According to an article in The Houston Chronicle, "The catalyst for Disney's braving the stage was an article by The New York Times theater critic Frank Rich that praised Beauty and the Beast as 1991's best musical.... Theatre Under The Stars executive director Frank Young had been trying to get Disney interested in a stage version of Beauty about the same time Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg were mulling over Rich's column. But Young couldn't seem to get in touch with the right person in the Disney empire. Nothing happened till the Disney execs started to pursue the project from their end.... When they asked George Ives, the head of Actors Equity on the West Coast, which Los Angeles theater would be the best venue for launching a new musical, Ives said the best theater for that purpose would be TUTS. Not long after that, Disney's Don Frantz and Bettina Buckley contacted Young, and the partnership was under way." A stage condensation of the film, directed by Robert Jess Roth and choreographed by Matt West, both of whom moved on to the Broadway development, had already been presented at Disneyland at what was then called the Videopolis stage.
A mini version of the film was performed by the film actors at a birthday part of the one the studio heads, and this sparked the genesis of the musical as a legitimate project. Paige O'Hara was offered the role of Belle but she turned it down in order to perform in an Australian production of South Pacific, which she was already committed to.
Directed by Robert Jess Roth with choreography by Matt West and assisted by Dan Mojica, the original Broadway cast included Susan Egan as Belle, Terrence Mann as the Beast, Burke Moses as Gaston, Gary Beach as Lumière and Beth Fowler as Mrs. Potts. Orchestrations were by Danny Troob (after his own orchestrations and arrangements of the film), scenic designer was Stan Meyer, costume designer Ann Hould-Ward, lighting designer Natasha Katz, sound was by T. Richard Fitzgerald, hair designer David H. Lawrence, and prosthetics were by John Dods. Illusions were by Jim Steinmeyer and John Gaughan, and pyrotechnic design was by Tyler Wymer.
The Broadway production closed to make way for Disney's next musical venture, The Little Mermaid. With Disney set to open its Broadway version of The Little Mermaid on November 3, 2007 at the time, it was believed that having two Disney princess films on Broadway at the same time would divide audiences and cause competition between the two shows. At this point, Disney also had three other shows running at the same time: The Lion King, Tarzan, and Mary Poppins. It was reported that Disney Theatrical planned to revive the show on Broadway for the 2008 holiday season, but Disney did not pursue this.
The show had three US national tours. The first opened on November 15, 1995 and closed in 1999. It featured Kim Huber as Belle and Fred Inkley as the Beast. The second national tour opened in 1999 with Susan Owen as Belle and Grant Norman as The Beast. This production closed in 2003. The third national tour opened in 2001 and closed in 2003. This production starred Jennifer Shraeder as Belle and Roger Befeler as the Beast with Marc G. Dalio as Gaston. Notable replacements on the tours have included Sarah Litzsinger, Erin Dilly and Danyelle Bossardet as Belle. The three touring companies visited 137 venues in 90 North American cities. About 5.5 million people in the United States and Canada saw these tours. A fourth national tour of Beauty and the Beast began February 2010, opening in Providence, Rhode Island starring Liz Shivener as Belle and Justin Glaser as the Beast. Under the direction of the original Broadway creative team, the show features all new sets and costumes.
The UK National tour (prior to the closure of the West End Production in 1999) began on November 2, 2001 at the Empire Theatre in Liverpool with stops in Bristol, Birmingham, Dublin, Southampton, Manchester and ended on April 12, 2003 at the Playhouse Theatre in Edinburgh. The tour starred Annalene Beechey (reprising her role from the London production) as Belle, Alistair Robins as the Beast, Ben Harlow as Gaston, Julia Goss as Mrs Potts, Stephen Matthews as Lumiere Barry James (reprising his role from the London production) as Cogsworth, Billy Boyle (reprising his role from the London production) as Maurice, Karen Davies as Madame De La Grande Bouche, Kate Graham (reprising her role from the London production) as Babette, Anthony Clegg as LeFou and Oliver Taylor (reprising his role from the London production) and Sion Eifion sharing the role of Chip. Notable replacements included Dianne Pilkington as Belle, Alex Bourne as the Beast, Earl Carpenter as Gaston, Marilyn Cutts as Mrs. Potts, Richard Tate as Maurice and Drew Varley as LeFou.
