Be her guest: Tess Barao is the Belle of Angelwalk Theatre & CosParty’s cosplay fundraiser

Arpita Ghosal

Arpita Ghosal

Arpita Ghosal is a Toronto-based arts writer. She founded Sesaya in 2004.

Tess Barao as Belle and Ryan Allen as Beast in Beauty and the Beast in concert (photo courtesy of Anglewalk Productions)

Beauty and the Beast might be a tale as old as time; however, on Saturday, October 27, 2018, it gets a bold and novel retelling when Angelwalk Theatre and CosParty present Disney’s Beauty and the Beast: In Concert at Trinity-St. Paul’s United Church. The evocative setting recalls Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, and the press release emphasizes that the evening is not just a concert, but a “show, fundraiser and experience” to benefit the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.

In the best cosplay tradition, audiences are encouraged to dress up to participate in a costume contest for either the matinee (which has an animated, cartoon dress theme) or the evening performance (which has a live action, gala-princess ball, black-tie theme). The fun includes a silent auction, a pop-up photo booth, and a professional photographer to capture the memories. Oh . . . and some of the biggest names in Canadian musical theatre are coming together to perform a concert version of the hit Broadway musical, accompanied by a live orchestra directed by the renowned Mark Camilleri. The cast features Tess Barao as Belle, Ryan Allen as the Beast, Jonathan Cullen as Gaston, Jonathan Whittaker as Maurice, Bruce Dow as Cogsworth, Alessandro Costantini as Lumiere, Paula Wolfson as Mrs. Potts, Joseph Zita as Chip, Camila Diaz-Varela as Babette, Ruthie Nkut as Madame De La Grande Bouche, Jake Deeth as Lefou, A’mar Wharton-Matthew as Mr Darque and Olivia Sinclair-Brisbane as Silly Girl. Susan Egan, who originated the role of Belle in the Broadway production and received a Tony-Award nomination for it, has also sent a video message conveying her best wishes for the event.

This joint presentation by CosParty Artistic Director Ms Barao and Angelwalk Theatre’s Artistic Executive Director Brian Goldenberg stemmed from an unexpected loss. After Ms Barao’s father passed away suddenly from a heart attack, she was determined to find solace while doing good. Mr Goldenberg, whose family had also been affected by heart disease, was inspired to partner with Ms Barao, in order to raise awareness and funds in support of the Heart and Stroke Foundation. Although unusually busy in preparation for Saturday’s event (yes, in the best cosplay tradition, Ms Barao and company are hand-making all the costumes!), she took time for a quick Q & A to tell us about this one-of-a-kind experience.

  1. Why did you choose Disney’s Beauty and the Beast for this benefit concert?

Tess Barao as Belle

My father passed away in 2016 from a heart attack very suddenly and ever since then I’ve been looking for a way to honour his memory. He was my biggest fan, so I knew I wanted to put my performance skills to good use for something meaningful. I chose Beauty and the Beast because it was such an important part of my childhood, and the relationship between Belle and her father Maurice never ceased to remind me of him. And of course being able to give back to the Heart and Stroke Foundation makes it all the more special.

  1. What would you like us to know about the production aspect of this event (i.e., how you got the performers together, where and how you’ve decided to present it, if there is something specific you would like us to notice or pay attention to…)?

We took a lot of care in picking the cast. They’re some of the most talented performers in Toronto and we’re so lucky to have them! As for the location, Trinity-St Paul’s Church was another huge inspiration for the choice of Beauty and the Beast. I had visited there for an audition at the beginning of the year and as soon as I saw the space I thought, “Man, I need to do a show here”. And another Beauty and the Beast seed was planted!

  1. If the audience spontaneously begins to sing along, can they? Is there an interactive component for those of us who love musicals in general and BATB, in particular?

I would say that it’s an incredible cast of professional performers, so I really think the audience will want to hear every word they sing! (But of course if an adorable little one can’t hold it in, we would never hold it against them!)

  1. What do you hope the audience will take away from the experience, beyond the desire to educate themselves about the fine work being done at the Heart and Stroke Foundation?

I would love the audience to understand the power of art and music in healing, and that something beautiful can come out of something tragic.

  1. The final word is yours! What would you like to add that I haven’t asked?

I would love to add that we will be having a costume contest! So make sure to come dressed to celebrate Halloween and you may walk away with a prize. And also if you can’t make it to the show (for some crazy reason, it’s going to be a blast!) and would still like to support our efforts, you can visit this link to donate: angelwalk.ca

Tess Barao as Belle, Beauty and the Beast in Concert (image courtesy of Angelwalk Productions)

News You Can Use

What: Beauty and the Beast: In Concert – A Performance and CosParty Experience benefitting the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada; Music by Alan Menken; Lyrics by Howard Ashman & Tim Rice; Book by Linda Woolverton; Originally directed by Robert Jess Roth; Originally produced by Disney Theatrical Productions

Who: Audiences of all ages

When: Saturday, October 27, 2018, 2:00 pm & 7:30 pm

Where: Trinity-St. Paul’s United Church, 427 Bloor Street West, Toronto, ON

Tickets: angelwalk.ca

© 2018 Arpita Ghosal, Sesaya / SesayArts Magazine

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