When the Walt Disney Company made its first hesitant move into live theatre back in 1994, surely even that corporate giant couldn't have imagined that not only would Beauty and the Beast be a hit, but that it would become the twelfth longest-running Broadway show of all time. Yet here it is, seven years later and comfortably sandwiched between Hello, Dolly! and the very unDisneyfied Tobacco Road. And, apart from a concert staging of King David that was goliathed by the critics, Disney's Broadway track record in the years since has included the box office smash Aida and the mega-smash The Lion King.
But Beauty and the Beast is far from yesterday's news. As of the week ending Aug. 12, the show grossed $736,472 and filled nearly 99 percent of its seats — in the dog days of August, no less. So who can blame Disney for trumpeting another milestone: Beauty will reach its 3,000th performance on Tuesday night, Aug. 28. Spokespersons at Boneau/Bryan-Brown note that the show is the tenth longest-running musical in Broadway history, and that it's the longest-running American musical currently on Broadway.
Bryan Batt, who played Monty the sleazy deejay in Saturday Night Fever and the obstreperous Cat in Seussical is now burning up the stage, literally, in the role of Lumiere the candelabara. Steve Blanchard and Sarah Litzinger are the current Beast and Belle. According to production spokespersons, also in the current cast are Christopher Sieber as Gaston, Barbara Marineau as Mrs. Potts, Jeff Brooks as Cogsworth, J.B. Adams as Maurice, Pam Klinger as Babette, Judith Moore as Madame de la Grande Bouche and Brad Aspel as Lefou, with Harrison Chad and William Ullrich alternating in the role of Chip.
On Sept. 12, Beth Fowler, who won an Ovation Award for playing Mrs. Potts in the L.A. mounting of B&B, will take over as Mrs. Potts in New York. Fowler's last Broadway stint was playing Sue, owner of the answering phone service of last season's Bells Are Ringing revival.
Disney's Beauty and the Beast celebrated its seventh year on Broadway April 18. Currently situated at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, after years at the Palace, was adapted from the popular animated Disney feature by the same name. It features songs by Alan Menken, Howard Ashman and Tim Rice and a book by Linda Woolverton. For tickets and information call (212) 307-4747.