For nearly 22 years, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast musical has been enchanting the hearts of audiences all over the world. With its brilliantly written soundtrack, marvelous set design, Tony Award-winning costumes, and amazingly talented casts, it’s no wonder this show is still going strong. The national tour is currently making its way across the country and if you’ve never had a chance to see this dazzling production live on stage, this might be the year to make that happen. Let’s be honest, the art of live theater is just a fascinating entity on its own, but when you add some of Disney’s magic to an already treasured storyline, what you get is nothing short of incredible.
The national touring cast is making an extended stop at Philadelphia’s Academy of Music, from Tuesday, February 16 through Sunday, February 21. I had the privilege of speaking to two amazing cast members who help make this show so successful: Brooke Quintana (Belle) and Sam Hartley (Beast).
Today I will be sharing my interview with the lovely Brooke Quintana, and tomorrow, my interview with the charming Sam Hartley. Let me preface these interviews by saying no amount of words can truly convey the beautiful personalities these individuals have. It’s obvious they love what they do and care deeply about this show. I enjoyed my time with both of them and cannot wait to see their remarkable personalities shine on that stage.
PC: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.
BQ: I’m from Cary, NC. I went to East Carolina University for musical theater. When I was growing up, I just always loved singing and I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do with it. I sang a lot of pop, jazz, and country, and just stuff I was really into. I was in a talent show my junior year of high school and the pianist that played for me spoke with me after and said, “Hey, I am voice teacher and I think you should study with me. I think you have a great voice.” and I was like, “Okay!” And so he kind of directed me more toward the opera world, and so I started doing that. I went to University of North Carolina School of the Arts for about a year and a half for opera and it wasn’t exactly for me. So I left there and ended up transferring to East Carolina, where I graduated from. I just loved dancing, acting, and singing, and I was like, “Why not do all three instead of just one?”, so that is what I did. It was one of the best decisions of my life. When I had left School of the Arts, I had dropped out and moved to New York and I was all, “ I’m going to go be on Broadway!” and then I was like, “I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing. Let me go back to school and get trained.” So, with the help of my mother, I made that wise decision–AKA, my mom made it and I was like, “Yep. Good one. I’ll be there!” East Carolina absolutely made me into the performer I am now. I had some incredible teachers there, awesome support, and honestly, I don’t know what I would have done without my mother, who has just supported me every step of the way in everything that I’ve ever done. She’s the most incredible human being, I love her very much. Moms are the best.
PC: So, what is the most exciting part about playing Belle?
BQ: Honestly, I think one of the most exciting things is just getting to travel the country and see these things that I’ve just never seen. But one of my favorite parts of this job is getting to meet the little kids and stuff after the show, who are just so excited, and think that everything is just so magical. They are just the cutest, I absolutely love that. I love kids. My job in New York City is working with kids, so I love all of that.
PC: One of the things I love about seeing live shows multiple times is seeing what each actor brings to the show, because it’s impossible to see the same show twice. What unique personality traits do you lend to Belle?
BQ: I think Belle is kind of a fun, quirky sorta gal, and I, myself, am quite the quirky character, so I like to think that, if anything, I just lend her a little more quirk. I’m a very silly and goofy person as anyone in my cast can tell you. I try to very much live in that realm of the character, but she is not so far off from my own personality.
PC: What is it like to kiss a Beast?
BQ: Um, it’s awesome! He’s a great guy, I love him.
PC: One of Belle’s passions is reading. What is your favorite book and would Belle like it?
BQ: I think Belle would like my favorite book. My favorite book is actually a series. I’m a huge fan of the Harry Potter series. I just couldn’t get enough of it. I love the books. I love the movies. I just love Harry Potter. So, Emma Watson playing Belle in the new live action film was pretty exciting for me.
PC: Is there an element of improvisation in your performances? Does the cast work as a team to develop those moments for jokes and such, or does everyone stick to the script?
BQ: Oh no, we stick to that script. Linda Woolverton did us well with the script and you try to do justice to the artists’ work.
PC: If you could be another character in the show for one night, who would it be?
BQ: That’s a hard one. If I could be any other character, I think I would be…maybe Lefou? I think it would be so fun.
