When we held auditions for Beauty and the Beast, our creative team had a very specific vision in mind for the leading role. There were over 200 applicants for this role alone - our leading lady emerged from the sea of hopefuls! We have no doubt that our Belle, Genna Giampaolo, will wow you will her incredible performance as this iconic ingenue. Here's what she had to say about her experience preparing for this role:
What was your experience during the Table Read for this show?
I was excited but incredibly nervous. It can be incredibly intimidating walking into a room of people you barely know. You think about all the expectations and ultimately decide, "just put your heart in it".
Once we had chatted, played our games and began the Table Read, I could feel magic in the air. I remember seeing my name at the table with Belle above it thinking, “this is finally happening”. We all played, connected, laughed, cried together and brought our characters to life. I knew this was the beginning of something very special.
What can audiences expect from your portrayal of the Belle?
My portrayal of Belle is true to the original animated film and Broadway show. She is a classic beauty inside and out: kind, shy, polite but very spunky, stubborn and curious. Belle has a big heart and looks for the good in people/situations. She knows to look beneath the surface as she would any of her beloved books. That being said, she has no tolerance for ignorance, bullying or mistreating of others but will give you a second chance to earn her respect and trust, once again. I want to be sure her strength and no-nonsense attitude is present as much as her kindness and understanding. She is someone children and adults can/should look up to.
What’s the highlight of the show for you.
It's a tie between Gaston's song “Me” and the iconic "Beauty and the Beast"; which are ironically both songs I don't sing, but love performing in.
What sparked your interest in musical theatre?
I grew up in a musical family that has spanned over generations. Everyone was always dancing, singing and/or playing instruments. "Mother says I was a dancer before I could walk. She says I began to sing long before I could talk."
Disney films were at their pique in my childhood and I would perform along to each of them, over and over. We also had some audio tapes of classic shows like Phantom and Les Miz. I’ve been singing classic Broadway tunes since 3 years old. Who doesn’t want to hear a 3 year old sing Think of Me on the bus with her Gran?
My Mom and sisters helped to nurture my skills in the beginning; whether drawing pictogram lyrics, creating choreography, taking em to lessons, or dressing me up to pose for pictures.
When Toronto mounted Beauty and the Beast after its first run on Broadway my Mom surprised me with tickets. It was magical in every way. As I watched the story come to life before my eyes, saw Belle and went on that journey with her, I knew what I was meant to do for the rest of my life. To commemorate the evening my mom bought me a souvenir rose. I still have it, to remind me to go for my dreams at all costs.
Our careers in the industry are not easy and full of ups and downs and a lot of rejection. That rose reminds me of why I want to do this; to affect the audience, create that magic and inspire others. I’ve seen so many brilliant shows since then and they all remind me of what I want to do, and Phantom at the Pantages theatre comes in close second, but Beauty and the Beast was the “Point of No Return."
None of that could have happened if it weren’t for my family’s support. They were and are the spark.
Would you say you have any similarities to Belle?
Belle is a strong woman. I've always wanted to be like her. She is not a Disney Princess by birth; she is “just a small-town girl, living in a lonely world" with big dreams who won’t settle for less. Belle is an intelligent woman who dares to be different and a true individual, even if that makes her "odd".
I enjoy reading and crave adventure. I would live in a castle! My family, friends and loved ones mean the world to me. I am stubborn, passionate and fiery. I’m part French. I find the good in people and accept them as they are. OMG... I am Belle.
What’s the most challenging part about performing the role of Belle?
The most challenging part about performing this role is being Belle. There is an expectation to the character. She is iconic; a classic cartoon coming to life. From the hairstyle to the gold dress, inflections in her singing and Disney's branding of princess "doe eyes and hands"; it's an entire process.
It’s a challenge to give an honest performance; giving her depth and character while being true to the image. I hope I, as Belle, can pull you into the story, so it feels you are experiencing each moment with her. That’s the magic we all hope for, especially when portraying such iconic characters.
What are you most looking forward to in the next couple of weeks?
I am looking forward to all the pieces coming together. I can't wait for all of us to be in costume, on our sets, with lights, etc and together, finally “step through the looking glass”.
Most audiences are familiar with Beauty & The Beast. What brings the story to life in the stage production?
Live theatre invites the audience in. You can’t press pause or stop. The entire world of the play comes to life before you and living breathing people go through experiences right there in front of you. The stage production shows moments that barely get seen in film: extra plot points/storylines between characters, sharing jokes, reactions/emotions, etc.
For me, there is nothing like the stage-version of Beauty and the Beast. It’s how the Tale as Old as Time was meant to be told.