Wednesday, January 27, 2010


by Brendan Lemon

Officially, auditions for the “Beauty and the Beast” tour began last year. Unofficially, they began fifteen or even twenty years ago: it’s just that the auditioners were performing not for judges or casting directors but for the bedroom mirror, as the “Beauty” DVD played on a TV, or for a parent or family member, who was playing a Disney songbook on a piano.

Consider Liz Shivener, who is the tour’s very talented Belle. “I was four when the ‘Beauty and the Beast’ movie came out,” she says, “but I didn’t get really obsessed with it until I was eight or nine. Like a lot of little girls, that’s the age when I wanted to be a princess.”

Shivener, who’s from Reynoldsburg, Ohio, outside of Columbus, says it wasn’t just “Beauty” that she used to perform around the house for her family. “There were four big shows in my repertoire then,” she jokes. “They were: ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ ‘The Sound of Music,’ ‘My Fair Lady,’ and ‘Cinderella.’”

I don’t think that Shivener has yet had the chance to perform in any of them besides “Beauty.” (With her lovely voice and onstage charm, I have a feeling she will.) She has, however, been in “Bye Bye Birdie,” which she auditioned for at 14, as she was getting started on a high-school experience that included half-days in a performing-arts program at a local career center.

At Otterbein College, from which she earned a B.F.A. in musical theater and from which “Beauty” cast member Steven Czarnecki also graduated, Shivener appeared in such productions as “Hello, Dolly!”, “Company,” and “Nine.”

As for her work so far on “Beauty and the Beast,” Shivener says she’s been especially grateful to director Robert Jess Roth and choreographer Matt West for their insights into Belle. “They’ve helped me understand the back story about Belle’s relationship with her father, which is key to the character.”

Was there anything Shivener wanted to share about her own family relationships? “There’s something I can say about my mother,” she answered. “When I got cast as Belle, I said to her, ‘All my dancing around the house singing those songs as a kid was totally worth it!”


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