It’s a tale as old as time — but even the best stories have to come to an end.
“Disney’s Beauty and the Beast” will hit the Starlight Theatre stage Wednesday through July 19 as the last leg of a tour that has been running continuously since 2010. This marks the third time the tour has come to Kansas City; it played at Starlight in 2010 and at the Music Hall in 2013.
The well-known musical tells the story of Belle, who’s taken prisoner by the Beast in return for the release of her father. As she gets to know and fall in love with her captor, she sees the true character of the man underneath the monster.
If you missed the tour’s stops in 2010 and 2013, you wouldn’t have had to wait long. “Beauty and the Beast” is the darling of amateur theaters; it was performed in 2011 at Shawnee Mission East, and in 2015 at Theatre at Vis and at Stage Right Performing Arts summer camp.
The tour also stopped at the University of Kansas’ Lied Center in 2012 and 2016 and at Pittsburg State University this spring. The White Theatre will produce its own “Beauty and the Beast” next July in conjunction with Theatre in the Park.
Alan Menken’s songs have been earworms ever since the original film’s release in 1991. They’ll get a reprise on the big screen in the highly anticipated live-action remake scheduled to open March 2017; Emma Watson stars as Belle and Dan Stevens is the Beast.
The story’s origins far predate the animated film. Researchers have found the tale traces back 4,000 years, and one of the first written versions came from French novelist Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve in 1740.
“Demand for (the musical is huge),” said Rob Roth, who has directed the show since it opened on Broadway in 1994. “People of all ages just connect to it emotionally. It has all the elements that make up a great musical, but what it really has at its heart is this beautiful story about seeing past someone’s exterior into their interior. I think everyone’s felt like a beast or an outsider at some point.”
Brooke Quintana, who plays the last Belle of the tour, said the show is special to her and the cast because they grew up with the story as children. Belle has always been her favorite Disney princess, and to play the last reincarnation of her for this show is something she doesn’t take lightly.
“It’s kind of a crazy feeling,” she said. “It’s an honor. Every night is very special, and as we reach the end, during every performance we’re cherishing those moments.”
Despite its Disney branding, the show attracts adults as the majority of its audience. Roth said it’s a great date night, and men who don’t see themselves as musical lovers leave the show enjoying it more than they thought they would — “laughing their butts off.”
Also this week
▪ “Chicago,” Thursday through Sept. 18 at New Theatre Restaurant, 9229 Foster St., Overland Park. The longest-running American musical in Broadway history, “Chicago” tells the story of Roxie Hart, a woman convicted in the 1920s for killing her lover. While on death row, she meets Velma Kelly, and the two join forces to free themselves from prison. See newtheatre.com.
▪ “The Dawning of Aquarius,” Friday through Aug. 7 at Quality Hill Playhouse, 303 W. 10th St. A live performance of music from the 1960s and 1970s takes audience members through a search for “personal meaning in an era of turbulent change.” Look for songs like “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” “Respect” and “Yesterday” in this celebration of the singer/songwriter. See qualityhillplayhouse.com.
▪ “Mary Poppins,” Saturday through July 24 at the Jewish Community Center, 5801 W. 115th St., Overland Park, and July 29 through Aug. 6 at Theatre in the Park, 7710 Renner Road, Shawnee. The magical flying nanny lands on two stages in this co-production. See theJKC.org/boxoffice and theatreinthepark.org.
▪ Central Standard Theatre’s Invasion, Wednesday through July 23 at Metropolitan Ensemble Theatre, 3614 Main St., and the Theatre at MCC-Penn Valley, Southwest Trafficway and 31st Street. For the sixth year, the festival brings international and domestic performers for seven shows running in repertory across 10 days. See cstkc.com.