Production: “Beauty and the Beast” (Working In The Theatre #215)

(APPLAUSE) Welcome to the
American Theatre Wing Seminars on “Working in the Theatre.” These “Working in the Theatre” seminars bring
you a unique, behind-the-scenes look, from the perspective of performers, producers,
playwrights, directors, designers, and agents. The seminars are coming to you from the Graduate
Center of the City University of New York. The American Theatre Wing, as many of you
know, is founder of the theatre’s highest honor, the Tony Award. This is an honor that is bestowed not just
for the longest run or for the best reviews, but for the achievement of excellence in the
theatre, for recognizing that excellence in the craft of theatre. Antoinette Perry was a wonderful woman. She was a producer, she was a director, and
she was a playwright. And it is in her honor that this award has
been founded. The American Theatre Wing is a year-round
organization, and year-round our programs go out to the community. We have a hospital program which brings live
theatre to hospitals, nursing homes, and AIDS centers. We have a program for children in their schools,
“Saturday Theatre for Children,” and so at a young age, they know what theatre is all
about on Saturday mornings. And our program “Introduction to Broadway”
is indeed a wonderful program. Thousands of children have come to see their
first big Broadway show. They have never been on Broadway and they
have never seen a Broadway show. We’re able to do this through the cooperation
of the Board of Education, the generosity of the theatre producers, and the children’s
desire to see a Broadway show. They pay a very small amount of money, but
it is an amount of money, so that they make that commitment to see a show. We think that’s a very important part of the
program. And so far, we have over thirty-seven thousand
children that have come in just three seasons to see their shows. They meet with the cast afterwards, and they
ask questions about how it is and what they can do, and who turns on the lights and all
the nitty-gritty things that make up a Broadway show. But it inspires them to know more about the
theatre. And we hope that they are then going to be
the audience of the future. These seminars, which are an outgrowth of
the Wing’s school, focus on the playwright, the performer, the director, the agent, the
guilds and the unions. And every one of the seminars that the Wing
has been bringing to you shows you another part of the “Working in the Theatre” progress. Today’s seminar is on the production. It’s on a marvelous production called BEAUTY
AND THE BEAST, which is now playing the Palace Theatre. And the producers are here and the staff of
the production are here, in order to explain how this show was brought to you, to Broadway. It’s a wonderful, wonderful show, and it’s
a part of our history of theatre. And so before we go any further, I’m going
to have Brendan Gill, who is an author, a director and a legendary figure in the New
Yorker magazine, and a member of the Board of Directors of the American Theatre Wing,
[and] George White, who is a director and President of the O’Neill Theatre Center in
Waterford, Connecticut. They will co-moderate, and from them will
come how everyone can be a producer of a successful Broadway show. (LAUGHTER) I hope. Not to speak for George, but to speak for
myself, I regard myself as an ideal moderator of this program because I know absolutely
nothing about the business side of producing for the theatre. I intend to learn a great deal, as Isabelle
has promised us. To identify the names, if not the weights,
of all the players, on the farthest right is Chris Boneau, who is press representative
for BEAUTY AND THE BEAST and who, apparently in his teens, founded the firm of Boneau/Bryan-Brown
in 1991. Those three B’s are the occasion for the famous
saying, “Busy as bees.” Among Chris’s current clients are ANGELS IN
AMERICA, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, and The Who’s TOMMY. Next to Chris is Jeremiah Harris, the production
supervisor of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, who has many Broadway credits to his name, including
the STARLIGHT EXPRESS tour and M. BUTTERFLY. And to my immediate right is Robert McTyre,
currently Vice President of Disney Attractions Productions, and before joining Disney in
1982, he was with the Nederlander Organization here in New York. George? Thank you, Brendan. Since we’re talking about players, I’ll start
by getting the puck on the ice (LAUGHTER), going over to Margery Singer, who is currently
promoting Disney’s BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, who is a former marketing director of Madison
Square Garden, where the allusion comes from, as well as the director of Public Relations
at the 1980 Winter Olympics. And on her immediate right is Michael Davi,
who along with Edward Strong and Sherman Warner is part of the Dodgers Productions, currently
producing BEAUTY AND THE BEAST as well as GUYS AND DOLLS and The Who’s TOMMY, all of
which are on Broadway. And to my immediate left is Don Frantz, who
is the Associate Producer of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, and for four years a veteran of Walt
Disney World, after serving on the faculty of UCLA. I want to get into that a little bit later,
too. So, Brendan? Everything we hear about a musical, and especially
an exceptionally spectacular musical, is that it takes so long to get it into being, to
bring it to the point of actually arriving on Broadway. So I think the most interesting question to
ask right off the bat from you, Robert, is how long ago did the notion that this was
going to be made come into existence in the Disney Organization? Well, I think you could go all the way back
to when the film was being made by the Disney team and by Michael Eisner and Jeffery Katzenberg. And I’m sure that it was discussed at that
point. But most recently, in 1992 is when we started
working on the project heavily, when they turned us on. And so we’ve been working on it straight through,
all that time. But they were thinking already, when they
were making the movie, that it could be done live? Well, the notion came up in the sense that
Howard Ashman and Alan Menken, of course, came from the theatre. And what they did with our animation group
was so theatrical in its treatment and its development that it was quite obvious to people,
even before the film was released, that there was a lot of potential here. But the actual decision didn’t come until
1992. But still, is it a unique event, to have done
this from film to musical? I can’t think if there have been others. Well, there have been many productions that
have done that. Certainly, it’s unique for the Walt Disney
Company to do it. And I can’t think of any animation film that
was changed into a live production. Picking up on that a moment, because I can
understand why you might have trouble doing THE LITTLE MERMAID (LAUGHTER), unless you
had the old Hippodrome and were doing it under water. We talked about it, though. All right. But what about ALADDIN, is that going the
same way? I mean, it’s the same sort of creative team,
I believe, or many of the same players were in ALADDIN. Yes, Alan Menken and Howard Ashman did the
music and lyrics for that, and then Tim Rice, of course, who came in to BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
also did some supplemental lyrics for ALADDIN. We’ve talked about what we might do next,
with Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg. We’ve talked about ALADDIN, we’ve talked about
LITTLE MERMAID, we’ve talked about MARY POPPINS. We haven’t decided yet what we’re going to
do. But obviously, LITTLE MERMAID is difficult,
because of the water sequences. ALADDIN is difficult because of all the illusions
and because Robin Williams did such a magnificent job in the film. We haven’t decided yet. But in terms of commerce nowadays, to be worldwide
is this great source of revenue, is it not? To have things on film, things that can go
all over the world all the time. Sure, of course. So this represents a step backwards, into
the legitimate theatre, where how would you calculate the amount of revenue? You hope then that this will run like CATS
or something for eight, ten, fifteen years? Well, that would be the dream. Yeah. But that must be part of the projection in
the budget, otherwise why would you do it? Well, from a business standpoint, obviously
we hope that we will recoup our investment from our New York production. And so our projections are made on that. But, of course, what you hope with any of
these business situations is that you have spin-off productions, that you can take it
out on the road, that you can take it to London, that you can take it to Japan. And it remains to be seen. But in terms of the actual decision to do
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST here on Broadway, that decision was made discretely for Broadway,
for the theatre here. Has there been an announced figure about the
budget of this, what this show cost? And I was going to ask if Don knew that, as
the producer. Who wants to own up? (LAUGHTER) Well, the budget was established at eleven
point nine. Million? Million. (LAUGHTER) But that doesn’t sound very extravagant, considering
how elaborate the production is. What is the budget? Eleven point nine million. And I guess, Jerry, you have history with
some of the Andrew Lloyd Webber or Really Useful Theatre productions, Cam MacIntosh
productions. How does that break down, in a sense, in big
bucks, sets, actors? Would you illuminate that for us? Use something out of the show. Well, in broad terms, the physical production
of the show is probably about sixty percent of that budget. Off the top of my head, I don’t have the figures. Well, all right. But six and a half million for sets, roughly. Sets, costumes, lighting, illusions, trucking,