A Los Angeles production opened at the Shubert Theatre on April 12, 1995 and closed on September 29, 1996. Most of the original Broadway cast, including Susan Egan, Terrence Mann, Gary Beach, Beth Fowler, Burke Moses and Tom Bosley reprised their roles. Notable replacements included James Stacy Barbour as the Beast. The sets in this production were widely considered to be the largest out of all the musical's productions in the world. After the show closed in Los Angeles, all of the sets were transferred for the production in Mexico City in 1997.
On July 15, 1995 the musical began its original Australian run in Melbourne at The Princess Theatre, before moving on to Sydney. The original Australian cast included Michael Cormick as The Beast, Rachael Beck as Belle, Hugh Jackman as Gaston, and Ernie Bourne as Maurice.
In 1995, the musical opened in Japan and is performed by the Shiki Theatre Company. The musical continues to tour Japan.
In December 1997, the musical opened in Stuttgart at the Palladium Theatre, Stuttgart and played there until December 22, 2000. Leah Delos Santos played Belle and Uwe Kröger played the Beast and Marc G. Dalio played Gaston.
In South America, Argentina was the first country to produce it, with Marisol Otero as Belle, Juan Rodó as Beast, Diego Jaraz as Gaston, Gustavo Monje as LeFou, Pablo Lizaso as Lumière, Mónica Nuñez as Mrs. Potts, Omar Pini as Cogsworth, Alejandra Radano as Babette and Rodolfo Valss as Maurice. It ran from November 26 1998 at the Teatro Ópera in Buenos Aires until August 15 1999, before opening again in 2010. Brazil was the second country to host the musical. Disney had plans to bring it to the country in 1999, after the success in Argentina, but nobody really knew if it would work. Three years later, in 2002, Beauty and the Beast finally opened in Brazil at Teatro Abril, one of the biggest theaters in the country. It was a huge hit, for more than one and a half years, it was presented with Kiara Sasso, playing Belle and Saulo Vasconcelos playing the Beast. In 2009, a new Belle and a new Beast were cast, Lissah Martins and Ricardo Vieira, as the musical came back to Brazil, Kiara Sasso was playing Maria in The Sound of Music. Beauty and the Beast remained for six months at Teatro Abril. Even though the play was brought back as a way to try to recoup some of the money lost in Brazilian's version of Miss Saigon, this second incarnation of Beauty and the Beast failed to create any critical buzz, or to be a box office success.
In Spain there have been three productions of the show. The first one, based on the original Broadway production, had its Madrid debut on December 2, 1999 at Teatro Lope de Vega. The original cast included Xenia Reguant (later replaced by Julia Möller) as Belle, Carlos Marín (later replaced by Joe Luciano) as Beast, Lisardo Guarinos (later replaced by Manuel Bandera) as Gaston, Víctor Ullate Roche as LeFou, Germán Torres as Lumière, Kirby Navarro as Mrs Potts, David Venancio Muro as Cogsworth, Dulcinea Juárez as Babette, Laura Inclán as Madame de la Grande Bouche and Miguel de Grandy as Maurice. After a successful run of 27 months and about 900 performances, the production finally closed on March 3, 2002, becoming the longest-running musical ever in Madrid at that time. In 2007, a second version produced by Stage Entertainment premiered on October 3, at Teatro Coliseum, Madrid, for a limited run of 6 months, but the closing was postponed due to a successful season. The original cast included Julia Möller reprising her role as Belle (later replaced by María Adamuz), David Ordinas as Beast, Pablo Puyol as Gaston, Raúl Peña as LeFou, Armando Pita as Lumière, Angels Jiménez as Mrs. Potts (later replaced by Rita Barber), Esteban Oliver as Cogsworth, Silvia Luchetti as Babette, María José Oquendo as Madame de la Grande Bouche and Lorenzo Valverde as Maurice. The production closed on January 11, 2009 and was transferred to Barcelona, where it ran from February 26, 2009 to January 10, 2010, at BTM, with some changes in the cast, including Mercè Martínez as Mrs. Potts, Marta Capel as Babette, Patricia Paisal as Madame de la Grande Bouche and Albert Muntanyola as Maurice. In 2012, the Stage Entertainment version was relaunched as a touring production, beginning performances on September 6, at Teatro Calderón, Valladolid. The original cast of this third Spanish production included Talía del Val as Belle, Ignasi Vidal as Beast, Daniel Diges as Gaston, Raúl Peña as LeFou, Diego Rodríguez as Lumière, Mone as Mrs. Potts, Frank Capdet as Cogsworth, Marta Capel as Babette, Eva Diago as Madame de la Grande Bouche and Enrique R. del Portal as Maurice.
