Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” has been an animated film, a broadway show, a live-action movie and now in concert live-to-film at the Hollywood Bowl. A story that is already beloved by fans requires careful transition from the screen onto the stage – a challenge that Richard Kraft was eager to take up.
Kraft, concert producer and director, already has experience adapting Disney animated films into live concerts. His team brought Disney’s The Little Mermaid in Concert at the Hollywood Bowl, starring Sara Bareilles and Rebel Wilson and Disney’s The Nightmare Before Christmas in Concert at the Hollywood Bowl, starring Danny Elfman and Catherine O’Hara to the Hollywood Bowl previously. But for Kraft, “Beauty and the Beast” presented a very special opportunity.
A self-proclaimed Disney and “Beauty and the Beast” fan, this new show presented Kraft with the chance to work with a story that he has loved for a long time. “When I first saw ‘Beauty and the Beast’ I went to a movie theatre on opening night and I sobbed after the opening number ‘Belle,'” he shared. “It was so perfect.”
Kraft’s interest in Disney informs the basis of the show’s creation. He cites Disneyland as a big inspiration for the show’s design, and he received advice on new projections used during the show from none other than Disney animator Eric Goldberg. “The thing is, I’m an absolute fan of Disney. And so I make a show not for guessing what other people would like. I make the show I would like as a fan,” Kraft said.
His excitement and passion for the story and for the Disney brand is bound to make their mark on the way the show will be presented. “We love it in an irrational way, and it’s part of our lives,” Kraft commented. “Everything is sort of a reference to something at a Disney park or Disney film. And this is just that kind of passion and love blown up on a really giant scale.”
Kraft is not the only one bringing his own background to the show. He shared how every cast member has a history with “Beauty and the Beast”, and how each cast member will be bringing their own interpretation to every character. “Everybody who is in this show is there because they love the original film. And it’s sort of a fantasy for them. For the run of this at the Hollywood Bowl, they get to sing these beloved song in the context of being part of the movie,” shared Kraft.
Kraft knows the historical weight of “Beauty and the Beast.” As a major fan himself, he is well acquainted with every note, every reference, every line of dialogue. “There’s so much goodwill that was created with this movie, and sort of my job is to not mess it up,” Kraft laughed.
He shared how his goal for the Hollywood Bowl show is not to create an exact replica of any previous show, but rather to create a brand new experience that respects and expands on the “Beauty and the Beast” shows we’ve already seen. He likens this to the way Disneyland features shows, attractions and parades inspired by our favorite films. “They’re re-interpretations of the thing we already know and love, but in a completely different art form,” He said, noting how he and his team are using this same idea of interpretation to turn “Beauty and the Beast” into a live concert.
Beast, for example, gets to sing “Evermore” from the live-action film, which Kraft is very excited about. “That poor beast, all he does is sing about his paw in ‘Something There,'” he laughed, “so he’s getting a whole beast-y moment.” A song from the Broadway production titled “Human Again” is also being added to the show with the addition of never-before-used Howard Ashman lyrics. “To be able to present unheard Howard Ashman lyrics is like a geek delight,” shared Kraft. “I’ve always loved the song, so to get to do it is really exciting.”
The Hollywood Bowl itself provides many opportunities to make this show unique. “The theme is to not recreate the movie and not recreate the Broadway show,” Kraft shared. “So what we’re doing is using the Hollywood Bowl as part of the character of the show.” As a character itself, a major aspect of the Bowl that will resonate through the show is its history. “The inspiration is using the Art Deco and period feel of the Hollywood Bowl and start designing the show almost as if there was a production at the Hollywood Bowl in the 1920’s of ‘Beauty and the Beast,'” Kraft said. “So our costumes and our sets and our choreography are very much informed by the 1920’s Art Deco feel.”
According the Kraft the show will not be an exact replica nor a totally different experience – rather, it will take the heart of “Beauty and the Beast” and allow us to enjoy it in a totally different way. And for fans of “Beauty and the Beast” like Kraft, the ability to experience something already beloved in a new way is exciting.
“All of this is like fantasy camp, I can’t believe I get to be doing this.” said Kraft. “And I want the audience to feel the same way.”
From one fan to a whole audience of fans, Kraft is excited to share his passion for the show and for Disney with you. You can catch “Beauty and the Beast” at the Hollywood Bowl under Kraft’s direction on May 25 and May 26. You can also learn more about the show and buy tickets online now at the show’s website.