labor. All the things that go into making the physical
production happen. But for example, CRAZY FOR YOU, didn’t that
cost six or seven million to bring to Broadway? I think so. Yeah. So, eleven doesn’t sound out of line at all
to me. (LAUGHTER) I’m amazed that you were able to
do that well. I congratulate you, as a non-businessman. (LAUGHTER) Well, this show is contemporary with the other
large musicals. It parallels the production costs. It’s what it takes to put a show like this
together. And then, with an older musical like CRAZY
FOR YOU, I think it took a year or so to recoup their investment? I think they’re just about reaching that point. And that was a one-man adventure on the part
of Roger Horshow, he just did it with his own money, with his own purse. He happened to have a very big purse. (LAUGHTER) So I don’t know how many companies
are on the road with that, whether it’s three or four. Do you have any idea about that, Chris? No, actually, I don’t. Mike, do you know how many companies? One company up? There’s one company on the road. There’s a company in Toronto and Japan. London. And London. Now, what will happen with SHOWBOAT? Isn’t that also going to be– I thought you were the major investor in SHOWBOAT,
bringing it down. Well, I am. (LAUGHTER) Surely, that’s up there, too, as
a very expensive [show]. So we understand. But you could also, because you’re the producer
of three hits on Broadway now, with BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. Well, I have to establish, George, very clearly,
that I really work for Disney in this regard. The Dodgers, as much as they would like to
be the producers of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, are basically general managers of BEAUTY AND
THE BEAST. What is a general manager? Let’s get right down to that now. Yeah, okay. Do you want to explain the general manager? What is your role here, Michael, as general
manager? I suppose that we’re responsible, once they
have the idea and put the team together, or at least the principal members of the team,
and determine to do this, we’re one of the few people brought in subsequently to work
with them to manage and coordinate the actual doing of their idea. And in this case, it was an idea that found
its way from the Disneys to Houston and then to New York. What are the things that you bring? And so, like Jerry and like Chris, we were
involved to basically help them get the idea off the page, or in this case, off the screen. What do you coordinate? What do you bring in? It’s everything from whatever you can write
down, and Disney certainly writes a lot of things down (LAUGHTER), so it’s everything
from coordinating all the paper that moves around, with everything from numbers to words
on it, to a fairly sizable staff of people from the creative teams– Do you work with the unions? –to the folks who sell tickets to ushers
to designers to whatever. I mean, Jerry has his own territory where
he sort of deals with people behind the curtain line. And I suppose Chris and our office deal with
what happens in front of the curtain line, again on behalf of Disney. Who, for instance, hires Margery and Chris? Disney. Disney does. The general manager does not. It could have been done either way. And maybe I should jump in a little bit and
explain it. Please. The Walt Disney Company has a great deal of
experience in many fields, but we are not the experts in legitimate theatre, even though
some of us have spent a fair amount of time in the theatre. We thought it was very important to go out
and hire experts, to supplement our team with people who knew Broadway, who know the theatre,
who are the best in their fields. And that’s how some of these people came to
work with us, because we needed their advice. And they’ve been incredibly helpful. So somebody like Michael has helped us in
almost every area of the production, simply because Michael, as you mentioned earlier,
is not just a general manager for us but is a producer of quite a few shows. And so his experience has been invaluable. And they’ve helped us in every aspect of the
[production]. So the Dodgers made the recommendation to
you? In many things. In fact, Margery, for example, came to us
through Michael’s office, he recommended her. He recommended Chris. Jerry Harris we found on our own, fortunately. When did Margery come on? At what point? About six months prior to the production coming
to Broadway. And is that the usual arrangement about that? You’re not necessary before roughly that period? Because everybody has to be dovetailed in
at various times. Let me say on Margery’s behalf, I think she’s
necessary way before six months. The fact is, that has nothing to with Disney
when they hired her. I mean, I think what Disney did with Margery
is something that the other shows don’t do at all. We try and do it, and I know some others do. But time is indeed your money in this business,
and so the sooner one’s on, the better. And Chris, when do you come into this picture? Also from the very beginning? I’ve been on this for about a year now, I
mean involved. We had an interesting situation. We went down to Houston to work on the show
for seven weeks of previews in Houston, around Christmastime, which was an invaluable lesson
[and] experience for all of us, for a lot of reasons. I mean, the show changed a lot during that
period. But also the work that Marge and I and the
marketing team from Disney [did]. We had a great time just sort of get[ting]
all the stuff in place. The press things that I need to do, how we
were going to sell the show, how we were going to present the show, the way it was going
to look. We made decisions about which photographs
we wanted to use. I mean, there was a time when we were talking
very early on that we were never going to show people pictures of the Beast (HE LAUGHS). What we sort of figured out later on was you
can’t have a show titled BEAUTY AND THE BEAST and not show them what he looks like. (LAUGHTER) So that went away very quickly. Then we thought, “Oh, we’re not going to show
anybody what the objects look like.” Well, when we saw how great they were and
how well they photographed and how much people wanted to see them, we changed our minds again. And these kinds of mistakes and changes and
rethinking of things and sharpening of our skills, we got to do in Houston. We got to sort of try out without everybody
sort of watching us. We didn’t have critics fly into Houston, as
some people do. The SHOWBOAT production flew critics to Toronto
to review it ahead of time, and we deliberately made a decision not to do that. And we got to do our work without a lot of
people standing over and looking over our shoulders, which is really important. Picking up from that, too, I happen to be
a great fan, and I’m sorry our cameras can’t pick it up, of the logo. Bob is wearing the watch of the logo (LAUGHTER),
and I’m sorry you can’t see it. But it’s a great logo, I love that logo. How did you find that? Who did it? Was it you, Chris? Was it Margery? Who did it? Tell us a little bit about the process of
coming up with it. It came from a lot of places, actually. It’s great. I mean, it’s the work of the terrific artists
at Disney, who actually put it together. It was a Disney artist? Yes, and it was a very early Saturday morning
meeting when we all looked at some things. We had something in Houston that was very
close to the movie. And I think that’s really important for us
to talk about for a second, that what we didn’t want to do is say, “This is the movie, on
stage.” It’s very different. I mean, there are obviously parts of the movie
there and it takes its basis from the movie, but we went beyond that. And we didn’t want people to think that, “Oh,
there’s a movie playing at the Palace,” and we’re asking them to pay legitimate theatre
ticket prices. So we wanted something different. And on a Saturday morning, we saw some artwork. And it was actually two pieces of art that
we sort of asked them to put together. What were they? What was the evolution there? Who was “we”? It was the silhouette Michael was there, Margery
was there. You were there. Uh-huh. And then some of the marketing people and
Bob Gunn and Jeffrey Katzenberg was there. And it was the silhouette of the Beast, and
then the rose was a separate element, I think, with a petal falling. And we said, “Why not put them together?” And they liked the idea and they came back
and what they presented was terrific. It was difficult in getting across to the
audience the perception and expectation of the show. I mean, it was brutal. And Houston was the try out for the show,
and it was also kind of a try out for the marketing. And when in Houston, the logo that was close
to the film ran in the papers, we saw the expectation was really more the movie and
not the show. And by that time, the show had taken on its
own life. The logo helped reflect that life. And it’s a more masculine image. It’s a more theatrical, dramatic image. I would think, and Margery, is it your job
particularly to clarify? I mean, it seems simplistic, I know, but to
clarify for the public, and I’m talking about both nationwide and worldwide. It’s like “Superman, the Movie.” This is not BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, the Movie. I mean, is that one of your jobs? Or is it Chris? Or is it both? I mean, to really focus on the fact that this
is a legitimate [theatre piece], what they’re going to do is they’re going to see something
that is live. It’s really all of our jobs, through the advertising
that we do, through all of the promotional campaigns, through all of the public relations
activities. It’s our job to communicate what the show
is on Broadway. And how do you do that? Well, starting with– Well, we started with what the show isn’t. How do you separate this? Public relations, publicity? Yeah. I handle all the public relations and the
