India’s first Broadway Musical, The Beauty and The Beast, is all set to rock Delhi. From talent hunting to training newbies in opera, dance and acting, to staging the show in a stadium with a 360 degree view, Disney India has vowed to wow, reports SANGEETA YADAV
Meet Belle, a young beautiful small town woman. And the beast, a dashing prince spellbound by an enchantress. On stake is his household which will be doomed for eternity if the beast fails to fall in love and be loved within a set time, thereby breaking the spell and re-transforming to his human identity.
We all know the fable. But it’s time to get set for experiencing the majestic world of The Beauty and The Beast with all the fanfare and grandeur. After getting rave reviews in Mumbai, the show has now come to Delhi.
Live entertainment, a fledgling genre in India will open up with this show.
“Disney’s Broadway is a great first step but we’ve a long way to go. If we are able to get trained talent, both on and off stage, we’ll be in a great space within five years with a thriving industry,” Siddharth Roy Kapoor, MD, Disney India, says.
Meher Mistry, a theatre artist from Mumbai, will be playing Belle and the beast will be Edwin Joseph. One of the biggest challenges was to find artists who could sing, dance and act at the same time.
“There’s been a lack of trained theatrical talent in India. However, we conducted extensive auditions in theatres around the country and were able to stitch up a great pool,” Roy explains.
From physical stamina, to vocal, dance and acting training, the actors were put through rigorous training for months before staging the live show.
“Every aspect of our performance has been worked upon. To prepare for the more than two hours show, we had to be on our toes and in shape. Our day started with fitness training followed by vocal lessons and then a dance and drama rehearsal,” Meher Mistry says.
‘Beast’ Edwin, had to shift base from Delhi to Mumbai. He found the training so tough that he almost gave up.
“After shifting to Mumbai five months ago, all my life in Mumbai was The Beauty and The Beast. To get into the physicality of the Beast, I underwent aerial and core strength training. There were two occasions when I felt I would not be able to do this. I wanted to return to Delhi because my body used to hurt all the time and we had to work day in and day out,” the 21-year-old tells you.
Having done over 20 plays with Shakespeare Society in St Stephens College, and singing opera for the past-year-and-a-half with the Neemrana Music Foundation, Edwin feels it helped him get the right vocals and acting.
“While vocal training, the focus was not on sounding good but translating the content of the scene into that song. The beast’s tone has to have a larger than life voice that transcends everything,” Joseph says.
Edwin’s favourite moment is
“When the curtain opens, you see a huge audience sitting around you, carrying a huge smile on their face and clapping like seals. There are children standing below the stage, looking astonished,” he says.
Music director Leslie Lewis feels that the philharmonic orchestra is a dying genre in India.
“Orchestra was used and shown in the movies of 60s and 70s but gradually the Bollywood music scene shifted to electronics. We’ve lost the soul of what a real orchestra is. The Beauty And The Beast has made me go back to my roots, which lie in orchestra. It has given me a fantastic crash course in my own skills. Alan Menken, an American musical theatre artist who has given the music to Disney’s Broadway shows, complimented me by saying that I’ve done a great job of his original work. I have the liberty to do something but not to mess up with what he has done,” Lewis tells you.
Vikrant Pawar, who has worked as an assistant director on Zangoora at Kingdom Of Dreams (KoD), was roped in as the show director and creative head, Live Entertainment at Disney India.
“Vikrant did internship with UTV many years ago. It was his vision to bring Broadway to India and we all have helped in making this happen and got the best out of the lot. There is Terence Lewis (choreography), Gavin Miguel (costume design), Varsha Jain (set designer), Pallavi Devika (hair & make-up) and Suzanne D’Mello (vocal training),” Roy says.
Having catered to a niche audience, Roy feels that if the quality is good, the show will pull the audience.
“In a country like India, niche is a large number. There is a rise in disposable incomes and people here are able to afford high-end shows. As we get our audiences habituated to watching live entertainment, we’ll be able to build a brand of great content and value,” Roy explains.
The Beauty and The Beast, incidentally, has never been staged in a stadium, like it will be done in Delhi. The stage is already up at the Thyagaraj Stadium and the show will take place from December 19 to 27. Tickets go on sale from today.
(The interview got published in Sunday Pioneer – http://www.dailypioneer.com/sunday-edition/sunday-pioneer/backpack/beauty-of-the-beast.html).