A tale perhaps as old as time, Beauty and the Beast has been told in many versions, with most of us being familiar with some iteration: films, novels, television shows or perhaps animation. Now, Drayton Entertainment aims for a fresh retelling on the fantasy/romance musical while remaining faithful to the 18-century fairy tale.
An enchantress disguised as a beggar metamorphoses a handsome prince into a monstrous beast to punish him for refusing to let her into his home. All of his servants are transformed into household objects, and the spell can only be broken if he finds his one true love before the last petal falls off an enchanted rose. He meets his match with the bold and beautiful bookworm, Belle, after he saves her from a pack of wolves. But can the Beauty tame the Beast and see the humanity in him before time runs out?
“The most challenging part – there’s a moment in the story where it’s hard for her because she gets ripped away from everything that she knew,” said Jessica Gallant, who takes on the lead role of Belle. “Her father gets taken away from her, and she loses her freedom because the Beast says that she has to stay in the castle forever.
“There are some ups and downs in the story, so it is sometimes hard to go to that place and feel that but it makes it pay off in the end when everyone’s happy and there’s a happy ending. It’s really fun as an actor to play a Disney princess but feel all the feelings.”
A veteran actor of nearly a decade, Gallant easily fits the role of Belle. And she’s no stranger to Disney productions, having played the role of Ariel in Drayton Entertainment’s 2018 production of The Little Mermaid. Her previous roles include Anne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables (Charlottetown Festival), Ali in Mamma Mia (Neptune Theatre) and Savannah in Freaky Friday (Neptune Theatre).
Gallant said that while she looked to other interpretations of her character in forming the role, including the 1991 animated version and the 2017 film, she put her original spin on it.
“What’s great about our director Jayme Armstrong is she let me bring myself to Belle,” explained Gallant. “So I knew the story, but I’ve brought myself to her.
“Belle is so strong and brave. What I love about Belle is, everyone calls her beautiful and talks about her looks, but she’s so smart. Just brilliant and calculated and just a super courageous and brave character.”
Another experienced actor, Tony Edgerton, plays the role of Prince Adam/Beast, a part he has taken on many times before for several theatre companies (Arizona Broadway/Herberger Theatre). His previous works include Sweeney Todd in Sweeney Todd (The Herberger Centre), Jekyll/Hyde in Jekyll/Hyde (Slow Burn Theatre/Broward Centre), and Pharaoh/Issachar in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (national tour).
Rounding out the cast is vain hunter vying for Belle’s affections Gaston (David Light), and his loyal sidekick LeFou (Eric Dahlinger), Belle’s inventor father Maurice (Geoffrey Whynot), the motherly Mrs. Potts (Valerie Boyle), the kindhearted, rebellious Lumiere (Billy Lake), Lumiere’s best friend Cogsworth (Aidan deSalaiz) and the adventurous, curious Chip (Lucas Way). A large ensemble cast is also featured in the performance.
“We have a lot of Drayton regulars like Billy Lake who was in Priscilla: Queen of the Desert – he’s playing Lumiere. The whole cast is just unbelievable,” said Gallant.
The cast gets to enjoy a vibrant array of costumes designed by Rachel Berchtold to portray the unique characters. For instance, Lumiere has been transformed into a candlestick, Cogsworth into a clock, Mrs. Potts into a teapot, Chip into a teacup.
“The costumes are on a whole other level. They’re so colourful, and it goes with the set perfectly,” said Gallant. “You get immersed in the world. It’s so easy to act with everybody when they literally look like a teapot. They’re so amazing. I get to wear the iconic yellow dress which I love.”
The Drayton Entertainment production of Beauty and the Beast runs at the Drayton Theatre from August 15-31. Tickets can be purchased at any Drayton Entertainment box office, by calling (519) 638-5555 – toll-free at 1-855-drayton (372-9866), or online at www.draytonentertainment.com.