publicity, basically everything that you– Advertising is not represented here. Right, right. And so who does your advertising? We have in-house people doing it, but we all
contribute. You can’t do anything without us all talking
to each other. And then marketing goes to you? Yes, and promotion. And we all work together. Now, in preparing for the arrival in New York
City, what in fact was an accident of history, which is the Disney moving to 42nd Street,
did that muddy the waters? Did that get people confused? It got me a little confused. I wasn’t sure what was happening, what Disney
was going to be doing on 42nd Street. Or didn’t that affect you at all? It affected us, certainly it did. But I think it affected us in a good way. Yes, it’s a great, affirmative thing. Yes, so it was saying, we’re not only coming
in to do one show, but we’re coming in to be part of this community. And we’re going to be part of the real estate. We’re going to be part of the community in
a very real way. And it was actually very helpful. Let me go back one step. We missed casting. Where did the casting take place? Here in New York. In New York. Who did the casting? Who was the casting director? Jay Binder, who did a fabulous job, who worked
with our director. Michael, were you involved with that? Not in the day-to-day casting. An awful lot of people came in for callbacks. It’s interesting. I think Miss Egan, or a couple of them, are
out of Disney’s camp, though, weren’t they? Or had had some experience in one or another
of the [projects]. Yes, Susan has done some television and things
for Disney. Some of the other things for our studio. She lives in Orange County. Yes, she came from Long Beach, actually, yeah. But that really was coincidental. We really found these actors in New York. We did get some people from Canada. But we found the actors in New York, and we’re
very lucky to have such talented people. It’s interesting, on many of our seminars
we hear that theatre performers are working in the theatre, or theatre producers or theatre
directors working in the theatre, and then they to television or movies to make some
money. And here we have television and movies, in
a sense, coming to New York. Are you coming here to make money? Well, we hope so. (LAUGHTER) Well, what was the main reason for coming
to Broadway? The company just felt it was time. The idea of doing theatre has been one that’s
been kicked around in the Walt Disney Company for many, many years. And there were many people like myself in
the company who had a theatrical background who wanted the company to do it, and we’d
always walked away from it as not our main business. But as our company has grown, and as Michael
Eisner has looked for new avenues for the company to grow into, this became an obvious
opportunity. And based on the response to the film, the
idea came up to do BEAUTY AND THE BEAST and so we just decided to take the plunge. Now, another problem with BEAUTY AND THE BEAST,
which wouldn’t be in an ordinary musical here in New York, is that you have two audiences. Presumably you have a lot of children at the
matinees and you have to lure adults into coming at night, because a lot of grown people
wouldn’t think, “That’s the musical for me!” So how did you deal with that? You knew that from the beginning. So when you got into those Saturday morning
meetings, what happened? What did you decide? Well, it’s not a children’s show, it’s a Broadway
musical. It’s a great date musical. It’s a love story. It’s a great love story. There speaks the press representative. (LAUGHTER) Yeah. You can’t believe anything I say, ever. Enough said. Now answer the question! It’s something we work about, and we don’t
want to say that this is a children’s show, because it’s not that. But adult audiences, you know, we do shows
at eight o’clock. We have how many shows a week that are not
matinees? Five that are not matinees. And if you come to the theatre on a weeknight,
I think audiences love to bring a child with them so they can experience it with a child. But it’s not a show that we say is a children’s
show. And the best thing that I’ve been saying in
the defense of this being a show just for kids is that this gets children involved in
the theatre. And if they say, “I love that. I want to do more of that. What else can I see?” then we’ve won the battle. Sure. Yeah, I felt that when I saw it. And I agree with you, it’s not a children’s
show. But all of the best theatre for children are
not specifically, in my head, geared for children. I saw a lot of kids there, but I thought,
“This is a great way to introduce them to live theatre. What a way to turn them on.” And I wanted to ask Jeremiah something, too,
because when I saw the show, it seemed to me like a logistical nightmare. (LAUGHTER) I was an old stage manager, and
I thought, “My lord, what a job.” Could you tell us a little bit [about it],
because in these seminars, “Working in the Theatre,” just tell us a little bit about
one, the transfer, just the nuts and bolts of getting the show from Houston to Broadway. (JEREMIAH LAUGHS) Talk about load-in, lights. All of that stuff is a very, very complex
and important aspect of it. Would you address that a little, what you
have to do and how long it takes? Well, we closed in Houston January 10th. We started previewing here March 9th. We started in the Palace Theatre January 3rd,
though. So we had roughly two months and one week. What did you have to do in the theatre? Well, we don’t have enough time here (LAUGHTER)
to describe it. You would need two or three weeks. But we made a lot of facility modifications
in order to house the show. The big challenge with this show was that
the show is so large, and we go to so many different scenes. And the show, from the scenic level or the
physical production side, had to compete with the other monster musicals that are out there. So the problem with the Palace, it’s inordinately
small backstage. Is it? I’d forgotten that. Very, very small. Off the top of my head, it’s only twenty-eight
feet deep. So a great deal of planning went into it. We put in additional fly floors. We put a tremendous amount of structural steel
in the grid, which is the structure that holds all the flying scenery, in order to support
the additional weight we were going to put there. As the scenes go on and off the stage, they
immediately go off into the wings and are then flown up into the air, so that the next
scene can be lowered in and put down into the tracks. The show moves very, very smoothly, and the
reason for that is we are running everything from our lighting systems to our sound systems
to our scenic motion control via computers. So as the stage manager gives a cue, he might
be enabling sixty or seventy pieces to be moved in one command, or two commands, via
a technician downstairs. That’s incredible. So the real thing about moving the show is
it’s all a matter of logistics. It moved in roughly twenty-eight trailers
(LAUGHTER), from Houston to whatever, and then scheduling the process. Because you don’t have any space, things have
to come in in a precise manner, where X comes in and you work on X. And you must allocate your time proportionally
and see that you can make the schedule. How difficult is that in working with the
New York stagehands here than it would be with the studio or in Houston? Well, there’s quite a bit of difference. We had a great crew in Houston and they were
very helpful, but there’s no question that the New York technicians are more experienced
in this kind of production and just generally what we’re doing. And I’m sure you would agree with that, Jerry. Yeah. Michael, or maybe you both know, how many
stagehands are involved? It’s Jerry’s turn. There’s thirty-four total stagehands on this
show, fourteen which work directly for the Disney Company and twenty [of] what we call
locals. Can you give us a comparison to PHANTOM or
any other show that you have, Michael, the facts about? Well, TOMMY, for instance. It’s more than TOMMY and it’s more than GUYS
AND DOLLS. But it’s not twice as many. It’s one less than PHANTOM. It’s one less than PHANTOM. I think it’s one or two less than MISS SAIGON. Imagine having something less than PHANTOM
and not a phantom. It’s a very different concept. (LAUGHTER) Highly theatrical, magical show. We’ve all been accused of having phantoms,
people backstage, anyway. Some of the other fun facts. What, fourteen hundred lighting instruments? A hundred and seventy-some motors. Fourteen hundred? Actually, if you count everything, there’s
over a hundred automated scenic elements. There’s sixty-four Vari-Lights, which
is an automated lighting instruments. I don’t want to use the word “complicated,”
but we have the most elaborate sound system that the live theatre has yet to see. In and of itself, it’s filled with three or
four computers. And we reproduce the sound effects in this
show digitally. We pre-mix the orchestra in the basement,
and then we send it up to the orchestra mix in the house, so that depending upon how the
musicians are feeling one night, we can balance it before it gets out to the audience. That’s spooky. Talk about phantoms. It is, it really is. With the actor’s group, one of the actors
this spring in our seminar is Murray Abraham, who was in ANGELS IN AMERICA, taking the Roy
Cohn role. And he was saying that the only objection
that he has to what is happening in the theatre with the wonderful speed with which the scenes
change and all the rest of it, the degree to which it is all becoming more movie-istical
than it ever has before– Right. –is the degree to which he becomes much more
a prisoner of the computers that are setting all those things than he used to be. And he says as an old-time actor, he feels
a certain resentment of the degree to which live theatre is less live if he’s being made
a prisoner of all that. Now, you have the most complicated– we don’t
