Sunday, May 27, 2018
News Roundup

'Beauty and the Beast' comes to Ruth Eckerd Hall during North American tour

CLEARWATER

Check out who will be our guests at Ruth Eckerd Hall this weekend: Belle, Gaston, the Beast and the rest of the cast of Disney's Beauty and the Beast. The Broadway show opened Wednesday night to a packed house.

"This company who will tour in Florida is my 33rd worldwide," said Matt West, who created the choreography for the original Broadway production. "The first couple of years after we opened on Broadway, I traveled to Vienna, Tokyo, Australia, Austria and Argentina and worldwide, setting up productions."

Now, almost 20 years after the Broadway tours began, Beauty and the Beast has a fresh look for the timeless story.

"Disney wanted to put on the national tour again and wanted to get the team of us who had put on the original back together. They asked if we wanted to take what we had done and use that, or start over," West said. "We loved the original show but had new ideas. We took the show apart. It was like a puzzle, but one we were very good at, knew we could solve, and had fun putting it all together."

The team rethought costume designs, lifting the hems of the dresses just a bit so you see the dancers' footwork. They also made the set a lot more transparent because, as West emphasizes, the story really is about seeing through the outside to the inside of the person or object — to see past the exterior, to the heart.

There's still a castle, although it can be moved offstage to make more room for dance numbers. There are still the glorious songs and the comical gaffes by Gaston. But, West said, the production is lighter, easier to take on tour from city to city, which meant the production wouldn't have to increase ticket prices.

"We were all happy with the original and its opulence, but this production has a more open scenic design on stage, which means my dancing changed," he said. "I embellished the choreography with more people in the dance numbers, so the dance numbers are bigger. I think the show has a bigger kick to it now."

The 28 cast members arrived Wednesday from doing the production in Hershey, Penn., where some new members were added to the cast as others' contracts ended. In Hershey, West added his finishing touches to the show.

"I was blown away watching these actors," said West. "They are fantastic. You are getting a brand-new, fresh group of people who are giving their all. It's a wonderful group of actors."

When asked if this was a kids' show or more for adults, West said it was for the family. Some little ones crawl on their parents' laps when they first see the beast, he said, but when the comedic side of the beast emerges, the kids eat it up.

"It's certainly not a kiddie show," said West. "It's a love story and it has adult humor, but the little ones know the story better than we do."

Both adults and children seem to suspend disbelief when watching the show. West talked about how one little boy in Pennsylvania yelled from the balcony. The Beast had gotten angry at Belle and told her to leave the castle. The little boy yelled, "Don't hurt her!" when the Beast grabbed for Belle's arm. It's that real to the audience, yet it also transports viewers into an enchanting world through dazzling costumes, gorgeous songs and a stunning set blended with an unforgettable story.

"This new production of Beauty and the Beast defies the imagination," said Ruth Eckerd Hall president and CEO Zev Buffman. "It is living proof that, like good wine, it improves greatly through the harsh test of time. It is a beauty."

Correspondent Theodora Aggeles can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
Troopers looking for driver in New Port Richey fatal hit-and-run

Troopers looking for driver in New Port Richey fatal hit-and-run

NEW PORT RICHEY — Florida Highway Patrol troopers are looking for a driver who hit and killed a 46-year-old bicyclist then drove from the scene.Shawn Michael Grady, of New Port Richey, was biking south on Rowan Road south of Massachusetts Avenue abou...
Updated: 1 hour ago
FHP: 30-year-old motorcyclist killed in Hudson crash

FHP: 30-year-old motorcyclist killed in Hudson crash

HUDSON — A 30-year-old man died after he was struck by a car and thrown off the motorcycle he was riding.According to the Florida Highway Patrol, Derek Fingerle, of Hudson, was traveling south on U.S. 19 in the center lane about 8:20 p.m. Saturday. M...
Updated: 1 hour ago
A wet Memorial Day weekend continues as Alberto treks north

A wet Memorial Day weekend continues as Alberto treks north

Subtropical Storm Alberto continued its trek north-northeast overnight and is expected to make landfall in the northern Gulf Coast late Monday.The storm was about 85 miles north of the Dry Tortugas as of Sunday morning, producing winds up to 40 mph a...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Rays journal: After Alex Colome trade, Rays’ closer situation is fluid, Kevin Cash says

Rays journal: After Alex Colome trade, Rays’ closer situation is fluid, Kevin Cash says

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays have had to get creative in how they start games. Now, after Friday's trade of closer Alex Colome, they might have to get creative in how they finish them.How they handle the ninth inning going forward will be a fluid ...
Updated: 18 minutes ago
Vegas envy: Is Tampa Bay ready for a Vegas’ birth-to-best story?

Vegas envy: Is Tampa Bay ready for a Vegas’ birth-to-best story?

What in the name of the 0-26 Bucs is going on here?The breathtaking Vegas Golden Knights are the greatest expansion team in professional sports history. They are the best (or worst) thing to ever happen to our games, having won 51 times during the re...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Rays pitchers Ryne Stanek, Anthony Banda dominate in 5-1 win over Orioles

Rays pitchers Ryne Stanek, Anthony Banda dominate in 5-1 win over Orioles

THE BASEBALL LABORATORY IN ST. PETERSBURG — Up is down. Down is up. Hello is goodbye. Goodbye is hello. A reliever is a starter. A starter is a reliever.These are your 2018 Tampa Bay Rays.You never know what's going to happen. And just when you...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Former Bucs QB Josh Freeman says he’s retiring from football

Former Bucs QB Josh Freeman says he’s retiring from football

Former Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman, who was trying to resurrect his career with the CFL's Montreal Alouettes, said Saturday that he is retiring from football.Freeman, 30, was a first-round draft pick of the Bucs in 2009 and was their starting ...
Published: 05/26/18
Her husband wouldn't apologize to her father — so she shot him, police say

Her husband wouldn't apologize to her father — so she shot him, police say

RIVERVIEW — A Riverview woman shot and killed her husband Saturday because he punched her father and wouldn’t say sorry, the Hillsborough Sheriff’s Office said. Sabrina Michelle Hendley, 40, faces a first-degree murder charge in th...
Published: 05/26/18
Thomas Bassinger’s takeaways from Saturday’s Rays-Orioles game

Thomas Bassinger’s takeaways from Saturday’s Rays-Orioles game

Interesting decision by the Rays to start RH reliever Ryne Stanek on Saturday. The Orioles' Nos. 1 through 5 hitters were righties, and Stanek came in allowing a 1.228 OPS against righties and a .592 OPS against lefties. It ended up working.How ...
Published: 05/26/18
Hernando officials seize 36 neglected dogs from sanctuary

Hernando officials seize 36 neglected dogs from sanctuary

WEEKI WACHEE — A woman who runs an animal sanctuary will face dozens of animal cruelty charges after Hernando County animal enforcement officers said they found dogs, equine, pigs, cats and chickens housed in poor conditions on her property.Animal of...
Published: 05/26/18