In 2005, Disney and Stage Entertainment produced a new version of the show using brand new sets and costumes. After touring the Netherlands and playing in Antwerp, Belgium, Disney and Stage Entertainment brought the show to Berlin, Germany in 2006 after a (approx.) one year-run at the Metronom Theater in Oberhausen. This production opened in 2007 in Madrid, Spain and in 2009 in Milan, Italy, with Arianna as Belle and Michel Altieri as the Beast. The Broadway production played a second time in Mexico City beginning in September 2007 and in Hiroshima, Japan beginning in February 2008. The Broadway production opened in South Africa in September 2008 and ran until March 2009. In 2004, Disney began to license the show to other companies for touring, and the show has been performed by professional and amateur companies in many countries.
Beginning October 2014, Disney Theatrical Productions, NETworks and Broadway Entertainment Group launched an international tour in celebration of Beauty and the Beast's 20th anniversary on stage. The tour opened at the Zorlu Center in Istanbul, Turkey and close on January 2016 at Dubai World Trade Centre, having visited Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Greece, Italy, Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, China, Taiwan, Egypt, Lebanon, Romania, and Qatar
The show's rights became available (in association with Josef Weinberger Ltd.) to amateur performing groups and regional musical societies. The show has been performed in numerous countries, by theatre companies of both an amateur and professional level.
On a cold winter night, an old beggar woman comes upon a glorious castle belonging to a young prince. She asks the master of the castle to allow her to stay the night, away from the cold, and in return she will give him a single rose, but the prince is vain and uncaring and turns her away solely for her appearance. As he does this, she warns him not to be fooled by appearances, as true beauty lies within, only to be rejected again. Seeing his horrible heart for what it truly is, she transforms into a beautiful enchantress and turns the prince into a hideous Beast and his servants into various household objects. She gives him the rose to use as an hour-glass. The only way he can break the spell is to learn to love another and earn her love in return by the time the last petal falls.
10 years later, a beautiful young woman named Belle makes her way into town one morning in order to get a book from the local book seller. On the way she expresses her wish to live in a world like her books, full of adventure, while the townspeople note her unparalleled beauty but find her love of books odd (“Belle”). Belle has also attracted the attentions of Gaston (the local hunter and town hero) who admires her only for her beauty and not her intelligence.
Belle, however, is not oblivious to her peers’ views of her. She voices her concerns about it to her father, Maurice, an eccentric inventor. He assures his daughter that she is anything but strange ("No Matter What"). The two then put the finishing touches on his invention and Maurice heads off to an invention fair donning a scarf knitted for him by Belle ("No Matter What (Reprise)"). In the woods, Maurice becomes lost when a pack of wolves attacks him; he finds his way to a mysterious castle on the edge of the Crossroads and enters. The servants of the castle include Lumière, a maître d' turned into a candelabra, Cogsworth, the head of household turned into a clock, Babette, a maid turned into a feather duster that still seems to retain her flirtatious tendencies, Mrs. Potts, the head of the kitchen turned into a tea pot, and Chip, the son of Mrs. Potts. They welcome him, but the horrid Beast arrives and orders Maurice to be locked away in the dungeon for trespassing.