want to use the word– the most elaborate example of that that’s ever been. And the notion of even altering the quality
of tone of an orchestra like that is striking. It’s absolutely uncanny. And somebody might be skeptical of all this
high technology. He was. The actors are in many cases, very skeptical. Young actors, like Susan Egan and Burke Moses,
will never know anything else, so they won’t be skeptical. Right. (HE LAUGHS) But the other people who are accommodating
to it are. Well, I mean, the world is evolving and the
theatre is evolving. I think that’s the answer to it, yes. It’s an answer, but nothing something that
you consent to, perhaps. One of the reasons the sound system is so
elaborate is because the director, along with Alan Menken, wanted to preserve a certain
honesty in the music and wanted not to go to pre-recorded tracks– Right. –which support some of the Broadway shows. So they wanted it to be very, very live, which
necessitated, all of a sudden, now, thirty-one microphones on every member of the chorus,
to keep it live. Well, also, if you look at the orchestrations
of the show, we have a very acoustic orchestra. Yes, we do have synthesizers in a pit, but
we have a large string section, which has been pushed aside in many, many other musicals. We have bassoons. We have piccolos. We have the full range in the saxophone and
the clarinets. You know, many musicians are doubling. So the sounds that come out of the pit are
very precise and things that we want people to hear. We want to hear the little subtleties throughout
the evening’s performance. So that in and of itself is part of the reason
in sound. And because of technology, people don’t listen,
don’t pay as close attention any more, so you have to stimulate them. But the show ends, in respect to timing, it’s
almost identical every night then, I suppose? Well, no, that’s not true, because it’s not
a computer where you push one button and you say, “Okay, I’ll be back at ten-thirty.” (LAUGHTER) Everything is broken down into
segments. And you initiate a cue and that cue might
run five or six seconds. So if Susan Egan is one beat or two beats
late in starting a song and a light cue is supposed to start, the stage manager is still
in control, and he calls that cue live. So although the control of the environment
is technology, the unique thing about the theatre which will never go away is that it’s
still in the hands of humans. I was hoping. I thought you would never say that. (LAUGHTER; APPLAUSE) I thought you would never
get to it! I just want to get back to Brendan’s comment
about Murray Abraham. I mean, I think what has to be differentiated
here is the theatre and Broadway. The fact is, I think what he’s saying is that
on Broadway, in some shows which happen to be, for lots of reasons we can talk about,
bigger than most theatre over the rest of this country. And mind you, we’re talking about two percent
of the theatre in this country. I mean, in every town of twenty-five thousand
people or more, there is live theatre going on now like there was thirty years ago. And so, if Murray wants to act and not have
any scenery, ninety-eight percent of the theatres out there are a choice for him. (LAUGHTER) If he comes here, on the other
hand, and indeed wants to work in the Broadway theatre, there is with it a kind of expectation,
I think, that audiences bring from those towns that have ninety-eight percent of the theatre
in this country to Broadway, which is to suggest that it damn well better be different, or
I’m not going to pay what I need to to come to New York. And then they want it to be different. You can see wonderful plays and musicals and
almost any actor on the stage from Schenectady to Spokane these days. And the fact is, in New York, Broadway seems
to be an aberrational part of theatre in America. And it is that particular and singular aberration
that we find here in New York that makes it either for some worth the money or not worth
the money. And so, it seems to me, this particular BEAUTY
AND THE BEAST is a new musical for Broadway, and were it one for the Long Wharf Theatre
or the Guthrie, it might be a very different one, and for the Berkeley Rep in California,
it would be a significantly different one than that. (LAUGHTER) If you come here, you know, you
want to come to Broadway, you damn well better play by the rules. I mean, the rules basically are that that
show at the Berkeley Rep probably won’t work here or last very long and consequently, you
know, this is it. Well, in this particular place we were talking
about ANGELS IN AMERICA, which is an exceptionally complex thing to put on. Absolutely. Yeah. And you couldn’t get through the evening. It would be four o’clock in the morning, as
it was when they first [started]. There’s no question about that. And I realize that at the Berkeley Rep, ANGELS
IN AMERICA had a wonderful run with no scenery whatsoever. And the fact is that the question for ANGELS
IN AMERICA might be, “Was [it] the best, most secure place to hold the baby of that wonderful
show in a circumstance which is so unbelievably volatile and speculative, and that causes
one to have angels coming through roofs as opposed to being referred to out of hand?” And that’s a choice producers make, and then
actors choose to do it. And not only in the small towns of America,
but we have all this nearly scenery-less theatre here in New York and Off-Broadway. Absolutely. And wherever else you happen to be going. And he can act wherever he wants. No question. You know, there’s been a lot of focus today
on the media on BEAUTY AND THE BEAST and how much it cost and how elaborate it is and all
of that, and it was expensive. I mean, it is very elaborate. But I also want to say that we made decisions
that grew out of the script, that grew out of the music. The choices we made in ninety-eight percent
of the cases were to tell the story the best way we knew how, to tell it in a Disney way,
and to illustrate the story. Sometimes I feel like there’s so much attention
paid to this that people think, well, Disney set out to say, “Wow, gee, whatever that show
spent, we want to spend more.” No. No. “Whatever that show did that was a lot of
scenery, we wanted to do more.” That was never our intention. And so, while what Michael implied is true,
there is more than one way to do BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, what we have done is to tell the
story with our whole team the best way we know how. And just to elaborate, the fact is that so
much has been to this particular BEAUTY AND THE BEAST that has nothing to do with the
physical production. I mean, there is more music that’s new in
this version than there is that’s old from the movie. I mean, textually, an amazing transformation
has taken place in order to move what was on the screen down to the stage. Now, there’s very little talk about it, but
that’s the case. It is, indeed, a new musical. It is not like SINGING IN THE RAIN or SEVEN
BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS or MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS or even, frankly, more than all of those. The transformation textually has been massive,
to transform what was on the screen to the stage. And then it was surrounded by this stuff. You know, we started using the word “adapt.” And then, once we hit Houston, all of a sudden
we realized the word was “transform,” as far as create a new [show] and create something
different. BEAUTY AND THE BEAST is now at the Palace
and we’ve gone all through that. Now what are you doing to sell tickets? What happens now? And also, picking up on that, for everybody,
what is the difference and the similarity between marketing and advertising? Well, hopefully, they’re going to be together. Well, yes, but they’re two separate terms. Well, marketing goes out and gets the customer,
right? Advertising says, “Come and see it.” Well, I think it’s a combination. One thing we have to sort of clear up is we’ve
never [done this]. Marketing in the theatre is sort of, unfortunately,
a new thing. Yeah. We need to be doing more of it, and we’re
all learning as we go, and that’s why people like Marge are so important to us. I sometimes think that marketing means “Drive
us crazy,” you know? (LAUGHTER) You know, “We have to go do that
now.” Thank you. I love you, but, you know, there are days
when I go, “No!” Because, you know, I can write a press release
and I can get the critics to come and I can get a picture in the newspaper and I can whatever. But it’s the other stuff that gets people
in. I mean, we don’t know what actually gets people
into a seat. I don’t know. And it’s us working together so they have
to come. So that’s what you do. And Margery, you do the other? Well, to embellish what marketing is, it’s
all of the techniques that go into selling your particular event, and that includes advertising,
promotion, public relations, direct mail, telecommunications, group sales. All of that encompasses marketing. I think the best thing, you know, is paid
advertising. But if you want to go through the list on
paid promotions, I mean, from appearances in Tokyo. Yes, go through some of what that would be. Sure. For example, promotion is really the development
of a relationship with a third party, and through those companies and their resources,
they can use their techniques to advertise whatever particular promotion it is. And for example, the Walt Disney Company feels
very strongly about literacy. So we took that as an opportunity to develop
a literacy campaign in New York that tied in with BEAUTY AND THE BEAST and was able
to work with the New York Times, who published a series of articles on the joy of reading. And these appeared every day. Could I interrupt? How did that start? It started with meetings with the New York
Times, who wanted to work with us. So who had the idea to say, “This would be
good for literacy and let’s see where we go with it”? The Walt Disney Company felt it was important
