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Arts and Entertainment

Stage musical 'Beauty and the Beast' has all the familiar songs, plus some enchanting new ones

Ashley Morton (Belle) and Ryan Reilly (Beast) bring Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” to life in Anchorage, presented by the Anchorage Concert Association. (Plan-B Entertainment)

In "Home," a song written for the "Beauty and the Beast" musical, the captive Belle longs to escape the Beast's castle and regrets putting down her "poor provincial town."

"It was fun to learn the songs in the show that weren't in the movie, because they help flesh out the characters a lot more," said Ashley Morton, who plays Belle in the production coming to Atwood Concert Hall on Tuesday, April 25.

When the cartoon comes alive on stage, all the witty and wonderful songs folks remember from the 1991 movie — like "Gaston" and "Be Our Guest" — will be there, plus five songs written for the stage adaptation, which premiered on Broadway in 1994.

At approximately 2 1/2 hours, the musical is about an hour longer than the film and digs much deeper into the tales as old as time.

"We're re-telling the story, but we're not re-inventing the story," said Andy Ferrara, executive producer and director of the production playing Anchorage. "Belle is a more solid and lovable character and the Beast has some very tender moments."

"Beauty and the Beast" was an artistic breakthrough for Disney, picking up Oscars for best soundtrack and original song at the 1992 Academy Awards. It was also the first animated film to ever be nominated for a best picture Oscar, though it lost to a much freakier story about a beast, "The Silence of the Lambs."

The animated hit was just begging for a musical stage adaptation.

"'Beauty and the Beast' is written like a Broadway musical," Ferrara said, adding that all the musical minds behind it were Broadway veterans.

Ferrara said the numbers added for the stage show meld seamlessly with the classic songs and score because they were written by composer Alan Menken and lyricist Tim Rice. Menken and the late lyricist Howard Ashman wrote the majority of the original soundtrack, and Rice stepped in to help complete it when Ashman died.

Menken and Rice teamed up again to compose a batch of new songs for the current live-action "Beauty and the Beast" blockbuster movie starring Emma Watson. None of those songs are in the stage show.

Ashley Morton (Belle) and Ryan Reilly (Beast) bring Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” to life in Anchorage, presented by the Anchorage Concert Association. (Plan-B Entertainment)

Since the stage show is much longer than the 1991 film, Rice and Menken were able to explore the characters' inner lives and grant characters with little or no singing in the film their own signature songs.

Even though he's one of the titular characters, the Beast didn't have any solo numbers in the movie, and he shared his sole singing moment with Belle in the blossoming love duet "Something There."

The musical provides the Beast with a heartbreaking power ballad he can really sink his teeth into.

"If I Can't Love Her" reveals the depths of the Beast's depression as he accepts that he may never be human again and wishes for a way, any way, out of his pain.

Not all of the new songs are emotionally wrenching. The jaunty "No Matter What" is an endearing insight into the relationship between Belle and her disheveled inventor dad Maurice. The song is also a chance for Maurice, who doesn't sing at all in the movie, to display his vocal chops.

The most comical new song is granted to thick-necked narcissist Gaston.

The arrogant hunk already has his hilarious, show-stopping signature song "Gaston," and not much of a complex inner life to explore, but Rice and Menken decided he needed another musical moment to express his love for himself.

They expanded his pompous marriage proposal to Belle into a number aptly called "Me."

Throughout the song, the thoroughly unimpressed Belle delivers snappy retorts to Gaston's self-worshipping words.

"He's asking Belle to marry him, but the entire song is about him and how great he is," Morton said. "It's so fun to be the wittier end of it. (Everything I say) goes right over Gaston's head every time."

Ashley Morton plays Belle in “Beauty and the Beast,” presented by the Anchorage Concert Association. (Jenn Harrington)

The musical bestows two new songs upon Belle: the remorseful "Home" and the uplifting "A Change in Me," which she sings to Maurice after the Beast releases her.

It's a gorgeous, revelatory piece about the way her experience in the enchanted castle transformed her whole identity and perspective.

Ferrara said the magical story and songs will charm Anchorage audiences.

"It's such a crowd-pleaser," he said. "Moms and dads who originally saw the movie when they were kids now really want to share it with their kids."

Beauty and the Beast

When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday and 8 p.m. Friday, April 28. 10 a.m., 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturday, April 29, and 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. shows on Sunday, April 30.

Where: Atwood Concert Hall, 621 W. Sixth Ave.

Tickets: $49.25-$81.50. Available at anchorageconcerts.org.

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