Last week we kicked off a three week series featuring all the places you can find the story of Beauty and the Beast in Walt Disney World. I hope you enjoyed learning or reliving Enchanted Tales with Belle over in the Magic Kingdom. I’m really excited about sharing that show with my niece and nephew in just a few weeks.
That isn’t the only place you can enjoy the classic tale though. In fact, it isn’t even the original show featuring Belle and the Beast. That honor goes to today’s feature show, Beauty & the Beast – Live on Stage. Located at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, this is a big production that has been delighting audiences for 26 years!
What can you expect from this show, and how does it differ from Enchanted Tales with Belle? Well, let’s find out as we get started with our…
Know before you go essential facts:
- The show is located in Disney’s Hollywood Studios
- Fastpass+ is offered
- The fright factor is 0 out of 5
- Guests may remain in a wheelchair/ECV
- Assistive listening, audio description, handheld captioning, and sign language are available
- The show is 25 minutes long
- The show opened on November 22, 1991. It was updated in March of 2001.
Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage tells the entire story from the 1991 animated film in a lively, 25 minute broadway-style show. As you can imagine, condensing an 84 minute animated classic into a 25 minute show isn’t easy. However, the highlights of the story, and more importantly, the well loved musical numbers, are represented. That, of course, includes my favorite Gaston!
The current version of the show takes you through the movie chronologically. There is a brief prologue where a narrator can be heard introducing the story of the Prince who turned away the old woman in need. A handsome prince in his royal blue suit enters the stage along with two dancers, followed by the old woman in rags. During this sequence the dancers unveil a large tapestry with a picture of a rose. As the Prince turns away the old woman, disregarding her warning that true beauty is found within, the tapestry is wrapped around the Prince. The old woman casts her spell on the Prince, and he is hidden from view behind the tapestry. Next, the tapestry is removed to reveal the Beast. The Beast, dejected by his own appearance runs off the stage.
From there, the curtain rises to reveal the backdrop of Belle’s village. She appears in her blue and white dress, holding her stack of books. The familiar sound of “Bonjour!” is soon heard as Belle and the townspeople present the opening number. Then Gaston enters the scene. He and Belle are the only two who sing live during the course of the show. The townspeople act out the different parts, but it is not their voice you hear overhead. Belle and Gaston do a great job of bringing the story to life through the familiar tango of their opposing personalities. This is one of my favorite numbers in the show, not just because it’s Gaston. I really like how the show’s creators have combined the two songs of Belle and Gaston into one coherent number. This part of the story is told quickly, but without leaving out any important details. The motivations of the two characters are quickly established and upbeat music kicks us off in a fun way.
The next number jumps ahead to the point Belle is already a prisoner in the Beast’s castle. The narrator again helps bridge the gap left by excluding Maurice from this abbreviated version. With Belle scared and alone in the castle, you know what musical number is next! Lumiere, Cogsworth, Mrs. Potts, and Chip do their best to lift Belle’s spirits by inviting her to “Be our Guest.” Dancers in chef’s hats join the crew as they spin, jump, and dance circles around Belle while the music plays above. This is perhaps the biggest dance number of the show. Instead of the dazzling animation that accompanies the music in the movie, the stage show attempts to wow you with the movement of the dancers. I think they do a very nice job, but this is one spot I prefer the animated version over the broadway style interpretation.
The transition following the “Be Our Guest” number is the most forced in the show. The Beast goes from being furious over the dinner party to quickly apologizing to Belle for his temper that he can’t control. Belle has no problem instantly forgiving him, and the song “Something More” begins to play. Although, not yet even friends in the play, the two begin to fall in love as the music plays on. This is where the challenge of condensing the love story into a 25 minute play is awkwardly evident.
Next, Gaston has already learned of the Beast and is rallying up the townspeople to storm the castle. Upon arriving, Gaston and the Beast begin their struggle for survival. When it appears Gaston has delivered a devastating blow, the stage is cleared with the exception of the slumped over Beast. Belle runs out to discover the tragic scene and falls on the Beast. After confessing her love for the Beast the stage fills with smoke. The old woman and two dancers with the rose tapestry appear again. The old woman dances around the stage to magically unlock the curse and when the tapestry is pulled away, the Beast has been transformed back into the Prince.