to advocate literacy, as we do in the show. Then we had meetings with the New York Times,
who wanted to work with us on a particular promotion. And it was a cooperative decision and a mutual
decision that this would work best for the New York Times. And they published this series of articles,
which further promoted BEAUTY AND THE BEAST and tied in with the show in New York. And we also did similar campaigns with WWOR-TV,
who produced a series of public service announcements and tied in with the New Jersey Board of Education. So both of those strengthened our advocation
of literacy. And we worked with Bloomingdale’s and the
market who had exclusive shops with the BEAUTY AND THE BEAST merchandise. They created a series of window displays. And we had cast appearances, and they conducted
sweepstakes across the country. So all of this activity provided additional
promotional exposure for the show. That sounds like promotional exposure, as
you just said, and public relations and publicity. But what about the actual selling of the ticket? Did you go out to any different groups and
the normal theatre groups that are usually group sales? Did you go to different groups to get blocks
of tickets, to actually buy the tickets? We have a group sales agency that handles
that. Did you use the normal theatre group sales? You didn’t go into church groups, theatre,
or out of New Jersey and Connecticut and get various [groups]? Well, we did a presentation before we went
to Houston, where we actually had the actors come in and sing some songs for us. And Don put together this incredible slide
presentation showing the costume sketches, which are works of art, and a little bit of
the Beast makeup process. And we did about twenty minutes of some songs. And we did it at the Imperial Theatre and
there were, you know, fifteen hundred people there who left and made their reservations
for group sales. So it was calculated to do that. We wanted people to get a taste of it long
before we came to New York. And the groups then went off and did their
thing. So, yes. I also think, picking up, because there’s
something that, Isabelle, you touched on, but I think people should know that one of
the [things] which was picked up on nicely, understanding that Disney Company is promoting
literacy. But I think it’s picking up on the fact that
the Beauty is considered a weirdo because she reads. Umm-hmm. And I think to turn that around was a lovely
kind of aggressive point of that. I mean, all very well that Disney wanted to
promote that, but it’s really using that as a stepping stone. I mean, the fact that here is the Beauty and
she’s considered a weirdo in the town because she actually reads books. Again, it naturally grows out of the script. Exactly. And in Houston, we were at a library. Michael Eisner came in and read to some children
at a Houston library, and really put the stamp on it. He said, “Well, of course, it was very deliberate
when we created BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. We wanted to make a Belle of the nineties. We wanted to make a contemporary Belle. And it was the reading that is what created
that character.” So sure, to take that as a role model now
and to push it through. The great thing that I think Disney has to
offer the other Broadway producers is the whole role of synergy with our entire company. It’s just a key part that you won’t find anyplace
else, and I think everyone’s kind of starting to understand how important it is. We have the ability, and other producers could
do the same with other partners, to tie into various parts of the company. For instance, at Rockefeller Center, you’ll
see topiaries brought up from Walt Disney World here to restate the name of BEAUTY AND
THE BEAST. The record company put out the cast album
and there’s, you know, displays from merchants, advertisements on the cast album. The thing that really helped the literacy
program come up is Hyperion and Disney Press, who gave fifteen hundred books to the
city of Houston and then is also doing a book offering to the New York system. You’re doing the same thing here? Yeah. So it’s pulling on those resources, which
I think are opening up the whole Broadway marketing sphere. What kind of an advance sale do you have right
now? Over seven million dollars. Going how far ahead? September 4th. We’re on sale through Labor Day. Just in general, about marketing in the theatre. I mean, what you’re really talking about is
sort of efficient information dissemination. It’s not just about selling. I mean, selling tickets is the back end, but
basically, it’s how you get information out there. And I think what’s expected in the theatre
without thinking about it is that what you do is you throw a lot of money at something. And the fact is, if indeed the Broadway theatre
is this combination of art and commerce, necessarily you have to sell tickets in order to keep
the art alive or to protect it. The difference between Broadway art as product
as opposed to toothpaste is the fact that there’s only so many counters you can be on
every week and that’s all. So you only can spend so much money per week
on advertising, marketing of any kind, which is why the kind of synergy Don’s talking about
or what Chris does or what Marge does is not only imaginative, but it’s absolutely necessary. Because what you can’t do is buy the information
dissemination network. You can’t compete with Budweiser or Crest
for the opportunity to convey to people that this thing exists on Broadway, because you
only are going to make, no matter how successful you are, so much money as every seat filled
can make at eight performances a week. And that’s all. And so there comes a point where justifying
“We’re going to go out and do everything we can,” becomes very simple, whereas you can
put toothpaste on every counter in every store across the country. There’s this one counter in this one city
between these two blocks where all your toothpaste is, and if it’s good toothpaste, you’ve only
got so much money to spend.’ That’s why Broadway is so hazardous for the
producer who is only coming in as an independent thing. And word of mouth might cause a play or something
to survive Off-Broadway, but word of mouth for a six or eight million dollar musical? I’ve always felt it was an extraordinarily
silly thing for anybody to do with their money or their life. (LAUGHTER) Putting mental illness aside for
a minute, I mean, it’s a really silly thing to do. Well, in the case of Roger Horshow, this was
the toy of his life. Absolutely. And what a great [thing]. He always wanted to do that. That’s what he wanted and he had a hundred
and ten million dollars and he asked his family to vote, “Should I make this gamble?” Fantastic gambler. The children all said, “Go for it, Pop.” And he did. And it worked. And it never does. Well, in terms of marketing, and we touched
on it briefly before as far as the family musical and the Broadway musical, I must say
we learned a large lesson from Michael’s experience with TOMMY, where you began to articulate
for us very early that there were two audiences, that with TOMMY there was all of a sudden
this new audience of old rock-and-rollers to bring to Broadway, as well as the theatre
audience. And that whole winning experience that he
had I think we took right over to BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, where we realized that there was
the theatregoing public and then there was also the new audience, which was the family
audience. And I must say that informed the way I think
of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, in the family of family shows we’ve done before, BIG RIVER,
SECRET GARDEN, INTO THE WOODS, which spoke to audiences of all ages. But I mean, I don’t think of BEAUTY AND THE
BEAST as a kids’ show. I think of it as a show for a lot of people,
including families. And I think, meaning no disrespect, differently
than CATS or even JOSEPH might be for families, that BEAUTY AND THE BEAST is in a fine family
of shows that actually have texts and are about something. And we struggled, I think, with those earlier
shows, again, in each case much smaller and I think with a potential constituency much
smaller than BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, to basically draw into the theatre not only traditional
theatregoers but families, and God knows with all of the costs involved in sort of coming
with your children to see anything. Have you done any surveys on ages of families
of the ticket buyers in the theatre for BEAUTY AND THE BEAST? Can you give us any median? Not yet. We haven’t done any surveys yet. It’s probably against the law. (LAUGHTER) Everything else is. They don’t have to answer. Oh, no, I’m sorry. But for instance, with SECRET GARDEN, twenty-five
percent of our audience in our second year were families. I felt great about that. I mean, that was it. I know this is going to come up in our questions,
so I might as well start it now. The ticket price, how did you determine how
much the price of the ticket is? And who did that? Michael and I did it, with the approval, ultimately,
of Jeffrey Katzenberg and Michael Eisner. What is it based on? It’s based on two things. What things cost in New York, I mean what
the prevailing ticket price is in New York. And based on what our expenses are. Questions come up quite a bit. May I stop you for a minute? Based on the prevailing ticket price in New
York? Yes. Why is it always the same, almost, within
five dollars or so? A straight play is always almost the same
price. Michael can answer that. And the musicals, within five dollars, the
same price. That doesn’t happen in a book or a garment
or whatever it might be. No, but I suppose it happens– The cost of the product is there, and there’s
a fair amount of return and profit and based on that. So it all differs. Why is it? Yeah. I think that the answer to your question is
