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Joined: 8/31/04
Location: United States
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bullet Topic: Beauty and the Beast
    Posted: 2/27/08 at 5:44pm
We are planning on doing B& B for our spring musical. There are a few obsticals I am having. First, I have no script yet and won't for about another week. I have ofcourse seen the movie, but I know the musical is different but don't know how it has been adapted (like Cinderella)
 Second, I have a enitrely new stage and have never designed anything or built anything for a stage this size 50' wide  (yes, 50') 24' tall by about 30' deep. (our last stage was 20' wide by 10' tall by 20' deep)
 Oh and I have a crew of mostly girls (not that that is bad) but most have NEVER built anything so I have complete novices to work with. (VERY IMPORTANT)
My question is: Are there any "must do's" for this show? Someone mentioned a staricase to me at one point. I am looking for easy to build, paint or create things. How big is too big? how big do I go?
I know the director and musical director are expecting grand things, though I have expressed my reservations/concerns. Just looking for ideas at this point.
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Mr. Lowell

Joined: 1/30/07
Location: United States
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Posts: 269
bullet Posted: 2/27/08 at 10:43pm
Hi Aimee, the staircase is not required.  I did not use one.  Now if I had done "Hello, Dolly" in the same season, then maybe I would have!  But you need to weigh the importance of it against things like wingspace and construction time.
The show doesn't have to be a monster.  There is no way to take a theatre audience to all the fully realized locations that you can go to in a don't kill yourself trying.  Like with all musicals, it all comes down to the performer standing there singing to the audience.  So I am convinced that a really good cast can be just as effective standing in front of a black curtain all night!  (Which is a weird thing to hear from a designer).   Never underestimate the ability of the audience to fill in the blanks with their imaginations.
I designed a middle school production of Beauty and the Beast two years ago.  And frankly, to tell you the truth I overbuilt that thing for such little kids.  You can look at some pictures in a file here:   
There was no need for me to do such a grand palace, but I did it because I could.  Ultimately, you only need to suggest the various locations with fragmentary scenery or furniture.  For Belle's bedroom I just had two rolling columns to represent a doorway and a bed.  The area was defined by lighting.  There is no need to spend weeks building walls and other details for such a brief scene.  And I did the prologue behind a cyc as a shadow scene...and the forest scene was simply done using gobo projections.  
So here are the "must-haves":
1)  You need the bell jar for the rose.  (I made the petals fall off with fishing line).
2)  The father's invention vehicle.  (I built a box over a "HoverRound" electric scooter and had a chorus girl inside it pulling all the levers).
3)  The diningroom table for "Be Our Guest"...and maybe you could fly in a fake chandelier for the diningroom/ballroom scene.
4)  The village street scene and Belle's exterior can be done with a rented backdrop or stock flats.
5)  The Tavern...(I used an terrific drop from Kenmark)...but it could be done with fragmentary wall units.  The main things you need to define this scene are the bar, the big table, and the big throne chair with horns.
6)  The forest is very brief, so a black velour curtain or projections on a cyc could be used.  Don't waste effort gathering fake Christmas trees!
7)  The library is also very brief, so it can be a simple bookcase flat beyond a doorway.  (My palace set was so huge I had to have kids paint fake books on the back wall of the stage!)
8)  The "Beast's lair" has the climactic moment, so you might spend some effort here.  However the script does not call for the Beast to fly in the air like in the movie, so don't take on all the costs, stresses and safety risks involved in flying the Beast.  (I was able to do a seamless transition with creative lighting effects).
9)  Put your money and efforts into the complex costumes.  There are several major costume rental companies that will rent all the difficult to build "inanimate object" characters.
10)  Finally, be forewarned that the Disney contract is VERY strict on the use of the show logo, Belle's dress design, and the videotaping of the show.  So be sure to read the fine print and follow it to the letter, because no matter how small your town is, you can bet you are being monitored.
Well, I may have forgotten some stuff because tonight was my final dress of Seussical and my brain is mush!   So feel free to follow-up with questions.  Good luck and remember to have fun!   -Dana
Mr. Lowell,
Lighting/Set Designer & Tech Director,
for the Linda Sloan Theatre,
in the Davison Center for the Arts,
at Greensboro Day School
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