Back in town, Gaston proposes to Belle, which she politely rejects ("Me"). Appalled by Gaston’s forwardness, Belle once again voices her need for a life outside this provincial one ("Belle (Reprise)"). Gaston's sidekick, LeFou, returns from the woods wearing the scarf Belle knitted for Maurice. Belle realizes her father is in danger and heads into the woods to look for him. She ends up at the castle where she finds her father locked away in a dungeon. She makes a deal with the Beast, Maurice goes free but she remains instead. They agree and Maurice is sent back to town without being allowed to say goodbye. Belle is given a guest room and ordered by the Beast to join him for dinner. She mourns her situation ("Home"), but Mrs. Potts and Madame de la Grande Bouche, an operatic wardrobe, attempt to cheer her up ("Home (Reprise)").
Back in town, at the local tavern, Gaston sulks at his loss of a bride. LeFou and the patrons attempt to cheer him up ("Gaston"), when Maurice rushes in claiming a Beast has Belle locked away, they laugh at him but Gaston formulates a plan ("Gaston (Reprise)"). Back at the castle, the Beast grows impatient as Belle has yet to join him for dinner. Cogsworth informs him she refuses to come, after a shouting match between Belle and the Beast (which ends in a victory for Belle) he tells her if she cannot eat with him then she will not eat at all. In his quarters, he sulks and notes his fate should the spell not break ("How Long Must This Go On?"). Eventually Belle does become hungry and ventures into the kitchen where the servants offer her dinner despite their master’s orders. They treat her to an amazing cabaret show ("Be Our Guest").
After dinner, Belle gets a tour of the castle courtesy of Cogsworth and Lumière, her curiosity leads her to enter the West Wing, a place the Beast told her was forbidden. Mesmerized by a mysterious rose floating in a bell jar, she reaches out to touch it but before she can, the Beast stops her and orders her to get out accidentally shoving her in the process. Fearing for her life, Belle flees from the castle. Realizing his deadly mistake, the Beast knows he will be a monster forever if he cannot learn to love her ("If I Can't Love Her").
In the woods, Belle is attacked by wolves and is only rescued when the Beast comes to her aid, but he is injured during the fight and collapses. Instead of taking the chance to run home Belle helps him back to the castle. She cleans his injuries and after a brief argument about whose fault this is, the Beast thanks her for her kindness and thus their friendship is born. Wanting to give her a thank-you gift, the Beast gives Belle his huge library, which excites her. She notes a change in the Beast’s personality as the servants note a change in Belle and the Beast’s relationship ("Something There"). They express their hope of being human once more ("Human Again") while Belle asks the Beast to accompany her to dinner that night.
Back in the village, Gaston meets with the asylum owner Monsieur D'Arque. They plan to lock Maurice away to blackmail Belle into marrying Gaston ("Maison des Lunes"). In the castle, the Beast and Belle attend a lovely dinner and personal ball, where they dance together in the ballroom ("Beauty and the Beast"). After, the Beast (who plans to tell Belle he loves her) asks her if she is happy here, she responds positively but notes that she misses her father. He offers her his Magic Mirror to view him. She sees that Maurice is sick and lost in the woods and fears for his life. Even though The Beast knows there is only a few hours left till the last petal falls from the rose. He allows Belle to leave in order to save her father, she departs after a tearful goodbye ("If I Can’t Love Her (Reprise)").
Belle finds her father and brings him back to their house in the village. After she is able to nurse him back to health, she explains the transformation she seems to have gone through while she was with the Beast ("A Change in Me"). A mob arrives, led by Gaston to take Maurice to the asylum. Belle proves her father's sanity by showing the townspeople the Beast is real using the Magic Mirror, but doesn’t realize the error in her gesture. The townspeople immediately fear the Beast, but Belle insists he's gentle and kind. Gaston catches her tone and recognizes the Beast as his rival for Belle's affections and organizes the mob to kill the Beast ("The Mob Song").
