Disney's long-running musical Beauty and the Beast will reopen at its new home, the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, on Nov. 12. Beast left its original theatre, the Palace, on Sept. 5 in order to make move for Disney's latest Broadway-bound project, Aida (which, ironically, also begins previews Nov. 12 in the Palace Theatre of Chicago).
Andrea McArdle will be the Lunt-Fontanne's first Belle, a role she played at the Palace from March 3 on. McArdle, who will stay with the show through May 2000, recently experienced a triumph in the Nov. 7 television film of the musical that made her famous, Annie. In the Disney movie, she played the cameo role of "Star to Be," belting out several bars on "N.Y.C."
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!.
Steve Blanchard plays the Beast, Patrick Ryan Sullivan is Gaston, Barbara Marineau is Mrs. Potts, Jeff Brooks is Cogsworth, Patrick Page is Lumiere, Pam Klinger in Babette, Judith Moore is Madame de la Grande Bouche, Brian Winnick is Lefou and Ricky Ashley and Matthew Dotzman alternate as Chip.
Beauty and the Beast will remain substantially the same and producers are being very careful not to call the show's switch of locale 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 last spring and reopened on Broadway this fall after a tour in a smaller 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.
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 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.