More than 40 actors took to the Qatar National Convention Center (QNCC) stage last night in a whirlwind of color, music, and dance, as crowds gathered to attend the opening performance of Beauty and the Beast, one of the country’s first ever Broadway shows.
The production has transformed the QNCC’s theater stage into a lavish blue and golden floral wonderland, with different arrangements of lighting and shadows creating varying moods and scenes.
The show includes several whirring mechanical props, including Belle’s father’s bizarre bicycle invention, flying wolves and grotesquely twisted and gilded contraptions in the Beast’s castle.
The production includes several of Disney’s signature songs from the film, such as Beauty and the Beast and Be Our Guest, as well as more than a dozen original pieces composed specifically for the stage show.
Popularized by the Academy Award-winning movie, Beauty and the Beast tells the story of Belle, a small-town girl who yearns for a life outside of her tiny French province. Meanwhile, some miles away, a prince – turned into a beast by an enchantress because of his selfish ways – remains holed up in a castle.
The story follows the two lead characters as their lives entwine while the Beast, unbeknownst to Belle, is on a race against time to find love before the last petal on an enchanted rose falls, leaving him in his monstrous state forever.
Headlined by Briana Rapa as Belle and Mark Beyer as the Beast, the production also features Brian Crawford Scott as Gaston and Marq Johnson as the candlestick Lumiere.
Last night’s performance at the QNCC was the first of 15 shows and followed a special media preview that included a full dress rehearsal.
Adapted for cultural sensitivities
Speaking to Doha News, tour manager Sean McFetridge said that the performance ran smoothly and that he was pleased with the turnout for the inaugural night.
The cast members, who arrived in Qatar early Tuesday morning, spent the last few days preparing for the show, perfecting routines, setting up the stage and rehearsing with the QNCC theatre’s sound and lighting system.
“It’s a lot easier here than in some other venues that we’ve been in. Sometimes, the stage is too small, or there isn’t enough stage to fit props and elements in, so we have to work around that. But the venue here is pretty great, and in terms of production, we didn’t have to make any changes,” McFetridge said.
He added however, that certain content and costume changes had to be made to keep with Qatar’s cultural and social sensitivities.
“A few of the women’s dresses were adapted, and we had to change a couple of scenes,” he said.
The production’s packed schedule, which includes two performances today and three on Saturday, puts some strain on the actors, McFetridge said. To help rest their vocal chords, the lead actors work with their understudies and other cast members to swap around parts.
The show has previously shown in Bucharest, and has been touring around the world for the past 15 months non-stop. The cast will end their tour in Dubai in January.
Record Broadway run
While the theatrical production draws heavily upon the 1991 Disney movie, the story has its roots in the French fairy tale La Belle et la Bête by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont.
Its 13-year run on Broadway made it one of the highest-grossing and longest-running shows of all time.
Beauty and the Beast has been touring internationally since 2004 and has been performed in 22 countries, translated in eight different languages and seen by more than 35 million people.
More than 40 actors, 30 technical experts behind-the-scenes and several other locally hired assistants round up the crew. The production features some 1,000 separate costume pieces, 200 costume changes as well as 77 tons of set, props, costumes and technical equipment transported by a Boeing 777 between each performance.
Tickets for shows are still available for performances on Dec. 11-12, Dec. 15-17 and Dec. 19 at Virgin Megastores in Villaggio Mall, Landmark Mall and Spinney’s in The Pearl. Tickets can also be purchased online here.
Prices range between QR199 and QR1,499 per person.
Were you at last night’s show? Thoughts?