to VISA, MasterCard or American Express. UI students may charge their purchases to their university bills, and UI faculty and staff may select the option of payroll deduction.

Information and brochures may be requested by e-mail at <hancher-box-office@uiowa.edu>.

People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial (319) 335-1158. This number will be answered by box office personnel prepared to offer assistance with handicapped parking, wheelchair access and seating, hearing augmentation and other services. The line is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.

For UI arts information, visit this new address -- www.uiowa.edu/artsiowa -- on the World Wide Web. The "Beauty and the Beast" World Wide Web site can be found at <http://disney.go.com/disneyonbroadway/beautyus/index.htm>. To receive UI arts news by e-mail, contact <deborah-thumma@uiowa.edu>.