probably not the one you want to hear. I mean, the fact is I think most people wish
it could be higher. The fact is it is that price because no one’s
got the guts to charge what they ought to for that ticket. That’s not to suggest that what you see when
you get in is necessarily worth it. No, I don’t want to hear it. (LAUGHTER) But in terms of justifying, you know, you’ll
decide whether that is the case. But I think if anybody sort of on paper put
down what you ought to be charging for what this cost and what it costs to run and what
the cost was and what it could be, people, I think, are scared to death to charge that
real number. And so they cling to, as best they can, desperately,
a number which seems not as high as they think it ought to be, but God knows it couldn’t
possibly be lower. And then, remember, this is affected not only
by your expenses, but [by] the size of your theatre. So if you’ve got a large show in a house that’s
twelve hundred seats, that makes it even trickier for you, because the cost of running that
may be almost the same as if you were running in a sixteen hundred seat house. So look, I mean, I hate that ticket prices
are so high, but I must say, if it was any of us sort of looking at the numbers, I think
you would see that it is, as Brendan talks about, I mean it makes coming here unbelievably
silly. I mean, you think about how many shows run,
how many recoup and how many make money. I mean, it’s a ridiculous thing for anybody
to do with their money in the first place. And I’m just glad, from my standpoint, that
we didn’t have a higher ticket price than any other show in history, because it would
have made my life even worse. (LAUGHTER) Now, I know that they’re talking about SHOWBOAT
coming in here in the next season at seventy-five dollars a ticket. And I also know a thing that’s not often alluded
to, apart from the cost, we talk about eleven million plus, but the cost of advertising
has skyrocketed, hasn’t it? I mean, that’s one of the tough things. I mean, everything’s going up, but beyond
the physical production, isn’t it true that an ad [is more expensive]? What does a full page ad in the New York Times
cost these days? Sixty. Is it fifty? How much? A full page? Fifty. Fifty thousand, yeah. Fifty-three, fifty-four thousand. On Sunday. Or with color. Right. Well, not with color. But I mean, what you’re talking about, this
is real interesting. It’s always been fun to me that the idea of
the theatre thinking about raising the ticket price a dollar is on the front page of the
Times. The New York Times raises their line rate,
and if it’s anywhere, it’s buried. It’s buried. And it’s usually in a letter you receive somehow
to do it. And somehow they just love, I mean they salivate,
waiting for us, too, even thinking about, you know, what the price of the tickets is. And at the same time, I must say they contribute
to that cost. I mean, what needs to be talked about here,
too, I think, is that in the conversations Bob and I had, and I know in Disney’s point
of view, accessibility to the show was critical. And the pull constantly was, “How can we charge
what we need to to keep it here, and how can we charge what we need to to get the people
in who we want to be in while we’re here?” And so, there are an awful lot of tickets
in the theatre that are not sixty-five dollars. How does one know that? It’s in ABCs, you call and you do it. The average public does not know it. One of the results of these seminars [is that]
I constantly hear people say, “Oh, they’re so wonderful and it’s so good to hear theatre
again.” And then I say, “Well, do you go to the theatre?” “Oh, I used to, but I can’t afford it any
more. I would love to be able to go, but I can’t
afford it any more.” Well, we have tickets that are twenty dollars. Every performance, as a matter of fact. How does one know about that? Well, if somebody asks when they call the
ticket agent. It’s posted at the box office. And also, I mean, they know. People know, because they’re going. Well, it’s in the advertising. It’s in the advertising? Yeah. It clearly is. Right. I’m going to look at your ad now. But it’s interesting. I mean, the question you pose. If we were the beef industry, we would be
taking ads all over the country, talking about “There really isn’t as much cholesterol as
you think there is,” (LAUGHTER) or “It doesn’t do any harm.” And the fact is, we basically can’t do that. And I must say, what you may be talking about
is the industry needs to perhaps do that, to make people understand that the top number
is only the number for a certain number of tickets, and there are others. And of course, Disney has worked out a number
of promotions for groups for tickets at no cost if there are empty seats and for discounts. Well, I want to get into that. We’re going to have to stop now and take a
break, just so you can catch your breath and gird yourself for more questions for when
we come back. So don’t go far away. You can stretch, you can move, you can do
whatever you want. But come right back again and sit down and
have questions ready. Thank you. (APPLAUSE) We’re continuing the American Theatre Wing
seminars on “Working in the Theatre,” coming to you from the Graduate Center of the City
University of New York. This seminar is on the production, and the
production is BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, the exciting new show that has opened at the Palace Theatre. Gathered here, along with Brendan Gill and
George White, are the people that made the show possible, the people that put their money
where the show is. (LAUGHTER) And we’re going to continue asking
them how that money’s being spent and what it does for the people that come to see BEAUTY
AND THE BEAST. Brendan, do you want to pick that up? Well, I was going to say, starting from what
Michael has said about what theatre tickets ought to be, they ought to be higher even
than they are, and very few of us out in the world have any recognition of the fact that
this is, if it were a sensible business enterprise, it would have to be much more than that. But of course, you gave many reasons, and
it’s really heartbreaking how inarticulate Michael is, but anyway … (LAUGHTER) I’m sorry. You speak faster and more usefully than that. But anyway, part of the difficulty is not
only that the counter is so small, but also, there’s no predicting the length of time of
anything. Obviously, the gamble is so tremendous, just
in terms of temporariness, and that’s something that no businessman would dare to go into. No, the toothpaste doesn’t disappear. Right. This is an ephemeral thing that sort of is
there for a moment. And as some people say the most valuable thing
you have is the poster. The only thing that’s left is sort of the
poster, when it goes like that. So, no, it’s [true]. The name on the marquee, months later. (LAUGHS) Yes, indeed. Well, I wanted to pick up with Robert a little
bit, too, because the arrival on the Broadway scene of Disney and the Disney Company is
probably the first time in I don’t know how many years or generations that there’s been
a brand-new entity. And also, seemingly the history has always
been, going back from the pre-talkies, people started out on Broadway and went to Los Angeles
and went into the film. And I think this may be the first of a major
film entity coming this other way. And I know that there are plans to renovate,
as a matter of fact, I think the opening night part was originally going to go into, the
New Amsterdam. (LAUGHTER) I’ve got spies everywhere. But this is a very, very exciting, and possibly–
I’ve also heard a little bit of scuttlebutt– scary potential here [of] Disney suddenly
coming into Broadway. And there are, you know, certain people in
dusty offices between 44th Street and 51st Street saying, “Oh, my lord! What’s going to happen when Disney hits New
York?” But I wonder what other plans you have for
bringing other things in. I mean, and also, because it is such an ephemeral
thing, that it’s not necessarily a money-making deal– I didn’t hear him say that. (LAUGHTER) No, I know. Exactly, exactly. And I realize that Jeffrey Katzenberg used
to be an aide to Mayor Lindsay, which a lot of people don’t know. So he has that New York background. It’s a kind of, I guess in my head, a quixotic
idea, perhaps, of Disney, which is making so much money in other areas to come to Broadway. It’s exciting. It’s daunting, somewhat. And what do you have on the plate? Come on, straight talk. Well, you’ve brought up about ten subjects. Okay. Tear it up. I don’t know where to begin. If I go back to the first thing you brought
up, about Disney being the first to come, I think there’s been many film companies that
have done things on Broadway. But it’s just investing, isn’t it? Mostly, at least as far as I know, as investors. Yeah. If there’s anything unique about what we’re
doing here, it is that we decided that this was going to be, hopefully for a lot of good
and very little bad, a Disney production. It was not going to be a case where we were
just investors. And that actually was a philosophy taken by
Michael Eisner, that he had done that before, in one of his previous companies, I believe
Paramount. But he wanted it to be our show and to be
Disney, and we would succeed or we would fail but it would be Disney. And I think that has been the really unique
thing about what we’ve done, in that regard. In terms of whether Disney coming to Broadway
is good or bad, well, from my point of view, we’d like everybody to think it’s good. But you know, some people– Let’s take it as a given that it’s good. And let’s go on from there. Yeah, I do. But I just thought I’d bring it up, why not,
you know? I realize this is not a firing line. But we just want to be part of the community. You know, some people have thought that we
wanted to take over, and that’s not the case at all. We just want to participate. But what are your future plans? I think that’s the important thing. Well, as I mentioned earlier, we’re looking
