The last rose petal will fall on Sept. 5 as Belle and her Beast evacuate their Palace for a move to the neighboring Lunt-Fontanne Theatre. Performances of Beauty and the Beast will resume Nov. 12 at its new home, while the Palace prepares for the arrival of Disney's next musical, Elton John and Tim Rice's Aida, beginning performances Feb. 23.
When Beauty arrives at the Lunt-Fontanne, lead actress Andrea McArdle will still be playing Belle, the bookish young lady who grows to love her bestial boyfriend. McArdle took over the role March 3. Previous Belles have included Susan Egan, Sarah Uriarte and Deborah Gibson.
McArdle made her Broadway debut at age 13 as the original orphan Annie in the Martin Charnin-Charles Strouse musical. Other Broadway credits include the original companies of Starlight Express, Les Miserables and State Fair. McArdle has toured the country as Eponine in Les Miz and Nancy in Oliver!. A cabaret and concert performer, she recently sang the closing tribute at the World Cup Soccer Championship in France.
Even though McArdle is returning (her co-star has yet to be announced) and the show will remain substantially the same, producers are being very careful not to call the Beauty switch a move or transfer. As per Actors' Equity rules, they're "closing" the show and waiting (at least) six weeks to "open" it again. By following those guidelines, the producers can trim the cast and other aspects of the production (if need be) before Beauty appears again at the Lunt. The move echoes the fate of The Scarlet Pimpernel -- which closed on Broadway this spring and is currently on tour. Producers will bring the musical back to Broadway this fall, but in a smaller theatre and with a tighter cast. In a statement, Disney Theatricals co-producer (with Thomas Schumacher) Peter Schneider promises, "A spectacular new production" that will employ many of the cast, musicians and crew of the current Beauty.
Beauty opened at the Palace April 18, 1994 and has run nearly 2,200 performances there. Ticketholders for performances of B & B at the Palace between Sept. 6-Nov. 11 are asked to contact Ticketmaster (212) 307-4747 or the theatre box office regarding returns or exchanges. *
The new Disney musical Aida will begin previews at the Palace Theatre on Feb. 23, 2000, for an opening a month later, on March 23. The New York engagement will follow a tryout at Chicago's own Palace, Nov. 12, 1999-Jan. 9, 2000. New York rehearsals are to begin in September for a 25-member cast.
The Elton John-Tim Rice musical will be directed Robert Falls (Tony winner for Death of a Salesman), designed by Bob Crowley (The Iceman Cometh), choreographed by Wayne Cilento (The Who's Tommy), and will star Adam Pascal (Rent), Heather Headley (The Lion King) and Sherie Rene Scott (recently altered from just plain Sherie Scott). Hwang has worked on the book of the show as a "creative consultant." Original bookwriter Linda Woolverton remains with the show.