But just how old is the tale?
Beauty and the Beast is a tale that has dazzled audiences since Walt Disney Pictures released the animated musical classic in 1991.
But the tale of Beauty and the Beast has spanned generations and across countries! The tale that is now as old as time first originated in 1740 as a French fairy tale, La Belle et la Bête, by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve. Villeneuve set out to write this “salon tale” to stress to noble born girls the importance of marrying within their class (more specifically arranged marriages). While Villeneuve’ La Belle et la Bête is the oldest known tale, variations of this classic tale can be found around the world.
In 1756, French novelist Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont shortened the tale for middle class children. Beaumont rewrote the original French tale so that it was a tale of moral instruction. This is the most known and retold rendition of Beauty and the Beast.
For those unfamiliar with Beaumont’s tale, let us go to provincial France, where there may not be singing cutlery, but it is nonetheless magical:
In Beaumont’s tale, Beauty is the youngest of six children to a wealthy merchant. When the family loses their fortune, Beauty and her three older brothers and two older sisters, along with their father, must move from the city to a small country home. While Beauty takes on their new life gracefully, her sisters do not, and they are jealous of Beauty’s looks and her kindness. On a trip to restore his family’s fortune, the merchant asked his daughters what gifts he could bring back for them. While the two sisters requested lavish gifts, Beauty only requested a single rose.
The merchant went on his trip to no avail, and on his return home he became disoriented. Lost in the snow and rain, the merchant came upon a magical palace. No one was home, but the table was set with an abundance of delicious food, a fire was roaring, and a bed awaited him.
After a restful night, the merchant intended to return home, but not before he cut a rose for Beauty from the palace garden. That is when the palace’s resident, the Beast, stormed in demanding the merchant send his daughter to live in the palace for the attempted theft.
When Beauty goes to live in the palace, the imminent death she feared never came, instead the Beast showered her with books and other luxuries. Every night the Beast would ask Beauty to marry him, and each night Beauty would decline.
One gift the Beast gave Beauty was a looking glass. Through the looking glass Beauty was able to see that her father was sick. Magic transported Beauty to her ailing father, but the Beast warned Beauty that if she didn’t return to him in one week, he would surely die without her.
Reunited with her family, Beauty’s father’s health was restored, but Beauty’s sisters were jealous of her fine things and good fortune with the Beast. They were so jealous they tried to trick her into staying away from the Beast longer than a week, in hopes that she would lose her good fortune.
But Beauty is able to see through her looking glass that the Beast is dying, so by magic she is transported back to the palace where she declares that she loves the Beast and wants to marry him. After declaring her love, the Beast is turned back into a handsome prince and the two are married. And you know how it goes, they live happily ever after!
For those of you who made it to the end of the enchanting tale, were there any surprises? Beauty not being called Belle? No singing candlesticks and clocks? Beauty’s father being a wealthy merchant not an inventor? Beauty having two evil sisters?
While Beaumont’s rendition was the inspiration for Walt Disney Pictures’ 1991 animated classic, Beauty and the Beast, composer Alan Menken and lyricist Howard Ashman added the musical magic! The film starred Broadway actress Paige O’Hara as Belle, actor Robby Benson as the Beast, and actress and Broadway star Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Potts. It was a success! The film was a 1992 Academy Award winner for Best Original Score (Alan Menken) and Best Original Song for “Beauty and the Beast” AND a 1992 Golden Globe Award winner for Best Motion Picture- Musical or Comedy, Best Original Score- Motion Picture, and Best Original Song- Motion Picture for the song “Beauty and the Beast”. In 1993, the film was a Grammy Award winner for Best Album for Children and Best Pop Performance by a Group or Duo with Vocal for Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson’s duet to the song “Beauty and the Beast”.
But that isn’t where the tale ended! In 1994 the musical Beauty and the Beast debuted on Broadway! All songs from the 1991 animated film were used in the musical, and composer Alan Menken along with lyricist Tim Rice composed six new songs for the musical. One song in particular, “Human Again” didn’t make it into the cut for the 1991 film but is now one of the musical numbers featured in the musical. Beauty and the Beast became Broadway’s tenth-longest running production! The musical was Tony Award nominated for Best Musical and was a Tony Award winner for Best Costume Design.
Fast forward about 20 years, Beauty and the Beast hits the big screen again with the 2017 live-action remake starring Emma Watson as Belle and Dan Stevens as the Beast. In this adaptation Belle is an empowered young woman and bibliophile desperate for adventure outside of her small town. This live-action remake does not include the songs written for the Broadway musical but instead features four new songs including “Evermore”, sung by the Beast as he holds onto hope of Belle returning to him. And once again, Celine Dion is featured as she lends her vocals to the new original song “How Does a Moment Last Forever”, a nostalgic ballad.
You can catch this timeless musical as Beauty and the Beast, Jr. debuts on the Abrams’ stage March 3, 4, 5, 10, 11 at 7pm and March 6, 12, 13 at 1pm. Tickets are on sale NOW! We cordially invite you to BE OUR GUEST!