Fake abs, hairy boots and a whole lotta make-up
The star of the show, Hilary Maiberger, shared her thoughts on the eccentric leading lady, Belle. "What I love about Belle is that she's not really a princess," says Maiberger. "She's just a young, lost girl finding a place in her world and I can relate to that. She's one of the first Disney princesses created as a heroine."
Maiberger says that Belle's character is passionate, confident and smart, and those aspects merge her own personality and Belle's character perfectly. "However, I do stay true to who you know as Belle in the film. There's definitely a fine line between the two," she adds.
Co-star Darick Pead tells us that he occasionally feels like a supporting actor, not a co-star. "As the Beast, I serve as a function to her story - Belle's character is heroic and strong," he says.
Pead also took us through his stunning make-up routine before the show. "I have to be ready an hour before the show. From my eyebrows to the chin, there's an immense amount of detail in the make-up." He says they finish the routine with a massive wig and a long, glorious cape, which is his favourite part of the Tony award-winning costume. "The cape gives the cool, realistic transformation from a dark, scary beast to a human," he says.
There are a lot of details in his costume, including boots with hair on the back, body pads and fake muscles and abs. "It's fiercely hot in there," he says. "I'm continuously sweating and there are sweat marks everywhere!"
Even with enormous amounts of make-up on his face, Maiberger says Pead never fails to act. "He's a very good actor, it's all in his eyes and his amazing voice."
Both actors shared their secrets to keeping their voices powerful yet melodious till the end of the show. "My body is my instrument, and I enjoy using home remedies. My favourite is ginger and water - lots of water," says Maiberger. Pead says a good night's sleep is his way of making sure his voice is bold and energetic till the curtains fall. "I get exhausted after rehearsals. I'm quite a boring person, so I go straight to bed," he says.
"He has vocal chords of steel, it's amazing," says Maiberger.
The pair also gave us an insight into backstage memories and experiences. Maiberger says that Pead loves to scare people backstage in his beast costume. "He's got me several times where I've literally fallen to my knees," she said.
"I find delight in it; I think it's an addiction," Pead chuckles.
Even with lengthy tours and shows, the cast always keeps up with their family and friends. "I take a selfie in my beast costume every time and send it back home. Sometimes I look at it and I get scared myself!" laughs Pead.
A second family in the form of the cast
As well as speaking to the cast members, we also spoke to musical director and conductor Michael Borth and company manager Kristin Steward.
A company manager, says Steward, is "halfway between a boss and a mum". The international tour has been running for nine months, and will continue for another year. Even though there are some short breaks for the company members to go home to visit their families, the cast still feel homesick while touring. Steward takes care of them, helping them find doctors, organising prize draws and taking them all to a movie. "We do all sorts of things together. We're very much a family," she says.
However, no matter how the cast members are feeling, as professional performers, they have to "turn it on, come together and deliver the same performance despite what has happened offstage", says Steward.
Among the 65 members of the company, 11 are musicians who provide live accompaniment for the musical under Borth's baton. Wouldn't it be less of a fuss if there was a recording of the accompaniment? Borth explains: "There is energy in a live orchestra that you just can't get from a recording. But the main thing is that every night is a little different. Someone might come on stage a little faster or slower and we can match up with that so that the pacing of everything locks every night." In addition, since the energy from the audience is different every night, Borth enjoys playing with the pacing of the musical to suit the atmosphere. "Occasionally, a song feels better just a touch faster or the energy feels like it needs a pause here because of the drama."
Of the 12 songs from the musical, six are from the 1991 Oscar-winning Disney animation, and the remaining six numbers were written especially for the musical, including Belle's solo A Change in Me. Besides giving the audience more music to enjoy, the original songs are important for character development. In short, the original songs add more flesh to the story and "engage the audience more", says Steward.
Learning to use candlesticks for hands without becoming a hot mess
"Musical" - 99.9 per cent of the time, this word paints an image of a group of performers belting out songs and pirouetting in intricate costumes. With all the magic unravelling on stage, it is no surprise that the glamour of the performance often overshadows what goes on when the curtains are down.
With the help of the supporting cast of Beauty and the Beast, we compiled a list of some of the possible characteristics of a good musical performer, and some of the quirks of backstage life.
1. Bruised knuckles don't bother you
As the old saying goes, "no pain, no gain". Some choreographed arrangements can indeed be slightly hazardous for the performers, such as the renowned "clinking" sequence in the song Gaston. Mugs have to be clinked together in time to the music, and many knuckles were hurt during rehearsals.
"[They] are real mugs! They're heavy, they're metal, so we each put on some protective gloves so we don't hit each other's knuckles," reveals Adam Dietlein, who plays Gaston. Fellow actor Jordan Aragon, who plays Gaston's feeble sidekick, LeFou, then adds with a nervous laugh, "'cause that hurts".
2. Getting used to having candles for hands
The movements in a musical are not limited to dancing. Playing the flamboyant candlestick Lumiere, Hassan Nazari-Robati had to get used to his costume, which included having "candles for hands". This meant he had to practise what he calls his "candle-ography". In cases like this, open-mindedness is key.
Nazari-Robati jokes that, "Unfortunately, I don't have real fire, but for me, I think it's safer because I probably would've [had] the set on fire a long time ago".
3. Strange rituals are your thing
Being on a world tour for more than nine months has made the cast as close as family. Each and every performer shares a unique dynamic with all fellow cast and crew members, along with secrets and strange rituals. "Well … you know, every night before the number Gaston, we will find a different way to fist bump," says Aragon.
Last but definitely not least, passion. In an ever-changing industry with high stakes and intense competition, failures are inevitable. Without the drive to improve, it would be impossible to reach your full potential.
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