at another production, which we would hope to open at the New Amsterdam. When do you think that might be? Early 1996. The possibilities that we are talking about
are ALADDIN or LITTLE MERMAID or MARY POPPINS. Those are the leading candidates, although
we’re looking at other properties as well. Will you do any plays that are not based on
Disney characters or not based on Disney itself? Yes. Probably not at the beginning. We still feel that we have so much to learn
that we think it’s important to play from our strength at the moment, and that is to
use the material that we’re familiar with. But yes, definitely, in the future. You are open to new works? Absolutely. And the development of new works? Yes, yes. Absolutely. Does that come out of your theatre experience
in California, being part of theatre out there? Wanting to create more theatre here in New
York. Yes, but I think it just comes out of the
nature of what the Walt Disney Company is. It’s a creatively driven company. What we do is create product, in all of our
areas, if you’ll excuse the term “product.” We create stories. We create films. That’s what we’re about. That’s what the whole company is about, is
doing that. And so of course, it’s natural for us to want
to do new things, as soon as we feel we’re ready or we find the right property. And you’ll also be involved in that new international,
or whatever they call that with all the fiberoptics and all the rest of it? Will you be also moving into other areas? Because everybody in entertainment seems to
be thinking about things like that. Well, I can only quote Michael on that and
reiterate what he said in the media, that our interest is in creating the software,
not in getting involved in the hardware. We’ve just talked very briefly in the marketing. On your merchandising, the merchandise that
you have for sale, is that a separate pot that that goes into, all the shirts, the caps,
all of that? Or is that put into the whole thing of the
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST profits or BEAUTY AND THE BEAST cost? Or is it a separate organization on the merchandise? Well, it’s both. (HE LAUGHS) The merchandise is actually being
handled by a division of our company called Consumer Products. But when we undertake an enterprise like this,
we look at it globally, for the benefit to the whole company. So yes, whatever profit there might be will
be credited to BEAUTY AND THE BEAST in that sense. And I would assume, from a marketing point
of view, can you buy BEAUTY AND THE BEAST T-shirts at Disney World, EuroDisney, which
then of course promotes BEAUTY AND THE BEAST back here when those tourists come to New
York? Or don’t you yet? Or is that going to happen? Or is that all part of the marketing plan? I don’t know. Do you? Yes, it is. The CD, the cast album rolls out– The 26th. The 26th, and the T-shirt merchandise, etc.,
has been shipped out to various Disney locations, including Disney stores across the country. Huh. And so of course, that helps market? Sure. Absolutely. There’s also a great new T-shirt, sweatshirt,
available now in the lobby, and I guess other places, and it says, “My first Broadway show,
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST” for children, which is great. Oh, that is wonderful. We’re promoting two things. We have for our students, says, “Hurray, hurray! We went to a Broadway show!” (LAUGHTER) That’s our thing. “Hurray, hurray, hurray! We went to BEAUTY AND THE BEAST!” (LAUGHTER) We’ll work on the rhyme. Yeah. We also have a thing that we started out at
first to be a gimmick for our critics and the VIP press when we first came to New York. We created a hat that simply said “BEAST.” (LAUGHTER) Sort of joke for people, “Say what
you will. We have the joke. We’re giving you a hat,” sort of thing. And now they’re on sale everywhere, so you
see children and people wearing “BEAST” hats and some very strong-willed ladies have been
wearing “BEAUTY” hats. (LAUGHTER) I love it! That’s great. There’s another product– Michael, catch me
if this is new-new– but Ann Hould-Ward’s costume designs really became a pivotal part
in the creation of the show, as we redefined the mythology and rewrote the script in that
regard, and it was her work that did that. The designs themselves really became wonderful
works of art, and we’ll be lithographed in limited series, signed by Ann, and sold through
Disney Art Editions. You know, art galleries throughout the country,
too. Well now, that goes back to the show for a
moment, too. Mrs. Potts and Lumens, is it? Lumiere. Lumiere. All of those people, wasn’t there a point
in the evolution of the show, and wasn’t there a lot of discussion about whether or not they
should be dressed that way? Would you talk a little bit about that? Because that was quite an interesting decision,
I think, which way to go with that. Yeah. You know, we started, like January of ’92. By the time we got to April of ’92, Michael
said, “Tell me how you’re going to treat the objects. You know, the rest of the story, we can combine
fifty-four scenes into maybe thirteen. You know, we lose the horse, Phillippe, for
all the practical reasons. (LAUGHTER) But how are we going to treat the
objects?” And Rob Roth, the director, teamed up with
Ann Hould-Ward and Nat West, the choreographer. Ann was brought in because she had previously
done the two things that we had to do. Number one, recreate a fairy tale in a theatrical
term, which she did in INTO THE WOODS. And also, pull off an existing artwork, which
she did in SUNDAY IN THE PARK. With that type of background and working with
Rob, they abandoned the idea of puppets. They abandoned the idea of projections. They abandoned the idea of holograms. Just every opportunity that was up for us. And as Ann kind of looked at all of the different
ways that you could paint Lumiere or create Lumiere as a costume which an actor could
perform in as an actor, they realized that there was merit to the whole list of it. And that’s when the mythology changed in the
show, which justifies how the characters are realized on stage. Because originally they weren’t going to be
that, they were just characters, right? They weren’t going to be dressed like candelabra? Yeah. In the film, you only know them as a talking
candlestick. At the end of the show, it’s kind of a surprise
that they are the servants in the castle. Here, the mythology is changed so that you
know that they are the servants who are under the spell, who are now gradually changing
into these objects. Which brings up another thing that somebody,
maybe Jeremiah, you’re the person to talk about, which are the special effects again,
because they’re wonderful ones. And you know, who did that? How was that put together? And you don’t have to reveal this if you don’t
want to, but how in the end when he transforms back into the Prince [does he do it]? He won’t reveal it. (LAUGHTER) He won’t reveal it? Not while I’m sitting here. (LAUGHTER) Okay, right, yes. It’s magic. Okay, well. It’s Disney magic. (LAUGHTER) Was there a Doug Hemmings type person that
created these things for you, a magician? Yes. We worked with two illusionists who worked
with the director, myself, the scenic designer, into figuring out how we could get the character
onto the stage, go from the battle scene into the transformation scene, as we call it, and
have him transform in front of your eyes, which he actually does. Was that the director’s idea, to have the
illusionists work with him? Whose idea was that? Because that’s unique in a sense, too. Well, I think it was a combination of the
Disney Company, myself, and the director, in that some of the things we tried to accomplish
here were different from other Broadway shows, and those resources are hard. It’s a very difficult task of directing. You did a wonderful job. Yeah, yeah. There are wonderful resources available, because
of Disney, and we tapped into them wherever we could. Also, on the pyrotechnics, we used an extremely
talented pyrotechnic designer who created all that flash and sparkle and actually did
R and D for over a year, in the Enchantress transformation at the beginning of the show. When we transform the Prince into the Beast,
the Enchantress throws a fireball. In order to develop that fireball, it was
a full year of R and D to do that. Goodness. And it’s patented, as well. As a good businessman, I know that “R and
D” stands for “research and development.” You can’t fool me. (LAUGHTER) And that fireball came to Nolan Ryan. Because you don’t often hear that on Broadway. No, that’s true. Well, it’s wonderful. And I think, certainly, the idea at the end,
however that’s done, to have the Beast spinning in the air and transform before your eyes
is just terrific. I mean, one can sort of understand how the
other things sort of work, but that one is really just terrific. And for magic buffs, it’s [great]. Despite Michael’s statement that the ticket
price should be more if you were really putting it all down on paper (LAUGHTER), [at] the
break I had, a couple of people have said, “I can’t get those fifteen and twenty dollar
seats, I don’t know where they are.” And I’d like to know what the percentage is
that you have. Let’s take this show in particular. What percentage of seats are there in the
twenty-dollar range? I don’t know. Because that’s the biggest thing. I know that the answer is that if you’re sold
out– I mean, not forty. (LAUGHTER) –that if the show is good and they want to
see it, they’ll come to see it no matter what the price is. But that’s not nearly the story of Broadway
theatre. And that’s not going to make Broadway theatre
continue to be what it is, if we don’t think about getting more people and more theatregoers
in there, not just those who can afford it for a birthday or for a special occasion. So if there are more seats that are available
