Paige O'Hara, best known as the voice behind Belle in Disney's animated hit Beauty and the Beast has answered members' Bulletin Board questions.
As Disney's animated heroine, Belle, in the critically acclaimed, Oscar-winning animated film, Paige O'Hara added a Disney classic to a career that has spanned Broadway, opera and concert stages, as well as recording. Ms. O'Hara played Ellie May Chipley in the 1983 Broadway revival of Show Boat starring Donald O'Connor and most recently, she starred as Fantine in the award-winning Les Miserables on Broadway. She also performed the title role in the national touring company of The Mystery of Edwin Drood with Clive Revill, Jean Stapleton and the late George Rose, after appearing in the Broadway company, as well. Also, on national tour, she co-starred as Ado Annie in the classic Oklahoma!, directed by William Hammerstein.
O'Hara makes her debut solo recording with "Loving You: Paige O'Hara Sings Jerry Herman" now available on the Varese Sarabande label (1-800-VARESE 4). "Loving You" includes songs from such wonderful musicals as Hello, Dolly!, Mame, La Cage Aux Folles, Mack and Mabel, The Grand Tour and Dear World.
Currently, Ms. O'Hara is hard at work on her second solo album and is touring with her husband Michael Piontek, a Broadway veteran himself, in their own concert act From Belle to Broadway.
QUESTION: I had no idea you had done so much theatre! I am very impressed. Drood requires quite a voice. Any plans to return to the theatre any time soon? Are you on any Broadway cast albums? How do you feel about Beauty being on Broadway? I, for one, like it. The score and story are only accented by the special effects. Many have said it was purely comercial. But I say if youv'e got the money for the special effects why not have them? Why Not? I've also heard that some of those involved in the film were upset by the play. Apparently they felt ripped off, or jipped or something. Have you encountered any of that? Well I best go! --JohnFROM PAIGE O'HARA: Hi John,
I'm with you, I really liked the stage version. There are things I would have done differently in a few places but overall, I really enjoyed it. My husband is now one of the "Beasts" so I'm close to it. Also Drood was one of my favorite roles and probably the most perfectly suited (vocally I mean) role I've done in years. Thanks.
QUESTION: Dear Paige, I was lucky enough to see you in Les Miz in the spring thought you were great. (Of course, like every one else, I cried at the show!) I was wondering if you have any plans to return to Broadway soon, whether in Le Miz or in another show (maybe Beauty and the Beast?).
The animated feature Beauty and the beast was great and I love the music from the show. How long did it take you to record the songs from the show and to record the script? Also, did you enjoy working on the animated movie and do you have plans to work on one in the future?
I would also like to know which is your favorite song and what is your favorite show? And do you have a favorite composer? Do you prefer opera over the traditional Broadway songs?
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. I look forward to your upcoming work. --Susan Kelly
FROM PAIGE O'HARA: Dear Susan, Thanks for your kind words -- I'm glad you like Les Miz. As of right now I'm not planning on a Broadway return but hopefully within a year or so that will change. I recorded B&B off and on for two and a half years. We'd record and then go away for months while they'd animate. It was great fun and quite extraordinary to participate in "the process." My favorite song is a tough question but I' m sentimental about "Speak Low" by Kurt Weill from his musical One Touch of Venus. I prefer Broadway over Opera -- favorite composers -- G. Geróhwin, R. Rodgers, C. Porter. Favorite lyricists -- O. Hammerstein, Howard Ashman, S. Sondheim, J. Herman. Thanks again Susan.
QUESTION: Hi. I really love Beauty and the Beast. It's one of my favorite Disney movies! Have you seen the Broadway show of it? What are some of your favorite Broadway shows? Are you going to do any more Disney movies soon? Good Luck with all your projects! --MNB movies
FROM PAIGE O'HARA
Hi, Thanks for your words! Yes I've seen the stage version of B&B many times due to friends performing in it -- and now my husband is one of the "Beasts." I loved doing LES MIZ and favorite Broadway shows would take hours to list. Currently, I'm doing a Disney film but working on my second album. Thanks again!
QUESTION: Hi. It's great to be talking to you. I am wondering how you get into doing Disney voices. B & B is my favorite Disney movie and I would love to do voices. I also enjoyed your work on the recording of SHOW BOAT. Good luck with future projects! --Nikki
FROM PAIGE O'HARA: Hi Nikki! Thanks for your words! I auditioned for Belle through my agent in New York. If you don't have an agent, then a demo-tape is usually required which you send to Disney character voices in L.A. Thanks also in regards to Show Boat. Good Luck!