Fully restored, the Prince takes Belle’s hand and the backdrop of the castle interior is brought back up behind them. The two dance together as the “Beauty and the Beast” theme is played overhead. The big finale has the cast of dancers back on stage in their ballroom best. Belle and the Prince exit for a brief minute before reappearing in Belle’s signature yellow ballgown and the Prince in his royal blue suit once again. As the music comes to a close the two take a bow.
What this show lacks in story because of time constraints, I think it makes up for in the production quality. Given that it has been running for 26 years, it seems most audiences agree with me. Did you know that this show opened on the exact same day as the U.S. premier of the animated film? In today’s theme park culture I find that fascinating. Think about how long it took for the Frozen sing-a-long to appear after the film, or better yet, how long it took for Frozen Ever After to open. Today, Disney wants to see audience reaction before investing in a new theme park ride or show. They must have known they had something pretty special on their hands when it came to Beauty and the Beast.
That said, Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage was originally scheduled as a temporary show. Disney thought they would run the show while the movie was still going strong and audiences wanted to see a version of the story in the parks. After two years, the show was still so popular it even survived a move within the park. The original Theater of the Stars was closed to make way for a new renovation of Sunset Blvd. Remember, back then there was a little ride called the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror that was being constructed at the end of this street. During that time, Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage moved over to the Backlot Theater. While the Tower of Terror was being built, Disney also constructed a brand new, 1,500 seat Theater of the Stars, on Sunset Blvd. By the end of 1993 the show was moved back into its new and improved home. The rest as they say, is history! Audiences have never tired of seeing this stage version of one of their favorite stories. Beauty and the Beast even proved popular enough to inspire more shows like Enchanted Tales with Belle, and its own eateries in the Magic Kingdom which we will discuss next week! I think the real hero and secret to all this success is…Gaston.
The last time we saw the show, I had to do a double take when Gaston came out on stage. Was he wearing a muscle suit? Nope, they were real! This guy looked like Mr. Universe. He literally had biceps to spare, and yes, as a specimen he was intimidating. On top of that he had the voice to belt out his boastful lines in song. I don’t know if he is still there today, but he was the perfect Gaston. The cast does change out, but I have always been very impressed with the talent on stage. Oh, I almost forgot, this show has some fantastic talent just off stage as well. This is one of the few places in Walt Disney World where you will find a Cast Member dedicated to sign language for the show. The last time we went, Rachel and my mom were mesmerized by the performance of the sign language interpreter. This Cast Member was simply amazing! Not only did she convey the words of the characters and songs, but also each emotion from every moment of the story. It was hard to choose whether to watch her or the action on the stage above! Whether it is Gaston flexing, Belle singing, the supporting cast dancing, or the sign language interpreter, the entire crew is top notch.
This is a can’t miss show for Beauty and the Beast fans. There are usually about five shows a day, starting at 11:00 am and going until about 5:00 pm. Be sure to check your times guide on the My Disney Experience app when you are in the park. If you want to check it out, plan on arriving about 20-30 minutes ahead of show time to get a good seat. Due to the large size of the theater there aren’t many bad seats. However, those closest to the center will allow you to take in the entire stage. The theater is covered but it is not air conditioned, so keep this in mind if visiting during the summer. A shaded seat is nice, but the theater still gets pretty hot during the middle of the day. I recommend one of the early or late show times if you are visiting during peak season.
Finally, this show may be something only certain members of your family or party will enjoy. If you have someone that is more into thrills, and less into broadway musicals, you may want to divide and conquer. Given the show is 25 minutes long, and you need to arrive about 30 minutes early, you should budget about an hour here at the Theater of the Stars. That is the perfect amount of time for your thrill seekers to go enjoy The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and Rock’n’Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith. Both thrill rides are located at the end of the street, just a stone’s throw away from the theater. If you plan a Fastpass+ for one or both of the rides, those skipping the show should be done in plenty of time to join the group when Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage has concluded.
All right, that wraps up our second way to find Beauty and the Beast (and Gaston) in the parks. Next week, will be something completely new, something we have never done before on the WDW Ride Guide. We are going to talk food! Don’t worry, this podcast is still focused on rides, but as we will discover next week, some restaurants at Walt Disney World can be as much fun as the rides themselves. I really hope you will come back next week as we explore Be our Guest, Gaston’s Tavern, and a couple of other spots you can find the characters from Beauty and the Beast.
Thank you so, so much for joining me today. I hope you have a tremendous week. Until next time, make each day a ride worth taking!
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