Stories & Cast Interviews
By Amanda Leigh Morey, Grade 11, Lakeland High School, Shrub Oak, New York
Madame (de La Grande Bouche) is that you?
Marguerite Willbanks, who captivates our audiences as the "Overstuffed Armoire" in Beauty & The Beast, said:
I grew up in Parkville, Maryland which is right outside of Baltimore. I am the middle of three girls. My parents were both teachers and performed in community theatre. I spent lots of time in the theatre growing up-first tagging along to rehearsals with my parents and then performing. For 11 years my entire family spent every summer performing at a local summer theatre. My version of summer camp! After graduating high school I went to college for a couple of years and then headed to New York where I attended AMDA.
I would have to say my parents have always been my greatest influence and mentors. They showed me from a very early age how much work, discipline, and fun it is to be a part of the theatre world. Although they never worked as "professionals" I consider many of their performances the best I've ever seen on a stage.
I watched the "Wonderful World of Disney" every Sunday night as a child. I think my favorite Disney film as a kid was "Bambi". I have performed this role before with the Broadway company of "Beauty". It was a wonderful advantage to work with the original creators of the show and see what their intentions were for the role. Of course as time has passed I've spiced it up a little. That's the fun of playing a role more than once-it's great fun to find new parts to the characters personality.
I rarely think about the animated film in regards to the show. I think the book and music for the stage production stand on their own- separately from the film. One of the wonderful things about the film is that it's brought so many people to see the stage production. The costumes are definitely helpful in creating this character. As soon as I put the "wardrobe" on I have to move in a totally different way and I immediately feel connected to "Madame".
My nieces and nephews have seen the show and love it! They can't believe it's their Aunt Maggie under all that furniture! When I'm not performing I enjoy spending time with my husband and dog. We love to travel- if we ever win the lottery we will be off to see the world!!
Jonathan Burgard chatted with me about his role and more!
Growing up was sort of a difficult task. My father starting his basic training in the Air Force in 1971, He didn't retire until he reached final rank of a recruiter, Chief Master Sergeant in 2001, so from my birth, relocation was inevitable. By the time I was 18, I had lived in roughly around 25 cities, but the main locations were Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, New Orleans, Syracuse, and Wilmington, NC.
My upbringing was quite different from my two sisters, Cory and Jennifer, and brother, Jason (All Older by 7, 10, and 11 years). I got AWAY with more, and of course, I was spoiled more. I was UNPLANNED, let’s put it that way. I was raised with heart and I was raised to NEVER quit. Sports were my life, Baseball, football, and basketball. My father was my coach in baseball and football. He was, and still is, my hero. He taught me how to “take out the trash.” Life is all about change, curveballs are thrown so you have to learn how to adjust, wait for the right moment or take a chance and swing away, people come and go and you don't always get along with everyone you meet, so taking out the trash was the best advice I ever received. My mom is my catalyst, she is what pieces me together and keeps me going. She was the one who taught me how to respect women and to LOVE, she is my ANGEL.
I loved making people laugh so, “Aladdin,” was my first musical EVER, I played the Genie. I had various influences when I started. My brother, Jason, and my favorite actor Influences are Robin Williams, Dick Van Dyke, Gene Wilder, Daniel Day Lewis, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Shia LaBeouf. BRILLIANT actors in their own right and great study guides too.
The Disney films that I LOVED, believe it or not, were, in fact, Beauty and The Beast, and Mary Poppins, but I was more of a Hanna-Barbera’s Scooby Doo, every Saturday morning, type a kid. I Loved to solve those mysteries.
This is my FIFTH time playing the role of Gaston. I usually know a few months in advance that I got the role or not. So my prep is strenuous. I am all about METHOD ACTING, and looking the part is important to me. When Gaston is in the works, I hit the gym HARD, six days a week for a couple hours, focusing on biceps and chest, important factors that I feel make Gaston come to life.
The only thing challenging about bringing Gaston to life is to not make him too “cartoony.” It is an easy thing to do, and I started out that way, to get caught up in trying to make the audience laugh. The key is to bringing truth to the role. Yes, the costume is a mess, with a humongous chest and ridiculous abs and the setting of the show, it is important to make the role someone that the audience can relate to, otherwise if you play for laughs, then there is no connection, the laughs will come when the audience can sense a piece of reality in what you are doing. I certainly HOPE that I do that!
My wig is always dark so matching makeup is important as well, coloring sideburns as well as my eyebrows for the cockeyed winks I give to the town Silly Girls. So, YES, it helps tremendously.
My biggest fans are my nephew and niece, Tyler and Jaymee-Kae. They are my best CRITICS and without them making Gaston come to life would not be possible. It is all about the children. They are the ones with the imagination, that is why Child actors are so Phenomenal, their sense of honesty and imagination drive the mind and keep us on our toes.
In my spare time, there are few things that just keep me thanking God for his GRACE. Reading the Gospel, talking to mom and dad and seeing them every chance I get, weight-training, playing Playstation 2, writing when I can, poetry and stories, and of course being with my beautiful and MOST talented Fiance, Talana Maria, and our baby girl, Nala-Jean, our three-year-old Yorkie.