There are so few texts that were written in the mid-1700s that have seen such a consistent and immersive transformation throughout the ages that Beauty and the Beast has. Originally written in 1740 by French novelist Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve, adapted into the whimsical Disney animated musical film in 1991, a Broadway musical in 1994, a television show and most recently a feature film in 2017.
“It’s a story that’s been around for a long time. I think the key with the piece is that it touches people. The reason it has lasted is because it touches a very core human need – the idea of transformation. Life transforms you. You change as you grow, based on the relationships and experiences that you have,” said director Donna Belleville, a professional actor and director for more than 40 years.
“I think people recognize that fundamental truth in the story and respond to it. It’s got love, suspense, treachery, magic and humour.”
The 1994 Broadway musical is currently being adapted by St. Catharines’ Garden City Productions, and is set for a November 16-December 2 run at the Mandeville Theatre at Ridley College.
Directed by Belleville, with choreography by Brady Van Vaerenbergh and music direction by Betsy Taura, this production boasts a cast of almost 30, with Adrianna Polito as Belle and Zach Schawartz as the Beast.
For Polito, who has been doing productions with Garden City Productions for the past nine years, it’s a role of the lifetime.
“This is actually my favourite story. It came out the year I was born and I grew up watching it,” said Polito. “I’ve always loved Belle – it was kind of an obsession growing up. I was thrilled to be cast as this character and part of one of my favourite things.”
The production promises to be raw and real – unlike some of the other adaptations of the original story that we’ve come to know.
“I do not want a cartoon,” said Belleville. “I want real people, a real story and real relationships. It’s fairly low tech and imaginative rather than relying on theatre magic. There are some things that are different that what’s seen as traditional, but you’ll have to come see what that is.”
Tickets are available at gcp.ca