January 9, 2014

Disney’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’ dances into Gallo Center

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast invites you to be its guest at the Gallo Center for the Arts Jan. 20-21.

That tale as old as time remains true as it could be.

The national touring production of “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast” keeps the timeless story of a cursed man and the importance of looking past appearances alive. The production comes to the Gallo Center for the Arts for two nights of shows Jan. 20 and 21.

The touring show is based on the award-winning Broadway musical, which in turn was based on the classic Disney blockbuster. This will be the production’s second stop in Modesto. The musical previously came to town for a five sold-out performance run at the Gallo Center in 2010.

The production was put together by the original creators of the Broadway musical, including the director and choreographer, as well as the costume, lighting and scenic design teams. Fans of the movies will recognize all of their favorites, as well as some original songs composed by Academy Award-winning composer Alan Menken, who also scored the film.

Darick Pead, who has played the Beast for about a year and a half in the touring show, said the story has stood the test of time because of its universal appeal. Everyone can relate to the story of a young woman named Belle (played by Hilary Maiberger) who meets a Beast (who is really a cursed prince) and realizes that beauty – love, too – is more than skin deep.

“It’s a story we all personally feel,” Pead said. “We all look at who we are. We don’t want them to look at our imperfections. We want people to look inside of us. It’s about not focusing on the exteriors – body, physique – and instead looking at what is really important.”

Pead, a Utah native who has appeared in productions of “Elephant Man,” “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” and “The Drowsy Chaperone,” said getting into his Beast mind-set is surprisingly simple.

“The Beast has a very cool character arc throughout the play, even more than in the movie,” Pead said. “In the cartoon, they can show a lot of visual things to endear you to the Beast. But in the musical, you can’t do that. People will find out the Beast is really funny and has a lot of funny moments. His whole arc is changing from an immature young man to learning to love selflessly.”

Even more surprisingly, the makeup, complete with horns and tusks, takes only about 25 minutes to apply.

Still, the transformation on stage of the Beast and all the characters is what helps to enchant the audience, Pead said. “The music transcends everything,” Pead said. “Kids truly get involved in the story. For many of them, it’s their first experience with live theater.”

Those who loved the movie will notice some key differences. The musical adapts the 1991 film and adds some songs, as well as changes the beloved inanimate objects like the candlestick Lumière and teapot Mrs. Potts into more human form. “In the musical, these humans are turning into these objects, these inanimate objects,” Pead said. “So it’s actually kind of a darker and there are more serious stakes.”

If the Beast can learn to love and find true love, not only will the curse be lifted on him, but also the other characters. Otherwise, they will all be doomed for eternity.

The Beauty to Pead’s Beast is Southern California native Maiberger. He said performing with her is a treat each night. “Hilary is absolutely everything you ever expected in a Belle. As Belle, she shows you what true love is,” Pead said.

The production has been seen by more than 35 million people in 22 countries. The touring musical, with a cast and crew of about 60, performs some 300 shows a year. Audiences keep coming back, year after year, because of the love story, Pead said.

“We all want to be loved completely for our imperfections and our gifts,” he said. “All the things you really loved about the movie are there in the musical.”

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