If you aren’t already aware, tomorrow marks a kind of big occasion. The Disney classic film, Beauty and the Beast, opens in 3D for a limited time in theaters tomorrow, January 13th. (Are you going? I can’t wait to see it!! I might even bring my kids…) One of the things most significant to me about this film, aside from the beautifully told story, is the music and the magical voice of Belle.
When I found out a week ago that *I* would be speaking on the phone with BELLE, or rather, Paige O’Hara, the voice of Belle, I squealed like a kid. I have a niece who happens to be working on a theatrical production of Beauty and the Beast for her school musical this spring, so the timing was particularly meaningful.
In speaking with Ms. O’Hara, we learned that she had to audition for the role of Belle not once, not twice, but five times. She just had a feeling this was “her” role- and she was right- and while I’m sure the news of getting the part was an amazing moment for her, that news also arrived within a few days of her birthday and becoming engaged. That’s kind of an awesome week for anyone!!
It was such a neat thing, listening to the woman who’s voice has become a cultural icon- Paige O’Hara isn’t “just” Belle in the film- she’s also voiced Belle a few other times, but has also done soundtrack recordings and done voice work as Belle for toys and books and games. Children today, 20 years after the original release of Beauty and the Beast, still recognize- and adore her- as Belle and that, my friends, may not be what some folks think of as amazing, but to me, that’s all kinds of cool.
You can still find Paige performing- she’s on stage, sometimes on screen, she’s sung opera, became a Disney Legend this past year, and has been hired by Disney Fine Art (her work is beautiful) to do some paintings. She’s a multi-talented woman!
Read on to find out Belle’s favorite scene, her favorite song, what Paige would love to work on…and more!My “official” question for Ms. O’Hara : What do you think of the story on Broadway in comparison to the animated film?
I actually thought they did a really wonderful job of it.”
“I think Beauty and the Beast was one that they captured really well. It was a very difficult you know obviously difficult film to do with particularly with the beast, but I thought that they – ”
“They went certainly for the more broad comedy of the Broadway – which I think was necessary for the audience that they had in the live production, I think the film still has more poignancy and more dramatic effect than the play did but the play was great fun and the most important thing is it brought people to the theater that normally would never go to the theater. Young kids that would have never even think about going to a Broadway play, but to introduce people to the theater with beauty and the beast I thought it was fantastic.”
“Also my husband played the Beast in LA that was fun too.”
(I think it’s really fun that Paige’s husband got to have a role in Beauty and the Beast as well!!)
Q. How does it feel to be identified with a character you portrayed over 20 years ago?
“It’s just a little over a year ago that we were promoting the blu ray and Disney put me on a tour, a press tour, we went to London, we went to all these different cities. There was a very funny moment I was with little kids, you know 5&6 year olds… you know and I walked in the room and their jaws dropped and this little girl came up to me, she says goes “Belle where’s your ball gown?”
“So they couldn’t really equate Paige, the older Paige as Belle and then I just popped on the floor, opened up the book and starting reading the book in belle’s voice and all of a sudden I had like 150 kids around me and it was like, it was timeless, it was like 20 years just didn’t matter. It really was a remarkable thing. I felt like the Pied Piper.”
Q.Advice for aspiring singers?
“My advice is just get proper training so you sing correctly. That’s really the key because those who don’t sing correctly a few years down the line will lose their voices.
Work with a teacher, it’s always a personal thing with a teacher. It has to be someone that you connect with and that you have a bond with. It can’t be someone you’re afraid of. You won’t be able to try things and experiment. You have to be with a teacher that you won’t be afraid to fail in front of them in order to get better. And I was very fortunate to have two of those teachers in my life. So that would be my advice. And then when you sing along with different singers, sing along with the singers that sing great, that have good technique.”
Q: Did you ever think it would be the classic it would be today?
“I knew it would be special but I didn’t really think it would be the classic that it turned out to be until we went to the film festival in New York. And it was right before the film opened and it was a special premiere where it was about 60 % completed and the rest was hand drawn, and coming from NY as a Broadway actress, I know how tough the audiences are and how tough the critics are, and after the film — first of all they laughed and applauded through the whole movie, but then after the film there was a 10 minute standing ovation from the toughest critics in the world. And I thought, ‘Wow, ok, this is something beyond what I ever comprehended it would be.’ And so I sort of knew then it was going to be a classic.”
Q. What would you like to do and do you have any big dreams you’re working on?
“I’m actually working on a musical we put on at (inaudible) last year, we put on on Judy Garland and her life….”
“Playing Judy would be a dream come true for me because she was my idol growing up, my favorite singer and actress, and I’m sort of at the place now where I’m physically – I’m ready to play her now. I have had enough life experience to understand her, and so I’m hoping within the next year or so we can get this back on its feet and maybe tour it and take it around the country and then I can portray Judy in a very positive light.”
“There’s a musical coming into from the west end that only focuses on the end of her life…”
“The piece that I’m working on is from the time she’s 4 years old to the day she died, it’s a very exciting piece and I’m real excited about it but it does need a lot of work. So I’m hoping that will happen, that’s the next phase of my life.”
(I thought it was really neat and maybe this shows my non-experience in the theatrical world but hearing Paige talk about having had enough life experience to understand Judy Garland to be able to play her and portray her really resounded loudly with me. Actors and actresses really do draw on their life experiences when they get into character. I hope that this production does happen, sooner than later, and I’m going to look forward to hearing how it goes. I think it will be a really neat production to see).
Q: Do you see yourself in Belle and how do you relate to her character?
“I relate to her quite a bit actually. Particularly the part of her that felt out of place and odd. Because when I was growing up in Ft. Lauderdale and you know my friends were you know listening to Led Zeppelin and I was listening to Gershwin and Rogers & Hammerstein. And I was also you know, a theater person, which is kind of like not the norm, I was totally indulged in theater since the time I was 6 years old as well as my artwork.”
“So I was sort of an oddball, I mean I still managed to, you know, have a fairly normal teenaged life, but and I’ve always loved books and I’ve always loved that side of her wanting… I really wasn’t looking for a man. You know, and that’s the thing about Belle, she’s the only princess that’s not looking for a man. She wants to enjoy life, and that’s Paige as a young teenager, wanting to you know go to Broadway and experience, you know, travel around the world you know, with my career.”
“Certainly I understood the sacrifice that she made for her life for her father, because I feel that way and felt that way about my parents before they passed on that I would have done the same thing. And I actually put my career on hold for about 7 years to take care of them when they were sick so and I don’t regret any of those, it was the most important thing I could do at that time.”
Favorite Scene and Song:
“Well my favorite scene is where (inaudible) they’re playing in the snow and ..”
“The little bird hops on his paw, and he’s seeing the bird and he looks up at her, and I spoke with my directors, we decided that was the moment she begins to fall in love with him. And so for the time when she sings “New and a Bit Alarming,” she’s feeling romantic feelings for him for the first time. So I think that is my favorite scene.”
“Of course my favorite song is one I didn’t sing, which was the title song, Beauty and the Beast, which I thought was one just of the greatest moments in filmmaking.”
“Like” Beauty and the Beast movie on Facebook,www.Facebook.com/DisneyBeautyandtheBeast.
Paige O’Hara’s official website: www.PaigeOHara.net.
Thank you to Christie from Average Moms Wear Capes for the transcript from this call!
Thanks to Disney for inviting me to take part in awesome experience!