QUESTION: Hi - I'm a Beauty and the Beast fanatic and became absolutely addicted to your voice on the movie soundtrack. I was then surprised and ecstatic to see you play Fantine in Les Miserables. From your point of view, which song in Les Mis was the hardest to perform? Why? Thanks! --SweethrtNJ
FROM PAIGE OHARA: Hi,
Thanks for writing! Definitely "I Dreamed a Dream" was the most difficult for me in LES MIZ. Mainly because the key was too low. The rest of Fantine's music was in a great range. From an acting standpoint as well because exposition for her character is so quick. Thanks.
QUESTION: Dear Paige,
I am very impressed with the quality of your voice. It is really very lovely. Unfortunately, I don't think the "Belles" on Broadway had the same interpretation as you. They quite often seem to really "blast" the sound out. The girl who is playing Belle now is really great physically, but she heaves from her chest. I fear she is singing incorrectly. The show was very good I thought. The new songs were pretty good. What do you think of the Belle now and the show itself?
Also, what character were you in Drood? I love that show!...My, what an impressive career you have had so far! What is next for you? Sincerely, EAMCANFLY
FROM PAIGE O'HARA: Hi! Thanks for your kind words. I stood by for the role of Edwin Drood on Broadway and played it when it toured nationally with Jean Stapeton. It's one of my favorites.
I think the stage "Belles" are different partially because of feeling they need to fill the theatre. The Belle in Tokyo, Japan; Keiko, is closest vocally to my interpretation -- I liked the show version -- but felt it went for comedy in some places when "heart" would have peen preferable. But all in all, it's very entertaining and when my husband goes on as the "Beast" (he's standing by in L.A.), the show gains HEART. Thanks.
QUESTION: Just heard your new CD (Jerry Herman).
Magnificent. Thank you!
FROM PAIGE O'HARA: Hi! Thanks for you words! It was a personal triumph to record my dear friend's beautiful music and lyrics. Thank you!
QUESTION: Miss O'Hara, I literally cry like a baby when I listen to the Beauty and the Beast soundtrack and you sing "I want adventure in the great wide somewhere. I want it more than I can tell." Your voice is impeccably beautiful and wonderful. I am a composer who has written a new musical I'd like for you to hear. If this is possible, please let me know how to get it to you. If not, do you know anyone at Disney I could send it to? Maybe someone who participates in the rap sessions where they decide on new material to animate? I think I've got the next big Disney movie here! Thanks for your time.
FROM PAIGE O'HARA: Hi! Thanks for writing. I'd be happy to read your script and then return it to you. It can be sent to
c/o my manager: Mike Gormley L.A. Personal Development, 950 N. Kings Rd., 266 W. Hollywood, CA 90069. Good luck with your writing.
QUESTION: I think you did a wonderful job with the voice of Belle. You chose a wonderful character to bring to life. I can remember when I saw BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. I was very happy to see a positive role that little girls can attach to.
These days many people don't recognize the wonderful stories that have shaped our culture. It would be a shame to loose these stories because I grew up on them and still enjoy them today. I think DISNEY is doing a great job bring these stories to life. I must ask, are you doing anymore DISNEY films?
I can speak for myself and my mom when I say you have an exquisite voice. After coming out of the theater, I started to wonder, who did her voice. I'm glad I know. --A FAN, BROCKVEN
FROM PAIGE O'HARA: HI. Thanks for your letter. At the moment I'm not doing a Disney film but working on my second CD. The first one was a Broadway collaboration called "Loving You: Paige O sings Jerry Herman" and the next one will be pop. Thanks also for the note on "positive role model" it was important to me as well.
QUESTION: I've always loved Les Miz, but Fantine never really did it for me. I really liked her solo, but it wasn't anywhere near as emotional as "On My Own" or "A Little Fall Of Rain." That was before I saw your performance at the end of the spring. I was crying like crazy - people I didn't know were offering me tissues!! Congratulations and thank you for such a moving performance!!! --Matt Ritchey, NYU TSOA Undergrad.