At the castle, the servants are able to keep the lynch mob at bay but Gaston breaks through and finds the Beast in his tower. He engages in a fight with him, mercilessly beating and taunting him. The Beast has lost the will to live at Belle's departure. As Gaston moves in for the killing blow, Belle arrives. The Beast immediately turns on Gaston and is prepared to kill him, but spares his life after seeing the fear in his eyes. The Beast and Belle are reunited, but this reunion is cut short as Gaston plunges his dagger into the Beast’s back. This act of violence causes Gaston to lose his footing and he falls to his death.
On the balcony, Belle assures the Beast he will live but they both know she is helpless to save him. She begs him not to leave her because she has found home in his company ("Home (Reprise II)"), but despite this, he dies; Belle sobs on his body and says she loves him just before the last rose petal falls. A transformation takes place and the Beast is alive and human once more. Though Belle does not recognize him at first, she looks into his eyes and sees the Beast within and they kiss. The two sing of how their lives have changed because of love and they dance once more as the company, now changed back to their human form, gathers in the ballroom ("Transformation/Finale").
In the film's prologue it is stated that "the rose she (the Enchantress) had offered, truly an enchanted rose, that is, would bloom until the Beast's 21st year." In the stage adaptation this is changed. "The rose she (the Enchantress) had offered was truly an enchanted rose which would bloom for many years."
During the opening song "Belle", instead of sitting at a fountain and singing about the contents of her favorite book to a passing herd of sheep, Belle grabs the arm of a nearby townsperson and shows them instead.
The three town Bimbettes plead Gaston to choose one of them over Belle on his way to her cottage- he smugly assures them that his marriage to Belle will have no effect on any future rendezvous he will most likely have with them.
Gaston's marriage proposal to Belle takes place in her front yard as she attempts to hang laundry; there are also no villagers present to witness Gaston’s humiliation until after she runs inside.
Philippe the horse is removed from the story. Instead, Belle knits Maurice a scarf for good luck for his trip to the inventors' fair. After he becomes prisoner of The Beast, the scarf is found in the woods by LeFou- having been sent there by Gaston to fetch a deer for the feast after his presumed marriage to Belle – and worn back to town (not knowing who it belongs to), thereby alerting Belle to her father’s disappearance. She heads into the woods on foot.
Maurice's wood-chopping machine is not located in the basement of the home he and Belle share – instead it is on the back of a bicycle-like contraption, which he rides to the fair in place of Philippe.
LeFou sings many of the male villagers' lines during "Gaston".
The Featherduster's name is Babette. In the film, it never says her name just like the wardrobe (though in one of the sequels, her name is said to be Fifi).
The Wardrobe in Belle's room (unnamed in the Disney film) is called Madame de la Grande Bouche and revealed to be a former famous opera diva.
The dog-turned-footstool of the castle is not present in this version.
Chip the teacup, though present, has his role greatly diminished due to the difficulty of pulling off his character convincingly. The head of his actor is usually stuck through the tops of tables and rolling carts wearing a teacup-shaped helmet. He is not seen individually mobile until after the spell is broken and he is human again.
The roles of LeFou, Monsieur D'Arque, Babette, and the Wardrobe have been expanded.
Belle and the Beast's argument about her joining him for dinner takes place inside of her bedroom – instead of opposite sides of a closed door.
Belle joins Lumière and the other dancing dishes during "Be Our Guest", instead of remaining seated at a table and merely observing the spectacle.
The magic behind the transformations is slightly modified: Instead of being fully transformed (as shown in the movie), the characters are slowly transforming into their respective objects. Lumière, Cogsworth, Mrs. Potts, and Babette lament this fact, revealing that some of the servants have already completely transformed and cannot speak, see, or move; they fear the same will happen to them if the spell is not broken soon.
As Lumière and Cogsworth take Belle on a tour (right before she sneaks off to explore the West Wing), the Beast makes his way to her room with a plate of food in hopes of making amends with her. However, he overhears Belle voicing her distaste of him, and throws the plate away in anger and sulks off.