at an available price, how do we know about it? What percentage of them at each theatre? We were concerned about this at the seminar
the other day. We usually sell those seats. Those go first. For starters, they’re known about enough so
that they all sell. And they’re not just twenty and sixty-five. They’re twenty and thirty and thirty-five
and forty-five and whatever. So there is a range that goes from here to
here, and they vary from show to show. I mean, on TOMMY we have two hundred seats
in the balcony for twenty dollars. And they go before anything goes. Do you have any student rush tickets
if you were there before? No. You don’t. Does anybody? Not at all. Would that not be a good idea? It’s very hard to do. I mean, again, I understand that as things
get more expensive, really, the New York Times, an actor’s contract, whatever, the theatre’s
capacity doesn’t expand. A six hundred seat theatre remains six hundred
seats from 1950 to 1990. And there are certain consequences from the
fact that, you know, one doesn’t move with the other. Or the idea that you’ll put it at three theatres,
as David Merrick tried to do once with 42ND STREET. Yeah. It’s sort of too bad, though, that the hit
shows– Brendan alluded to the fact that we are major Wall Street figures here, at one
point– Yeah. But it would occur to me that if you had a
hot show, a major show, that in a funny way, that would allow the ticket prices to drop. But it’s a blind man, I realize, the
other way. But it would be interesting, because you would
be able to sell out and make money, you could drop [prices]. You know what I’m saying, whereas in reality
[that doesn’t happen]. And then a show that was just marginally making
it actually should charge more to make it. It doesn’t work that way, because you’re dealing
with the human equation. But it’s interesting, when you’re making a
lot of money, why the show couldn’t [do that]. Well, there is a way to make ticket prices
theoretically less. You could do less. I mean, I think about GUYS AND DOLLS. The fact is, we only had to have sixteen musicians,
and I suppose if there were no minimums, we could only have a synthesizer, and then it
might be a show none of us would want to see. Yes. But it might cause the ticket to be a little
less. But I mean, that really is a possibility. The question is, though, if you’re the custodian
of this good work, you know. But there are shows where there is only a
synthesizer, and the ticket price is not that less. Well, but I don’t know them. Are we ready to go to questions? I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to cut you off. That’s okay. That’s fine. I must say, it was nice to have a forty-two
dollar ticket in Houston, where we had a three thousand seat house. You know, it really is the facilities that
are there on Broadway. What was the ticket price in Houston? Forty-two dollars. And there was a three thousand seat house
that was also sold out, six weeks. you know. And that was the equation that worked. Well, didn’t I hear a rumor that Disney was
going to use the Met? The Metropolitan Opera? (LAUGHTER) No, seriously. Wasn’t there some talk about Disney going
to [do that]? What parties do you go to? (LAUGHTER) I want to thank the panel today. This is exceptional, very inspiring to hear
the backstage process of this. My name is Margo Evan I’m also an actress,
and my question for the entire panel would be how involved do you get in the actual process
of the creative project? Thank you. As producers, you mean? Bob, why don’t you start? Right. It depends. All of us have different roles, and all of
us are involved to varying degrees. I’ve been very involved in it. It’s not my primary function, just speaking
for myself as the producer. I’m supposed to oversee business and the creative,
but just the creative is not my primary function. The primary creative staff, of course, is
the director, the choreographer, and so on. And they need to take the lead. In our case, as producer also for Jeffrey
Katzenberg and Michael Eisner, they would come in quite often and critique the show
and give us notes, give us their comments. So we’ve been very involved in every part
of the production. And each of these people here are involved
in that to varying degrees. Don, you were going to speak to that. What was more interesting, speaking to the
actress, was the role that the actors played in creating these roles. You know, as opposed to the producers involved
in the creative process. I mean, what Terry Mann did with the Beast,
how Susan Egan really did define Belle, you know, how the objects came to life and the
actors brought them to life. From the very first reading, when we just
sat down and read the script, there were quite a few of those performers that we just went,
“Oh my, that’s the answer! That’s what Cogsworth is!” I mean, we’ll put it back on the actors. It was mentioned that a few changes were made
in the production in the Houston run. Did that continue during the New York previews? And what were some of those changes in the
production? Yes, it continued during the previews. In Houston, it was an awful lot of how to
get from one scene to another, and you know, compressing those scene changes. And elimination of some plot points, because
what worked in the film just didn’t work on stage. And you may remember from the film, Chip is
a stowaway, and Chip goes back. Have you all seen the film? Good. (LAUGHTER) Chip goes back and Chip helps Belle
and Maurice get out of the cellar. You know, it’s a whole elaborate scheme, which
we at first worked out. And you know, it just didn’t further the story,
didn’t carry it off, and was excised from the show down in Houston. That was one of the biggest things, too, was
how the Beast looked in Houston, versus the way he looks now. How was that? Tell us. I have sort of photos from every step along
the way, and I can’t use half of them now, because the way the Beast was originally designed,
he was much furrier and much snarlier and toothier. And he had trouble singing through it and
you couldn’t really see him. The fact remains, the best thing I think that
we’ve done is let the actors be actors. They’re not inside cardboard boxes. They’re not wearing foam heads. They are actors. And the geniuses who did it stripped away
some of the things, so you actually see the man underneath [the costume]. Sort of the evolution of coming out of a cartoon
or an animation to that part of becoming a Broadway show as opposed to a cartoon, as
we were talking about earlier. I mean, for the Beast we actually built an
exo-skeleton, originally. Really. That worked just like a beast’s spine would
work, and we spent substantial monies doing that, to have it move as he moved, to be part
of his. It was attached to his shoulders, his arms. It could snarl and ruffle up. And we found that it just didn’t enhance the
character. What’s the difference, did you find, in the
response of the New York audience in previews as to a Houston audience? Did you have to do any timing differently? Well, we were actually quite concerned about
that. Because we knew we got the show to sort of
work very well in Houston, and because we had never done this in New York, we were quite
concerned about what the response might be. Boy, this is a question like, “Have you stopped
beating your wife lately?” (LAUGHTER) If nobody in Houston’s watching
(LAUGHTER), I will say that the New York audience is quicker to understand the jokes. There’s a level of sophistication about things
that we’re doing that they pick up on more quickly. But, to our happy surprise, most of the humor,
most of the jokes, the story, worked in New York as well as it did in Houston. My name is Pearl Levenson. Can you tell me how long the show would have
to run in order to realize a profit over the investment? Too long. Thank you, Jerry. Too long, because the ticket prices are too
low. (LAUGHTER) It depends on what kind of business
we do. It’s kind of an equation that you have to
figure out. If the show sells out very heavily, about
a year, about the same as any other large musical. We have time for just one more question. What is your question? Oh, hi. My name is Derricka Cody. My question is, who in the panel has a theatrical
background, you know, who started in theatre? And would you tell us a little bit about it,
and how you went through changes? We don’t have time for that. But I think you’ve all raised your hands. Almost every one of you have theatre backgrounds. Is that what you’re talking about? Yes. You mean, as opposed to being a lawyer and
giving it up? (LAUGHTER) To do something as silly as this? Is anyone a lawyer on this [panel]? This had really been a wonderful panel and
you’ve been so willing to share your knowledge. I’m so grateful for everything that you do
here, and I hope that you stay in New York and I hope that we make you happy in New York. And I hope that Disney becomes a force in
New York theatre, because we need as much as we can, in live theatre to be part of New
York City. This panel discussion of “Working in the Theatre”
seminars has been on Production. And it’s Disney World who has brought [this
production]. These are the producers and the staff of BEAUTY
AND THE BEAST, which is an exciting play that has come to New York. This is one of the all-year-round programs
of the American Theatre Wing, programs [about] the commitment to the community through theatre. And we bring live theatre to hospitals, nursing
homes, and AIDS centers. We have an “Introduction to Broadway” program
that brings students to their first Broadway show. We have a ticket program in order to have
students of the theatre able to see Broadway theatre. And very shortly, I’ll be knocking on the
doors of these people to beg tickets for our program. Thank you very much. This is coming to you from the Graduate Center
of the City University of New York in New York City. (APPLAUSE)

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