Stories & Cast Interviews

Friday, April 18, 2008

A Beastly Guy!

Posted by: wbtpress on Friday, April 18, 2008 at 12:16:00 pm Comments (0)

Not a beast, at all...nice guy, Joseph Mahowald had this to say.........

I was born and raised in Huron, SD (my babysitter was Sheryl Stoppelmoore -- can anyone tell me what her married name is???). [answer: Sheryl Ladd].  I was the youngest of seven children and the only one of us to pursue performance as a career.

When I was a sophomore in high school I saw a production of "Man of La Mancha." It was the first time I had ever seen a stage show and it was…magic!  I was in awe of the lead performer's abilities to act and to sing.  He absolutely captivated me.  I decided then, that I was going to be a performer.  I worked very hard at music and did all the plays I could until I got into college.  When I got there the guy who had played "Quixote"  three years earlier was a graduate student and I was mentored by him for the two years I spent at that University. I transferred to the College-Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati after that and made the Dean's List for nearly all the semesters, finally graduating Magna Cum Laude!


A few years ago, I was honored to do the Disney film "Mulan."  It was such a thrill to do!  The process of making an animated film is unlike anything I've ever been a part of before.  We went to Sony Studios and, I must say, I was honored to be in a room with some of the most talented singers in the world!  We went into a room (a really nice room with BIG TV's) and watched the 'scratch' animation of the scene for which we were about to make the audio.  After that, we went into the recording studio and put down the vocals. It was thrilling!  The best part has come over the last few years when my own children saw the film and kept asking "where are you, papa? I don't recognize you!"


I have performed the "Beast" on two occasions before this.  The first was with my mentor, M. Eric Johnson, as director and as Belle's father.  My second time was Houston Theatre Under the Stars' first revival since they developed Beauty and the Beast.  The Beast costume weighs between 25-30 pounds.  It's always a challenge to lug that kind of weight around and sing!


My two beloved children like it when I appear in something they can attend.  I have played roles that kids really shouldn't see, like Jekyll & Hyde, where the subject matter is really not appropriate for younger children.  A few years ago, I played the title role in "Sweeney Todd" and my 6-year old son loved it!  I took him backstage before the show and introduced him to all the actors and showed him how they make the stage blood.  After the show I, again, brought him back to meet all the people I "killed" and he was fascinated -- he still talks about it over two years later.

I love my family!  My children and my wife are my love and joy.  My siblings and their families, too, are a great source of happiness.  Growing up in a large family has great rewards, in that you are born into a group of best friends.  We still get together on a regular basis to laugh and spend time together.  Holidays are WILD!  I'm also a Cantor in the Catholic church and delight in my faith in God.

What a Beauty!!

Posted by: wbtpress on Friday, April 18, 2008 at 11:11:00 am Comments (0)

Rena Strober..who is the lovely Belle had this to share with us....

I grew up in Goshen, NY, very close to   Westchester Bwy!  I loved being in the country
and getting to drive into NYC to see shows.  My   parents put me into dance class when I  was 4   and sent me to the famous theatre camp, Stagedoor Manor from age 11-16.  Needless to say, they've always supported my choice to be a performer. I have 2 older brothers, one who's a director/writer and the other is a lawyer. We're  all  really close. I've always felt the most comfortable on the stage telling stories through song and dance.  I'll always remember my first Broadway show, Peter Pan.  Ever since, I've always wanted to fly in a show...I"m still waiting to play Peter :)


I was always a big fan of Bernadette Peters, Bette Midler, I guess anyone with lots of big curly hair.  I was also greatly influenced by the greats such as Danny Kaye, Gene Kelly and Ginger Rogers. Their grace, humor and ability to do it all made me work hard and live to tell love stories.


I'm a GIRL!!! Of course I watched every Disney movie! I always loved Cinderella and the fat mouse, Gus.  I was never a fan of Snow White because of the dated ideas of women.  I always loved An American Tale and of course, Beauty & The Beast. One of my first crushes was Robbie Benson who voiced the Beast.  He was also in Ice Castles :)

This has always been a role I've dreamed of playing. I've auditioned for the Broadway production about 6 times and it has never happened for me.  I'm thrilled that my 1st production is with this incredible cast and with Richard.  You have a lot more freedom to explore the character and story in regional productions than on Broadway. Preparing for this role so far has been just to memorize my lines and be ready to open in 10 days!!  But as I learn my lines and blocking, I'm able to start having fun. I get to look back at the time when I was very much like Belle...although I still am.  I'm so lucky to bring out the part of me that loves her independence, courage, family, adventure and of course, happy endings.


Is it challenging bringing a beloved cartoon character to life? Hmm, tough question! I guess,  I would say yes because so many people see her one way, the way she was drawn and voiced in the film.  Many young girls simply want to see that Belle on the stage. However, the script is so well written and the music so glorious that it's not that challenging to really bring her to life.

Well, when I put on the big yellow dress I almost cried.  There I was, this girl from upstate, standing there looking like the Princess I always loved in the story.  I'm also sure that once I see the beast's makeup, it'll make Joe that much more scary.


My 5 year old nephew is so excited to come see Auntie Rena on stage playing Belle. He's been watching the movie all month.

For the past few months, every moment I'm not on stage or rehearsing, I've been in the studio recording my upcoming debut CD. I'm really excited about it!  Other than working hard on other projects, I love spending time with my awesome nephews in Nyack, window shopping and playing with friends’ dogs.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Beast, Beauty & Company Prepare!

Posted by: wbtpress on Tuesday, April 15, 2008 at 3:27:00 pm Comments (0)

Great excitement was in the air at WBT Monday, as the company of Beauty & The Beast arrived for their first rehearsal!  As the official snoop, I can, happily, say that they looked & sounded great!  Musical Director, Angela Jamieson was extracting heavenly notes and Director, Richard Stafford had them artfully dancing and cavorting on stage!  Opening night will surely be a magical & enchanted evening! 

Wednesday, April 2, 2008


Posted by: wbtpress on Wednesday, April 2, 2008 at 4:20:00 pm Comments (0)

The first version of  Beauty and the Beast was written in 1740 by Madame Gabrielle de Villeneuve. Her audience was not children, but her court and salon friends who enjoyed sharing stories for entertainment. Scholars suppose that Villeneuve derived her story from traditional oral tales. 
In 1991, Walt Disney Feature Animation produced a musical animated film adaptation of  Beauty And The Beast, with a screenplay by Linda Woolverton, and songs by Alan Menken &  Howard Ashman. It won  Oscars for Best Song and  Best Original Score, and is the only animated film ever to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture. Considered by many to be one of Disney's finest films, “Beauty and the Beast”  combined the Disney standards of strong story and music with some of the very best character animation and production ever seen in animated film. 
When Disney CEO Michael Eisner saw Paige O'Hara (Belle) and Jerry Orbach (Lumiere) perform musical highlights from the film version of Beauty and the Beast as part of an awards presentation in New York City, he knew that audiences would embrace a live stage version of the film. 
Academy Award-winning composer Alan Menken wrote the music for both the original film as well as new songs added to the stage production. Howard Ashman provided the lyrics for the film, and Tim Rice took over as lyricist of the Broadway production as a result of Ashman's death of AIDS in 1991.
The show debuted on Broadway in 1994, three years after the release of the movie. It is the sixth longest running show in Broadway history, and played 5,464 performances between 1994 and 2007. The production holds the record of being the longest running production at both, the Palace Theatre, where it opened, and the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, where it closed its Broadway run. The show received 9 TONY Award nominations including Best Musical.