Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Meet the Wardrobe, Babette and Cogsworth- Beauty and the Beast National Tour.

Check out the video clip “Meet the Wardrobe, Babette and Cogsworth” from the Beauty and the Beast National Tour.
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Friday, March 26, 2010


By Brendan Lemon

The other day, when I ask Carolyn Violi, the music director and conductor for the "Beauty and the Beast" tour, to name her favorite song from the musical, she hesitated for a moment. "I never get tired of playing the show," she explained to me backstage after a recent matinee, "because it's so beautifully written, which makes picking a favorite almost impossible. Still, if I'm pressed I guess I'd say 'A Change in Me," Belle's number about going in a new direction. In our lives we all go through these changes. I certainly have."

Perhaps the most dramatic of Violi's own personal shifts occurred about a decade ago.

For more than 20 years, she had been teaching music in public schools in the Indiana, Pennsylvania area, a place where she grew up and which claims Jimmy Stewart as a native son. "One of my former students was conducting 'Beauty' on Broadway," she says, "and he asked me to come out on the first tour."

So, from 1999 to 2003, the tour's duration, Violi worked her way up from keyboardist to assistant conductor to associate conductor. "There's so much music in the show, and that may help people advance in it, if they're committed."

So much music? "There's only one relatively quiet scene," Violi says, "and it involves Cogsworth and the key, that doesn't really have the orchestra.

That's about 5 minutes, and it's our longest break during the show. 'Beauty' uses a lot of underscoring; the orchestra barely stops."

Because the new tour itself almost never stops, I ask Violi about life on the road. "I'm not sure I would have gone on tour when I was younger," she replies, "but when the opportunity came along, I was ready for it."

Violi, who leads a band of ten players (including herself) in the "Beauty" orchestra pit, says she loves teaching, and has gone back to it when she is not touring. "So many of my students Facebook me, and they see me pursuing my dreams."

Even with all the satisfactions of teaching, Violi says that it doesn't always provide the kind of reward that happened during a performance of "Beauty" in Paducah, Kentucky. "One little boy came forward to peer over the orchestra pit. He said, 'All of ya, I just got one thing to say: You all are the best orchestra in the city of Paducah!' The kid couldn't have been older than 10. That kind of moment means a lot."


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Meet Lumiere – Beauty and the Beast National Tour

Check out the newest video clip “Meet Lumiere” from the Beauty and the Beast National Tour.
Click here to view the video

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Hello from Belle and Ensemble - Beauty and the Beast National Tour

Check out this great behind the scenes video clip of Belle and Ensemble from the Beauty and the Beast National Tour.
Click here to view the video


Brendan Lemon


"Beauty and the Beast" has two fantastic young actors sharing the part of Chip: Jeremiah Frank Burch III and Reese Sebastian Diaz. If I focus on Reese in this posting it's only because when I met the boys backstage the other evening, in Waterbury, Connecticut, Jeremiah was getting ready to go on, and I didn't want to distract him too much. I must say, however, that he is super-talented, and anyone who wants to follow him on the tour and in his career can go to Facebook and type in Jeremiah Frank Burch III. He and his mom, Kory, will be happy you did!

Talking to Reese and his mom, Karen, I learned a few things that are on his online home, www. He has been acting, singing, and dancing for more than two years. Among other shows, he's been in "Oliver!" at Philly's Walnut Street Theatre and "A Christmas Carol" at Civic Theatre of Allentown (Pa.), a city which is the Diaz family's home base. Finally, Reese is in the fourth grade.

How, I asked Reese's mom, does her son continue his education while on the road? "I'm home schooling him," she replied. "We get his program online, and we work our way through all the exercises." Reese added: "I'm studying math, science, social studies, history, language skills, and literature." At least twice during the academic year, the company manager of "Beast," Deborah Barrigan, will bring in outside officials to test Reese and Jeremiah on their academic progress.

How did Reese get cast in the show? "He did two auditions this past December," Karen replied. "The boys couldn't be taller than 50 or 51 inches and needed to be at least 8 years old." (Reese is 10.) Reese continued: "Jeremiah and I were the first two boys at the audition. We became friends right away."

The role of Chip requires singing, not much dancing, but a fair amount of stamina: throughout most of "Beauty" we see only the boy's head, because he's inside a cart that gets pushed around the stage. "It can get a little hot in there," Reese says, "but nothing too bad." (To keep all the demands on the boys manageable, they alternate the role day by day; if it's a two-show day, the boy who's on that day will do both of them.)

I asked Reese if he had a favorite show he'd seen on Broadway: "'Mary Poppins,'" he said, "because I learned to spell 'supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.'" When I ask him to mention a favorite character in "Beauty," he replies, "I like Lefou, because he gets punched a lot. I like Gaston, too."

As much as both Reese and Jeremiah love the characters in "Beauty and the Beast," they may like their portable Nintendo DS players even more: when they're not doing schoolwork, their backstage life includes a lot of DS gaming.

Another of Reese's favorite things: his mini-dachshund, Yocco, who was named for a restaurant in the Allentown area that serves a mean hot dog. "When we play Scranton (Pa)," Reese announced, "I'll get to see Rocco again, because he's not on the road with us." In Scranton, Reese will also get to see some of his school friends from home. "That will be great, too," he told me.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Video: Gaston & Lefou Shout Out from Beauty and the Beast National Tour

Check out this great behind the scenes video clip of Gaston and Lefou from the Beauty and the Beast National Tour.
Click here to view the video