QUESTION: Hi Paige, I think I met you many years ago when we were students of Liz Howard and Howard Schulsinger. I remember a woman with the most magical voice and she sang a song that had been written for Edith Piaf but had never been recorded. We performed as a group at Brothers and Sisters nightclub in NYC, and I thought you were the greatest singer ever - is that you? I also remember going to see Company at ELT sometime after that and you were in it. In any case, you are remarkably talented and I'm thrilled with your success. I'm sure it will continue. If any of this is accurate, e-mail me. I'm currently working (acting) in Florida.
FROM PAIGE OHARA: Hi, Thanks so much for your letter! Yes, I'm that, Liz Howard student and I sang those PIAF songs in the old days. I still love them. Thanks for remembering and good luck with your acting in FLA!
QUESTION: Hi Paige! We have mutual friends. I really loved your "Over the Rainbow" for Clayton, I'm sure he loved it too. Someday we will either meet or work together - Belle is still my favorite - I just wish I could get cast in the role!!! Ha! Best wishes, Nancy
FROM PAIGE O'HARA: Hi Nancy, I miss Fred very much. I thought of him often when recording my LOVING CD. Especially on the take of "I Belong Here." Keep going for Belle -- there are lots of companies popping up!
QUESTION: I read somewhere that you did a concert version of the musical Love Life in London. It's a show I've been fascinated about and have always wanted to hear. What did you think of the show itself, and did you enjoy performing it? Is there any chance that it will be (or has been) recorded? I love your work. --Kent C.(and Patrick who sat next to you at the Ovation Awards.)
FROM PAIGE O'HARA: Hi Kent & Patrick: It was nice to hear from you. How bout those Ovation Award?.... Yes, I sang LOVELIFE with Davis Gaines with the San Antonio Symphony. It's a remarkable piece and I'd love to do a full version. It wasn't commercial due to the negatives it focuses on in MARRIAGE. It was before its time. See ya again;
QUESTION: Your voice is great. I love The Beauty and the Beast soundtrack. How long have you been singing? I have this one fear maybe you can help me with. I want to try out for my school play but I am kind of afraid to audition . If I make it I won't be nervous. How do you feel when you audition for something and what do you do? Please answer my question, it would be most helpful. Thank you! --Sea
FROM PAIGE O'HARA: Hi Sea: If I'm too late for your audition, I'm sorry about that. I've been in Japan. Stage fright or audition fright is common. I still have it after all these years. My advice it to prepare material that your : A. comfortable with, B. very rehearsed with, C. that suits YOU. If your reading from the script, find out which scene and practice ALOT. Remember, they want to like you so try to ENJOY it. Oh, and about the singing -- I've been singing in the theatre since I was 9 or 10 years old and I'm in my 30's now. Hang in there and GO FOR IT!
QUESTION: Dear Ms. O'Hara: I have thought about it and I still cannot think of an "intelligent" question for you. So, here is just a quick memory instead; I had the opportunity to see you perform several times in DROOD in Atlanta at the Fox Theatre(isn't it beautiful?).I enjoyed your lovely voice then and I hoped to be able to hear it more in the future . Needless to say, I am thrilled for you (and for me) about your thriving career. Thanks for sharing your talents. --Colleen.
FROM PAIGE O'HARA: Hi Colleen: Thanks so much for your kind words. Drood was very special to me and yes I loved playing the "Fox." Good Luck to you. Thanks for the support.
QUESTION: Loved you in Les Mis-any chance of you doing Belle on Broadway?????
FROM PAIGE O'HARA: Thanks for your words -- Les Miserables was a wonderful experience. "Belle on Broadway" was initially discussed before it went into production. I felt the show wasn't right for me and that perhaps I was too old to portray her on stage. However, I'm re-thinking it right now as my husband has become one of their "Beasts." Thanks again.
QUESTION: I loved you voice when I heard it in Beauty and the Beast. How did you become involved in working with Disney? What suggestions do you have for anyone trying to break into that area of the business?
FROM PAIGE O'HARA: Hi Kisah, I know its hard to break in -- especially with animated features because of all the stars doing them now. I auditioned through an agent in New York City. Often Disney asks for tapes of your voice, maybe a demo of your voice singing and speaking 1 song and a few lines. Rick Demsey at Disney character Voices in Burbank CA would be the one to send your tape to. Good luck.
--Edited by Katia Lundy