With the UCD Community Musical set to stage their version of Beauty and the Beast, Steven Balbirnie talks to the show’s producer Aileen Ryan
Beauty and the Beast is one of the most beloved of Disney’s animated feature films, so it is no wonder that when it was adapted into a stage musical, it became one of the longest-running productions on Broadway. And now, the musical will be coming to Belfield as Beauty and the Beast was chosen for this year’s UCD Community Musical, and looks set to be the biggest production yet.
O-two caught up with the show’s producer, Aileen Ryan, to find out how preparations are progressing and just what audiences can expect from a production of this magnitude. The aim of the show, according to Ryan, is “to give back to everyone something that they might enjoy”.
It is clear that an immense amount of effort is being put towards achieving this, with preparations for the show having begun as early as July 2010. The show will be an incredible collaboration, as Ryan told O-two. It includes a cast of 50 people and a crew of up to 80 people, drawing not only upon the efforts of students, but also of staff and alumni, all of whom are giving their time for free.
Great progress has been made in preparations and Ryan pointed out that this was due to the dedication of everyone involved, saying: “Everyone’s so enthusiastic about it.”
Ryan was also eager to thank the college authorities: Vice President for Students Dr Martin Butler, the Students’ Union, the Musical Society and Dramsoc for their help and support in what is truly a university-wide collaborative effort. The pool of skills available on campus meant that the UCD Community Musical is able to benefit from expertise in many areas, such as the production skills of Dramsoc.
Even with such support, putting on a show the size of Beauty and the Beast must be a daunting task, so O-two asks Ryan about the reasons for such an ambitious choice. Ryan replies that they wanted to put on a show suitable for all of the UCD community.
Beauty and the Beast is a fondly remembered part of the childhood of many among the current generation of students, and it is also a show that staff and alumni can bring their families to see. Ryan also said that the reason for a bigger show was that it could build on the successes and experience of previous productions.
Experience is clearly an important factor in the production, as while the cast includes a mixture of new talent and experienced performers; the main cast of Meabh Carron as Belle, Alec Ward as Beast and Stuart Pollock as Gaston, all have previous experience performing in musicals. In fact, Alec Ward starred in the first UCD Community Musical, West Side Story, in 2008. Auditions for the parts were in October and rehearsals have been ongoing since January 5th, which Ryan says “are coming along really well”.
So what can audiences expect from the production? To those who’ve seen the animated film about the Beast’s struggle to find love and redemption, this stage version should seem very familiar. It follows the same story as the Disney film and includes all of the original songs, as well as a few new ones.
Ryan says that they are making every effort to try and stay as faithful as possible to the original. The set and costumes should be impressive and lend the production authenticity, as they are being sourced from a UK touring company. Alongside the characters and sets retaining their elaborate appearances, the show will feature the visual spectacle of choreographed song and dance numbers, as well as projections and pyrotechnical effects. The production will also boast an orchestra and choir to further enhance the experience.
Yet there are still several challenges to be confronted before the production begins. While sets, rigging and lighting have been booked months in advance, the crew will only have three days in which to transform O’Reilly Hall into a fairytale world before the show opens. However, the fruits of these labours will be an immersive fantasy experience that Ryan says “really is something that hasn’t ever happened in UCD before”. The show looks set to be a spectacular event, so in the words of its director, Emily Leonard, “come join us in the fairytale”.
Beauty and the Beast will run in O’Reilly Hall from February 15-19. Tickets will be on sale from January 31st online, in SU shops, the Arts block, Richview, Roebuck and Quinn, while some tickets will be available at the door. Adult tickets are €18 while tickets for students and children are €15. Tickets for previews and matinees are €12. For more information visit www.ucd.ie/musical.