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Theatre Tulsa brings a sweeping musical score, epic battles, hilarious romps, romance, magic and finally, the power of love to transform with its rendition of "Beauty and the Beast."

Article
Gina Conroy
Photos
Courtesy
Posted
December 28, 2018

Audiences have seen Disney’s Beauty and the Beast on national tours. They’ve watched the enchanted objects come to life in auditoriums. But it’s been a decade since Tulsa has experienced this tale in community theater, which not only offers the intimacy of a high school production, but the talent and quality of a professional tour.

Artistic director Sara Phoenix, who is in her seventh season with Theatre Tulsa, is excited to bring this beloved story to life in a way that Tulsa audiences have never seen before.

You know the story: Selfish prince gets turned into a beast; his servants transformed into magical household objects; meets plucky girl; life lessons, romance, and dancing flatware ensue. The key to the success of Disney’s 1991 movie was its clever, swoon-worthy songs and gaggle of fast-talking, anthropomorphized candlesticks and feather dusters.

While most people have seen the professional production of Beauty and The Beast in big theaters like the Chapman Musical Hall at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center with over 2,300 seats, Theatre Tulsa’s performance will be in the Williams Theatre which seats 420 people.

“On the big national tours, people miss the nuances that come from performing in a smaller theater,” says Phoenix. “Unless you have seats in the first several rows, you’ve never experienced this level of talent up close like you will with Theatre Tulsa’s production.”

In a smaller theater, audiences can see the expressions on the actors’ faces. In addition, since it’s a local production, the actors tend to put more heart into the show because they’re performing for people they know. Phoenix compares community theater to college football. "They’re our people, and it’s a more intimate experience.”

But just because it’s community theater doesn’t mean it’s lacking a quality performance. Phoenix, who had over a hundred people audition for the show but could only cast 32, says Tulsa audiences will be blown away by the caliber of talent and top-notch performers in the show.

“Tulsa has so many incredible actors in town who are just as good as the national talent,” says Phoenix. “We’re lucky we got a first-rate cast.” In fact, most of the actors have worked professionally in places such as New York. “The cast brings a beautiful and spectacular performance,“ says Phoenix. “There’s not a soul in the show who can’t sing, and the dancing is wonderful.”

“Everyone is such a force of nature,” says Phoenix. “I just have to keep them from overpowering each other, which is a good problem to have.”

Despite the challenges of a production this elaborate and technical, Theatre Tulsa brings all the Disney magic and flair to the stage. “It’s such a fun show without a dead moment,” says Phoenix. “There’s something for everyone.”

Many people may not know that Theatre Tulsa has been around since 1922 and is one of the anchor arts organizations in Tulsa. “We’re a multigenerational, mainstream theater company, with most of our main stage shows being family friendly,” explains Phoenix, who grew up in Tulsa doing shows with Theatre Tulsa when she was younger.  Later, she got her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre Performance from the University of Oklahoma. After graduation, she worked as a freelance director and choreographer in Tulsa and Oklahoma City as well as having taught high school theater in Oklahoma City.

When she landed at Theatre Tulsa in 2012, she says they were still struggling to find their identity.

“I had a lot of thoughts and ideas based on my experience working with other theaters on how we could take the company to the next level,” says Phoenix.

Today, Theatre Tulsa offers two to three shows a year and five musicals, as well four youth productions, including a summer intensive.

In addition to their musical theater and Broadway Academy performances for kids, Theatre Tulsa offers two to three performances in their Next Stage brand, edgier and more thought-provoking, in contemporary and classic plays and musicals.

No matter what show audiences see, Phoenix hopes people realize that when they come to a Theatre Tulsa show, they’re going to get a quality performance.

And since their season subscriptions have doubled in the last year, she thinks what they are doing is working.

“I love standing at the back of the theater and watching people walk out with smiles on their faces, surprised at the talent we have and what we’re able to accomplish,” says Phoenix. “My greatest reward is seeing people walk out having had a great night of theater, and I think Beauty and The Beast is a great opportunity for that.”  

LOCATOR
Beauty and The Beast
Tulsa Performing Arts Center | Tulsa
Jan. 11-12: 8 p.m.
Jan. 13: 2 p.m.
Jan. 18-19: 8 p.m.
Jan. 20: 2 p.m.
Jan. 24-25: 8 p.m.
Jan. 26: 2 p.m., 8 p.m.

March 2019 Cover