When Beauty and the Beast leaves Broadway's Palace Theatre, Sept. 5, and reopens a month later, Nov. 12, at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, 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 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."
The move made room for Disney's Aida, which start previews at the Palace Feb. 23, 2000 and open there exactly a month later.
Earlier this year, producer Stewart F. Lane and the Nederlander Organization, who co-own the Palace, confirmed that Disney was actively considering bringing its new Elton John-Tim Rice musical Aida to the Palace Theatre in early 2000. Beauty opened at the Palace April 18, 1994 and has run more than 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. *
With a book by Linda Woolverton and score by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman (with additional tunes by Menken and Tim Rice), Beauty is a live-action version of the hit Disney animated film, telling of a prince whose momentary rudeness costs him dearly. Magically transformed into a beast, the self-centered prince has to learn to love or else he -- and all his servants -- will be doomed. Robert Jess Roth directs; Matt West choreographs.
For tickets to B&B at either the Palace (through Sept. 5) or the Lunt-Fontanne, 205 West 46th Street, call (212) 307-4747.