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INTERVIEW:  Melissa Jones from the National Broadway Tour of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast
By Henri A. Gutierrez

     Before The Little Mermaid, before The Lion King, there was Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.
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     The Academy Award-winning animated film became the Disney Corporation’s first attempt at a Broadway show, premiering in a joint production of Disney Theatricals and Theatre Under The Stars at the Music Hall in Houston in late November 1993.  The production opened on Broadway in April 1994 - and reigned supreme until 2007, logging 5,461 performances and becoming the eighth longest-running musical in Broadway history.
     Since then, the musical has grossed more than $1.4 billion worldwide and played in 13 countries and 115 cities.  The National Tour returns to Austin for a week-long run as the first production of the 2014-15 Broadway in Austin Series.
    Henri A. Gutierrez spoke with veteran actress Melissa Jones, who plays the French-maid-turned-feather-duster “Babette.”  A Southern California native, Melissa has been seen in past Broadway musicals including 42nd Street (Anytime Annie),Nunsense (Mary Leo) and Sugar Babies (Sugar Baby).

Henri Gutierrez:  First, how long have you been with the production?

Melissa Jones: This is my first year with the show and I couldn’t be more excited to bring this show across the country!

H.G: Beauty and the Beast is a long standing family favorite from the original Disney animated film, to the musical adaptation, to this producction that hit Broadway more than 20 years ago. What is it like playing such a well known character?

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M.J.: I grew up loving Beauty and the Beast. I would put on whole performances for my parents in the backyard playing every part. I then got to watch my nieces and nephews grow up enjoying the same Disney magic. It now feels incredibly special to bring this gorgeous story and this adorable character to life. I'm very grateful.

H.G.: Is there a desire to make the character your own, or do you prefer to not stray from the original concepts of how the character is portrayed and played?

M.J.: I think whenever you're portraying such a well known character, it's important to honor them as they were intended to be.  So I do my best to maintain the story and role exactly as written. The best part about working on such a classic story and a wildly successful musical that's been running for so long is that the material is so brilliant - I don't have to reinvent her. Babette is such a playful character with a great sense of humor, and I love playing this role!
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H.G.: What can a first-time audience member expect from this Broadway musical? Any differences from the film adaptation?

M.J.: First and foremost, the show is absolutely spectacular - from the gorgeous set design and lighting to the stunning costumes. The huge dance numbers, brilliant music and incredible performers will have you laughing and smiling in no time. One of the coolest parts about seeing the show is watching these classic characters come to life before your eyes.

H.G.: What is your personal favorite number in the show?

M.J.: My favorite number is, without a doubt, Human Again. The characters are all so hopeful and exuberant dreaming of the day they might be real people again. I still get chills every time we perform it.

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast runs October 7th through 12th at the Bass Concert Hall, with performances on Tuesday through Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 11 a.m., 3:30 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 1 p.m.  Tickets start at $20 and are be available by phone at (512) 477-6060, at the Bass Concert Hall box office located at 2350 Robert Dedman Drive, all Texas Box Office locations, or by visiting www.BroadwayinAustin.com.

(Photos by Amy Boyle.)
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