A scene only briefly seen in the background in the film is expanded upon, where Belle teaches the Beast to read. Additionally, the book they read in the film is Romeo & Juliet while in the musical it is King Arthur.
During "The Mob Song", Belle and Maurice are not imprisoned in their own basement; instead Belle decides to get a head start on the angry villagers and sneak off to the castle halfway through the musical number but Maurice warns her not to go alone and goes with her.
During the fight on the roof, Belle is physically below Gaston and Beast, calling up to them rather than reaching down from a higher balcony.
Gaston repeatedly stabs Beast in the back rather than only once before losing his balance.
† Expanded vocal or instrumental content, using either cut lyrics by Ashman or dance arrangements by Glen Kelly, or both.
‡ "Human Again" was written by Menken and Ashman for the movie, but was cut, due to the complications it made on the film's timeline. It was repurposed for the Broadway play, and on account of the musical's great success, an entirely new animated sequence based on the Broadway version was set to this song and inserted into 2002's Special Edition DVD release.
§ "A Change in Me" was written into the show in 1998 for the debut of Toni Braxton and was retained thereafter.
The original Broadway orchestration featured two additional woodwind players. The first played flute and piccolo, the second oboe and English horn, the third piccolo, flute and clarinet in B-flat, the fourth piccolo, flute, clarinet in B-flat and bass clarinet in B-flat, and the fifth on bassoon and contrabassoon. The excised reed parts were used for the synthesizer parts upon their removal for the licensed orchestration.
The optional reduced orchestration is scored for two synthesizers, a percussion section, double bass, three woodwind players, a trumpet, a French horn, and solo violin and cello.
The Original Australian Cast Recording was released in 1995. The principal cast included Rachael Beck as Belle, Michael Cormick as Beast, Hugh Jackman as Gaston, Ernie Bourne as Maurice, Toni Lamond as Madame De La Grande Bouche, Grant Smith as Lumière, Robyn Arthur as Mrs. Potts and Bert Newton as Cogsworth.
The Original Vienna Cast Recording was released in 1996. The principal cast included Ethan Freeman as Beast, Caroline Vasicek as Belle, Kevin Tarte as Gaston, Viktor Gernot as Lumière, Ann Mandrella as Babette, and Rosita Mewis as Mrs. Potts.
The Original London Cast Recording was released in 1997. The principal cast included Julie-Alanah Brighten as Belle, Alasdair Harvey as Beast, Burke Moses as Gaston, Derek Griffiths as Lumière and Mary Millar as Mrs. Potts.
The Original Stuttgart Cast Recording was released in 1998. The principal cast included Uwe Kroger as Beast and Leah Delos Santos as Belle and Ann Mandrella as Babette.
The Original Madrid Cast Recording was released in 1999. The principal cast included Xenia Reguant as Belle, Carlos Marín as Beast, Lisardo Guarinos as Gaston, Víctor Ullate Roche as LeFou, Germán Torres as Lumière, David Venancio Muro as Cogsworth and Kirby Navarro as Mrs Potts. A second cast recording for the new production was released in May 2008, starring Julia Möller as Belle, David Ordinas as Beast, Pablo Puyol as Gaston, Raúl Peña as LeFou, Armando Pita as Lumière, Esteban Oliver as Cogsworth and Angels Jiménez as Mrs. Potts.
A "junior" version of the musical for middle and high school students was published by MTI. This version only included a selected number of the songs, including "Belle", "Belle (Reprise)", "Home", "Home (Tag)", "Gaston", "Gaston (Reprise)", "Be Our Guest", "Something There", "Human Again", "Beauty and the Beast", "The Mob Song", "Home (Reprise)", and "Beauty and the Beast (Reprise)". Also in "Belle (Reprise)", The Silly Girls take Belle's part in the beginning of the song instead of Belle having to sing the whole song. Also in "Something There", Madame de la Grande Bouche and Babette sing as well.