It has been a long year for arts organisations, as the pandemic shut down live events across the globe. But, as the creative arts industry is slowly returning across the US, so has the staging of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast musical at the Tuacahn Center of the Arts.
Finally onstage a year after the originally scheduled date, the production looks very different than the one audience members would have experienced had the pandemic not struck. Combining striking visual effects with projections and large scale LED screens, the result is a bold staging that took advantage of its unexpected hiatus to ask what the future of live theatre will look like.
The first large-scale production to return
Tucked at the edge of Snow Canyon State Park, in the south-west corner of Utah, Tuacahn Center for the Arts is a unique complex that features, at its heart, a magnificent outdoor amphitheatre.
When launched in May 2021, Beauty and the Beast became the Center’s first large-scale production to return since the pandemic and also one of the biggest theatrical productions in the US.
“We put everything into this show,” says Steven Royal, Video Designer and Associate Set Designer for the production. “We wanted to give audiences the magic of the film, something they won’t forget.”
Being an outdoor theatre, the Center was already able to build exciting elements into their show that would have been off-limits in a traditional indoor space. Pyrotechnics and fireworks complemented the fantastical sets that the musical called for, from fairytale castles to the Beast’s grandiose library. The pandemic opened up more possibilities still, and a chance to make Tuacahn’s return all the more memorable.
Working with disguise
The theatre had previously purchased a solo disguise server for an indoor Christmas show, but after seeing the power of the software, the user-friendly interface, and the robust nature of the system itself, Royal says “switching to disguise was an institutional thing that had to happen.”
The Center upgraded to disguise’s 4x4pro, giving their production a significant range of potential that would easily manage the visuals Beauty and the Beast would be employing in the much larger amphitheatre. The system’s robust design also means it can be safely moved between the Centre’s various venues without fear of damage.
One key element Tuacahn took advantage of was the ability to pre-visualise the set, allowing the production team to see exactly how the environment would appear with the disguise software realising their ambitious visions.
“The flexibility of the software allows you to show each video sequence to the director in advance,” Royal explains. “Loading the show file into the system and pressing play makes it so easy. There were no surprises - it’s great to be able to have a scenic unit in software, cue it on and off, all as planned.”
The show now features a mixture of effects enhanced by disguise, using large video screens and projections throughout the performance.
“disguise offers reliability and confidence. It’s so intuitive, enabling you to push yourself creatively and achieve something you might have not been able to do with another system.”
Steven Royal, Video Designer and Associate Set Designer
Returning to the stage
The end result is a cohesive production that the entire cast and crew can be really proud of - a show that everyone involved will remember after such a long time away from the theatre.
“We could all identify with the song ‘Human Again’,” says Royal. “Feeling locked up at home and waiting for the spell to be lifted. We have been planning this for two years, so it’s been great finally welcoming the audience and having them back in their seats after such a long and difficult time.”
The show that awaits them, though, has made the most of that extra time to prepare, incorporating new technology that can help immerse audiences in the story better than ever before.
Set and production design: Adam Koch Associates