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Syracuse Stage Celebrates the Magic of Love with ‘Disney’s Beauty and the Beast’
Syracuse Stage rings in the holiday season with the family musical “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast,” directed by Donna Drake and choreographed by Anthony Salatino with musical direction by Brian Cimmet. Preview performances begin today. Opening night is Nov. 29, with performances scheduled through Jan. 5. Excellent seats remain for many performances and are available through the Box Office (315.443.3275) and at www.SyracuseStage.org.
With music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice and a book by Linda Woolverton, “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast” was adapted from the 1991 animated feature film. The musical opened on Broadway in 1994 and closed in 2007 after 5,461 performances. Most recently, a 2017 live action film version starred Emma Watson and Dan Stevens.
Director Drake and musical director Cimmet are the creative team behind Syracuse Stage’s last two holiday hits, “The Wizard of Oz” (2017) and “Elf The Musical” (2018). Drake says she expects audiences will be enchanted by the show. “It is magical, heartfelt and beautiful.”
Cimmet noted that the 12-piece orchestra is the largest ever for a Syracuse Stage show.
The familiar story of “Beauty and the Beast” has its origin in the 1740 French novel “La Belle et la Bete” by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve. Sixteen years later, Jeanne-Marie Leprince De Beaumont shortened and simplified the tale and established the basis for most future versions. The Brothers Grimm included a similar story “The Singing, Soaring Lark” in early editions of their “Kinder – und Hausmärchen.”
In its current incarnation, “Beauty and the Beast” is a warm-hearted tale that celebrates the magic of love. A wicked curse has transformed a young prince into a ghastly Beast. To break the power of this spell and return to his former self, the Beast must learn how to love and be loved. His fate is in the hands of a young woman, Belle, who must save him before he is lost forever.
Opera and musical theater performer Ezekiel Andrew and Syracuse University Department of Drama student Stephanie Craven lead the cast as the Beast and Belle. Andrew has performed the title role in “Rigoletto” and Jake in “Porgy and Bess.” He has also portrayed Jim in “Big River” and Coalhouse Walker Jr. in “Ragtime.” At the Department of Drama, Craven has appeared in “Into the Woods” and “The Seagull.”
Steve Czarnecki, a veteran of the national tours of “Les Miserables” and “Phantom of the Opera” plays Gaston. The lively castle staff includes Broadway veteran Cicily Daniels (“Once on this Island” and “Disney’s The Little Mermaid) as Mrs. Potts, Jordan De Leon as Lumiere, Department of Drama faculty members Celia Madeoy as Madame de la Grande Bouche and David Lowenstein as Cogsworth and local child actor Harper Shute as Chip. Ethan Carlson is Gaston’s comic sidekick LeFou and local actor Michael Breese Barbour takes on Maurice.
The remaining roles are handled by an ensemble of 17 talented students from the Department of Drama and one additional local child actor Maeve Kelly.
“Disney’s Beauty and the Beast” is a joyful celebration of family in all its shapes and forms,” says Artistic Director Robert Hupp. “It is a timeless story of love and redemption. We admire Belle’s bravery and the castle staff’s hope. We see in the transformation of the Beast the joyful promise that love does truly conquer all. It’s a perfect tale for a cozy winter’s eve; it’s a perfect tale for this holiday season.”
As is tradition with the holiday production, Syracuse Stage will continue to raise funds at all performances for the Pediatric Designated HIV Center at Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital, DePalmer House and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. An ongoing non-perishable food drive will take place in the lobby to benefit the food pantry at Grace Episcopal Church, which directly serves residents in the neighborhood. Syracuse Stage will also partner with various community and Syracuse University organizations to present events related to the production.