Sing with household objects, waltz with a Beast and let your imagination run wild as 'Beauty and the Beast' comes to life on stage for the 2017 Mountain Play. I am extremely excited to share my exclusive interview with the actress playing the enchanting lead, Belle, Chelsea Holifield.
This fairytale has been around for centuries. How is this version different?
Our director was just talking about this. He doesn’t want this production to be "children’s theater". It’s an adult tale with adult actors that has immense charm for families with young children. It's a story about a daughter and father who are torn away from one another and then patched back together. It can be somewhat dark, like many fairytales, but it’s a very charming story with great music and characters. It will appeal to all adults as well as children.
Belle has gone through many iterations over time but many of us think of Belle as one of Disney's most iconic princesses. The current live action movie has Belle portrayed as a more realistic feminist than the animated version. How would you describe Belle in this performance?
I think she’s a nice balance between the two. I saw the live version and I think Emma Watson is a wonderful actress and a wonderful human. But I grew up with the Disney version of Beauty and the Beast. It’s the movie I watched anytime I was home sick. In this version, Belle is confident and no nonsense but the fun loving animated princess that we all remember.
What is your favorite part about being Belle?
Who doesn’t want to be a Disney princess! I really enjoy my dance rehearsals, especially to “Be Our Guest” with Lumière who is a fantastic dancer. Belle and Lumière get a little moment together in that number and I love the dance that our choreographer, Nicole, has put together. And also the more tender moments. There’s a song between Belle and her father called, “No Matter What” that's not in the animated film but written specifically for the Broadway musical. It’s just a sweet moment with Jim, who plays my father, where you see that special father and daughter connection.
How about the iconic yellow dress from the epic twirling scene in the ballroom?
I haven’t seen the yellow dress yet but I’ve seen the design and fabric. It’s absolutely incredible. I cannot wait to try it on. All of the costumes are taking a more realistic period interpretation of what these characters would actually be wearing in 17th century France. So there's beautiful intricate lace and shiny materials. All of the costumes are more realistic and that’s refreshing to see.
Have you ever seen the Mountain Play?
No, as a matter of fact, this week is my first time at the theater. I have a couple of friends who have performed at the Mountain Play. My friend, Chloe Condon, who was in 'Hairspray,' encouraged me to audition because she had such a great experience.
The mountain play is known for capturing theatrical magic while adding modern touches. Can we expect some interesting surprises?
I think there are always surprises in theater. Our set is gorgeous. I'm so impressed with it. We’ve got rotating pieces and secret spots that you don’t notice until someone pops out. There's large moving pieces like Maurice’s invention, a working bicycle that chops wood. Amazing what they can do with such a vast blank space and turn it into a village or castle. That’s really magical.
Lighting and special effects contribute to the mystery, and work well in a dark theater. Since this performance is in an outdoor theater, we've come up with creative and interesting ways to do this in full view which is innovative in and of itself. There’s something special seeing magic unfold in front of you.
Beauty and the Beast as a fairytale has been around for centuries. What makes this story have such a timeless quality?
I think what is timeless is learning to look past your first impression of people and take into account more than appearances. With the Beast, he has a lot to learn, such as kindness. He is a Beast as punishment for his ill behavior but he learns to love another and in turn, Belle has to learn to love someone who is scary at first but is not what you would expect. The important piece of all Beauty and the Beast’s, from the original tale to the movie to the musical, is really focusing on what's inside and not what's out. A lot of people resonate with that either because we are not all confident in ourselves or perfect. Nobody can say they never judged a book by its cover but I think it’s important to keep an open mind for someone to show you who they really are. That’s what I take away from Beauty and the Beast.
May 27th, I will be at Barnes & Noble as Belle telling stories as part of the Mountain Play Bookfair Fundraiser. Come out and see me.
And also, I think 'Beauty and the Beast' is a great classic that has been interpreted so many different ways. I’m so thankful the Mountain Play is doing 'Beauty and the Beast' and gets to share it in its own special way.
Be Our Guest to this years Mountain Play, 'Beauty and the Beast' every Sunday from May 21 – June 18, 2017. Based on the Academy Award-winning animated film, this Disney classic reminds us that true beauty comes from within.
About the Beauty:
Chelsea Holifield graduated Magna Cum Laude from Emerson College in Boston with a B.A. in Acting, Minor in Dance. Favorite regional credits include The Producers (Usherette, Broadway By The Bay), The Addams Family (Wednesday, Berkeley Playhouse) and The Rocky Horror Show (Janet, Ray of Light). Chelsea resides in Oakland, where she enjoys craft beer, kittens and being outdoors.
About Mountain Play:
“For over 100 years the Mountain Play has been a unique, annual tradition for thousands of Bay Area residents. Established in 1913 as a part of the outdoor theatre movement, the award-winning Mountain Play Association (MPA) has been a gateway to a lifelong appreciation for live theatre for four generations of playgoers. The annual "great outdoor adventure" is a unique community event and has become a beloved cultural tradition. … Respected for its high artistic quality, professional production values and longstanding community partnerships, the Mountain Play provides an accessible live theatre experience for more than 15,000 patrons each year and has become a quintessential rite of spring for the entire Bay Area.” Information provided by www.mountainplay.org