Living her dream as Belle

Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” returning to DPAC
Oct. 04, 2013 @ 01:32 PM

Hilary Maiberger’s friends and family haven’t bombarded her with Belle gifts yet, so all the star of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” on tour has so far is a little doll and a keychain.

Maiberger portrays the literature-loving princess in the national tour of the Broadway show, which will be at the Durham Performing Arts Center Oct. 8 through 13. It’s the second time the popular musical has been on stage at DPAC.

Maiberger grew up in California, and the very first Broadway production she saw, at age 10, was as it happens, “Beauty and the Beast” on stage in Los Angeles.

“I love that Belle is so relatable. Everyone was that girl, awkward and discovering who she is,” Maiberger said. Belle is so smart, she said, and brave in giving her life for her father’s.

“She’s very different than other Disney princesses,” said Maiberger, who knows about Disney princesses, having previously portrayed Cinderella in regional theater and Jasmine in the “Aladdin” show at Disneyland.

The stage version of “Beauty and the Beast” stays true to the 1991 animated film’s storyline and vivid colors and characters. Maiberger watched it daily as a kid, and recited every line.

“Everyone knows the film so, so well. The creative team did a good job sticking to the film – you don’t mess with something everybody loves,” she said. Of course the difference is live people, Maiberger said, as well as a few new songs, and a change with the enchanted objects. Audiences meet them as they are slowly changing into the objects. With the costumes, stage and lighting, she said, the production “is like a Disney pop-up book.”

Her favorite costume is Belle’s yellow dress. “It’s so poufy and princess and ridiculous,” Maiberger said. “I love it. I never get tired of wearing it, though it’s only for five minutes.”

When 10 year-old Maiberger went to see the musical – a surprise gift from her mom – she leaned over and told her mother that she wanted to be Belle someday.

“Now I’m living my dream,” Maiberger said.

As a kid, she liked Belle because Maiberger loved books, too – and still does – plus that yellow dress. But portraying Belle on stage is different than wanting to be Belle when you’re in the audience.

“The rehearsal process is long and hard, but so gratifying,” she said. “I’m so glad to be part of something that means so much.”

Maiberger said there’s never going to be a perfect show, so that keeps them on their toes. It’s important to remember that each show they perform could be someone’s first Broadway show or their last Broadway show, she said.

“The people deserve a story,” she said.