The Zorlu Center PSM has done it again. Building on last season’s Cats and Notre Dame de Paris, they have kicked off the 2014-2015 season with another too-good-to-be-true performance: the Disney and Broadway production of Beauty and the Beast. This performance combines the magic of Disney with legendary Broadway theater.
The show started running on Wednesday 8 October and popular demand has extended the end date to Sunday 26 October. I had the chance to meet the cast and production team backstage as they prepared for the grand show and steal a couple of minutes from the time of Seth Wenig, the executive producer of NETWorks Productions, and Dan Hinde, the executive producer of Broadway Entertainment Group. They graciously spoke to me about the show and their experience in Istanbul thus far.
How did you get involved in Beauty and the Beast?
Seth: We began Beauty and the Beast in 2007. Disney had asked us to put together a new production because the Broadway show had been closed for several years, and they wanted a new tour to go out. So we began talking to them in 2007. In 2009 we launched a US tour of Beauty and the Beast, and it’s been very, very successful. Then, several years later, Dan and his partner Liz from Broadway Entertainment Group approached us about an international production of Beauty and the Beast. And then we met with Disney and they said, “Yes, let’s get this on.” And so we put together the original Broadway team to put up the show, and here we are at the Zorlu PSM [Performing Arts Center]. It’s a phenomenal venue, and it feels good to be here.
Dan: Most venues in London and in Broadway are old Victorian venues that were built in the 1800s or at the start of the century; everywhere is small and there’s a real lack of space. There are very few opportunities to go into a completely new theater, and that’s why we’re so excited to be at the Zorlu PSM. We have so much space backstage, fantastic dressing rooms…the rehearsal room like the one that we’re in is very, very rare. It’s like being in one of the world’s great opera houses.
It really is a great venue and a perfect place for us to start a production. Because, you know, all the pieces of the show came from somewhere else. We rehearsed in New York, the logic and sound came from the UK and Belgium. The set was built in the US. [A week before the show] we began putting it all on stage here in Istanbul and making sure that everything works.
This is the first venue of its kind in Istanbul. How does it compare to world standards?
Seth: You should be very proud to have this venue. I think anyone in the world can be proud to have a place like this — it’s better than world standards. I mean, if I could, I would live here.
Dan: You may have the Royal Opera House and the National Theatre in London, which have the facilities, but they are fifty years old. And maybe the Metropolitan or Lincoln Center in New York…maybe the Sydney Opera House, but this venue is right up there. The facilities are amazing. When the cast first walked in, they went wow. When I first came in here I went wow. It’s a great facility.
I will pass on the message to Ray Cullom, the Executive Director of Zorlu. He always talks about how great the facility is.
Dan: He’s right to. We are delighted to bring the Broadway production here. There is a genuine market for Broadway shows in Istanbul. This is the first time that a show is debuting here, and I hope that it will be the start of a long-term collaboration; not only using the facilities here but also developing a market in Istanbul and having the chance to bring over our shows.
Seth: And this Beauty and the Beast production is a very special production. It’s got anything an audience member may want. It’s got dance, it’s got romance, it’s got action, it’s got adventure. And it has a lot of laughs. It’s a magical story.
Is there anything else that you would like to add?
Seth: Get tickets now!
Dan: It’s fantastic orchestration. We have a live orchestra and they sound beautiful, especially in this auditorium. It’s going to be very special.
Beauty and the Beast runs until Sunday 26 October. Tickets are still available on the Zorlu website.
20 TL student tickets can be purchased at the Zorlu PSM box offices on the day of the event between 12:00-14:00 for shows at 15:30, and between 17:00-19:00 for evening shows.
Want to learn more? You can read my interview with the cast and crew of Beauty and the Beast here!
Melis Kanık is a contributor to Yabangee