Stories & Cast Interviews
He's got the Blues!
Producer/Director/Composer, George Puello with some of his treasured cobalt glass pieces. He says they help inspire his musical compositions.
LIGHT MY FIRE!!
Rick Hilsabeck (Lumiere in Beauty & the Beast) shed some light on a few things!
I grew up in Hinsdale, Illinois (a suburb of Chicago). I was always around music (singing mostly). My mother has a beautiful soprano voice and also taught voice. She definitely could have had an opera career, but instead, happily chose to raise a family. I have two older brothers. My Dad was a wonderful man. He was a high school social studies teacher for many years in at Hinsdale Central H.S. He loved music as well. He played the trombone and loved all sorts of music. He and my mom have had the greatest influence on me. They will always remain my greatest heroes. They always encouraged me to follow my heart and my dreams. And that was to be on the stage. I always loved singing from an early age and was convinced by a good pal in H.S. to get into the choral program there. And that is where I discovered my calling I guess. The school was known for its high quality musicals and it was there I performed in my first full length shows. Also, my H.S. choral/voice teacher was a big influence. She first taught me the meaning and value of good discipline and healthy, correct singing. I was also a gymnast when I was young, which eventually led to my love of dance. (I spent eleven years in Chicago's acclaimed Hubbard Street Dance Company.)
I decided to leave concert dance and return to my first passion: musical theatre. I was very fortunate to have played the role of The Phantom in the 1st Nat'l Tour of "The Phantom of the Opera" for over four years. The reknowned director, Harold Prince was a huge influence on me as well. I owe him a great deal. Other influences: Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Mikhail Baryshnikov, James Stewart, Spencer Tracy, Dick Van Dyke, Buster Keaton, Laurel and Hardy, Beethoven, Chopin, Puccini, Sondheim, etc. Watching and listening to the greats is one of the best things any performer can do.
My favorite Disney film has to be "Mary Poppins". Dick Van Dyke has always been a favorite. His timing is impeccable! (Mostly on his 1960's TV show...I have them all!)
As far as preparation for the role of Lumiere: I have to be warmed up physically (for carrying around those candlesticks!) and vocally. But most of all just to be in the right frame of mind. Lumiere is the optimistic, fun-loving, Don Juan-like, harlequin type who is the polar opposite of his compadre, Cogsworth. They make a good team. Bill Hartery and I have a really good working relationship and a lot of fun together. And yes, our costumes most definitely affect our performances. They certainly enhance the sense of fantasy! I must say, the candlesticks (being quite heavy) are a "challenge" at times. But the effect of real flames is pretty great. It has been really fun to play such a fun-loving, breezy character. I need to play "tortured and dark" some time soon to balance things out!
I have been an artist (painter) for many years. It is my other passion. It fulfills a part of my artistic side which is totally different from performing. It is extremely satisfying and calming. Very Zen. So when I'm not working, I can mostly be found painting. My medium is oil. I study and enjoy the Impressionists, but have been experimenting lately with the "Colorists" (for those of you who follow that sort of thing.) So that keeps me happy and content, as this business can challenge your resolve at times. Always good to have a "haven" to escape to. But I have been very fortunate to have made a living doing the things I love. And working at Westchester (last year, Herbie in GYPSY) has been wonderful. I hope to have the opportunity to work here again very soon!
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!!