Beauty and the Beast was released in 1991, part of a resurgence of Disney animated musicals in the late 1980s through the early 2000s. From the very beginning, the film adopted a theatrical tone, with a grand opening number featuring the full cast. For its voice talent, veteran Broadway performers lent their voices to bring these now classic characters to life: Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Potts, Jerry Orbach as Lumiere, David Ogden Stiers as Cogsworth, Robby Benson as the Beast, Richard White as Gaston, and Paige O’Hara as Belle. Howard Ashman and Alan Menken filled the score with tunes that have now become unforgettable classic songs like, “Belle”, “Be Our Guest”, and the title song, “Beauty and the Beast”. The film went on to become the first animated film nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Picture category.
The animated film was adapted into a stage musical that made its Broadway debut in 1994. It ran for 13 years and closed in 2007. Throughout its run, many famous singers played its iconic roles including Toni Braxton, Debbie Gibson, Donny Osmond, and Nick Jonas. In 2017, Beauty and the Beast was turned into a live-action film, starring Emma Watson as Belle, allowing a new generation to experience the magical story.
Coincidentally, my own introduction to Waukesha Civic Theatre started with Beauty and the Beast in 2008. Braving a snowy evening in an unfamiliar city, I drove to WCT to audition for my dream role: LeFou (Gaston’s sidekick). Being new to the city and new to community theatre, I felt very much like Belle upon entering the castle. I was nervous, unsure of expectations, and a little bit scared. While I ended up not being in that production, I was welcomed with open arms by the wonderful people here at WCT, just as Mrs. Potts, Lumiere, Cogsworth, and Chip welcomed Belle. In no time at all, I found myself at home.
Beauty and the Beast has cast a magic spell on generations that is as enchanting as the talking objects found within the Beast’s castle. It is only fitting that the film returns to its theatrical roots as part of the PIX Flix Kids series. Get your tickets today for this iconic film!
Beauty and the Beast truly is a tale as old as time.
After a run of 694 performances on Broadway during the 1955-1956 season, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof made it to the big screen in 1958, just in time for Elizabeth Taylor to get her second Best Actress Oscar nomination in two years. The film was highly acclaimed by critics and audiences alike and it received five additional Oscar nominations: Best Picture; Best Actor (Paul Newman); Best Director (Richard Brooks); Best Writing; Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium (Richard Brooks and James Poe); and Best Cinematography – Color (William Daniels).
Cat On A Hot Tin Roof is truly an actor’s movie, and it is one of those rare films where every single actor is perfect.
Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor are both brilliant as Brick and Maggie. Not very often is there a screen couple that have the same chemistry together that they do. And those eyes! It is hard to say which of them had the most captivating eyes. Taylor and Newman were more than extraordinarily beautiful. She was an amazing actress, and he is arguably one of the greatest actors of all time. The relationship between Brick and Maggie is fascinating; full of confusion, betrayal, honesty, dishonesty, love, desire, and trust.
As Big Daddy, Burl Ives gives one of the best performances of his exceptional career. Jack Carson, Madeleine Sherwood, and Judith Anderson round out the cast as Gooper, Mae (Sister Woman), and Big Momma, and all deliver performances that are astoundingly memorable.
Tennessee Williams was reportedly unhappy with the screenplay, which removed almost all of the homosexual themes and diminished the original play’s critique of homophobia and sexism. But it is important to remember that the play and the film are two separate entities. The film is an adaptation, and they are not meant to be the same. They should be judged each on their own merit!
Cat On A Hot Tin Roof is one of the great pieces of 20th century American literature and cinema. It has some universal lessons we could all profit by in viewing it.
Managing Artistic Director