PC: You know, what makes it even funnier, is that Sam said he would be Gaston. I would totally want to see that happen. I think the universe needs to make that happen.
BQ: Oh, absolutely! We would be a duo together, with Sam as Gaston and me as Lefou. Maybe we can do a parody one day and send it to you.
PC: Ha! That would be fantastic!
PC: So, what’s your typical day like on the road?
BQ: It depends where we are. Sometimes we are in a city for an extended period of time, so we have some more relaxing days where we can kind of explore and see the city and then perform at night, which is quite amazing. And some days, we will be traveling via flight or bus, it depends, and some days we will be traveling on a bus and then go right to do a show, which is a little less glamorous. It really depends on the day.
PC: You have quite the extensive schedule. I looked at the tour list and was like “Oh, my goodness!” Sometimes you’re only in town for a night. I don’t even know how you know which city you wake up in everyday.
BQ: We were joking about that yesterday. My mom was like, “Where are you?” I was talking to her at one of our rest stops and I was like, “I don’t know.” She was like, “How do you not know where you are?” I explained, “I kind of just woke up on a bus. They dropped me off at a mall, and now I’m eating lunch. I don’t know where I am.”
PC: It sounds like a Criminal Minds episode.
BQ: That’s what we said. One time Mrs. Potts and I were out to lunch and we were in Wisconsin–I found that out. It was my first time in Wisconsin. We were at a HuHot, a Mongolian restaurant, and I said to the waitress, “Where are we?” and she was like, “What do you mean?” I was like, “What state are we in?” and she looked kind of concerned, so I told her, “We are traveling and I just woke up on a bus and I was in the middle of nowhere, and she was like, “Ohhhhhh!” Then I told her, “We’re on a tour, I’m not kidnapped, I swear,” and she was like “Oh, my gosh, I was very concerned!” So I apologized to her.
PC: You have to love the hospitality there, at least.
BQ: I know! Thank you, Wisconsin. You and your cheese.
PC: What was your favorite Disney movie growing up?
BQ: Beauty and Beast. Absolutely Beauty and the Beast.
PC: Has it changed at all since you were a child?
BQ: I have to be honest, some of the new movies are awesome and I really love them. I saw Tangled for the second time the other day. It’s excellent! I love a good Disney movie. Come on, like, who doesn’t love Frozen? But I have to stick with Beauty and the Beast. It’s just one of my favorites. And I do love a good Cinderella and The Little Mermaid.
PC: Have you ever visited any of the Disney Parks?
PC: I love Disneyland. It’s so cute and quaint and I love that there are no shuttle buses.
BQ: It was awesome! I was like, “I’m bringing my kids to Disneyland first.”
PC: You know, I totally agree, because to me it’s kind of like a good highlights version of what they have in Orlando, but there’s just so much history and charm in Disneyland.
BQ: I was just there for the 60th anniversary and I was weeping at the fireworks. It’s just SO BEAUTIFUL!
PC: So what is your favorite attraction in the Parks?
BQ: Well, I did get to meet Belle and that was pretty exciting.
PC: That had to have been a nice iconic moment for you.
BQ: I took a picture with her and I told her, “I play Belle in the national tour!” and she’s like, “ I love hearing other versions of my story!” It was funny!
PC: I’m assuming Belle was your favorite princess growing up?
BQ: Absolutely! She’s a strong woman. She’s independent, smart, strong, and witty. I think she’s a good role model.
PC: Definitely! She’s like one of those self-rescuing princesses, “I don’t need anyone to save me, I can save myself!”
BQ: Yes! And she ends up saving the Beast. She has a good heart and she’s full of love!
PC: The magic of Disney is a pretty amazing thing. They go to infinity and beyond to preserve Walt’s dream and make sure its alive in everything they do. So, where do you think the magic of Disney shines the brightest in Beauty and the Beast the musical?
BQ: I think the magic of Disney shines absolutely the brightest in “Human Again.” It is one of the most beautiful numbers. The story behind it is just so full of heart and love. It’s all these objects slowly turning from people into objects, and all they want to be is human again and to feel like they’re real. The dancing is beautiful. I’ve actually gotten to see it from the audience and I was just weeping the whole time. Seeing your best friends up there on the stage, who have become your family, performing something you feel most passionately about, it’s just so incredibly beautiful.