Q&A: Liz Shivener from ‘Disney’s Beauty and the Beast’

A childhood classic is coming to ASU Gammage in Tempe this week. “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast” opens on Oct. 19 and runs through Oct. 24. The storyline is familiar to most, and now people can experience all of their favorite songs and characters live. Liz Shivener, who will be playing the role of Belle, spoke to The State Press about her role, the songs and the experience of the show.

The State Press: You were cast as Belle right after graduating from college at Otterbein University. How does it feel, especially fresh out of college, to be playing such an iconic role?

Liz Shivener: It’s incredible. People wait months or years after graduating before they get something big. So, just incredibly lucky and incredibly grateful. It was definitely a surprise, and my parents were thrilled.

SP: If you were not cast as Belle, what other character would you have liked to have been?

LS: I love the silly girls. The silly girls are so funny with all of their fawning over Gaston. I love to watch them. The three women that play those roles are just really, really funny.

SP: Before receiving the role, had you ever seen “Beauty and the Beast” live?

LS: I hadn’t seen it professionally, but I did see it at a children’s theater in Columbus, Ohio, which is where I’m from. So, I did see it there. And then, of course, the movie.

SP: How is the cast that you are currently working with?

LS: Incredible. They’re a great group of people to be with and spend time with. They couldn’t really have found a better fit, in terms of each part and each ensemble member. We care about each other a lot, and we want everyone to have a good show, and everyone enjoys the show equally, I think, and that makes for a really good group of people and really good performers.

SP: What is your favorite musical number to perform, and your favorite number in the show overall?

LS: My favorite number to perform — it’s fun being a part of “Be Our Guest” because it’s the big one and everybody knows and looks forward to [it], and it’s just so fun. Belle kind of watches and participates, so it’s a great thing being able to stand back and watch them do what they do and get to be a part of it.  But my favorite number is “Human Again” in the second act for sure — big show stopper in the second act. Great big vault, big song that was in the film originally but then cut by Disney, because they wanted it to be shorter. It’s all of the objects in the castle just thinking of how great it will be when they’re human again after Belle breaks the spell.

SP: What would be your dream role in a musical, if it’s not Belle?

LS: I would like to play Eliza Doolittle (“My Fair Lady”) again. She’s just one of my favorites ever, but I guess there’s no particular prize dream role besides just playing these ingénues and making them real people. That’s kind of the overall goal. I really want to originate something. I guess that would be my dream role — I would be the first to do something. So, I hope I get an opportunity to do something like that along the way.

SP: Did you want to be an actress growing up?

LS: I didn’t really start theater until high school. I went through the many different things that kids want to be. Doctors and teachers and all that stuff, but I didn’t start singing seriously until my freshman year of high school. I auditioned for the musical. That was when all of the “American Idol” hysteria started, and I just wanted to be a pop star. So, I auditioned for the musical and then just kind of said, “Oh, wait! I like this!” and was lucky enough to have a really, really great high school teacher as a mentor and helped me so much, kind of showed me around the theater. And just through those four years of high school, there became no other option for me really. So, I guess since high school that’s definitely what I’ve been totally goal-oriented in.

SP: On the “Beauty and the Beast” tour website, I also saw that you were in a film, “Showcase,” in this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

LS: There’s a Barcelonan-based Spanish film company that came and did a documentary of the process of the auditioning, of the preparing, of the performance of the showcase itself and kind of the new phenomenon of making it in America.

Having the dream and how years ago there weren’t really theater programs in schools, but now it seems like everyone has theater programs, and they’re fascinated by this whole idea of making it on Broadway and followed us around. So, that’s still finishing the final touches, and we had a representative at Sundance, and they’re submitting it to all the film festivals and kind of just watching to see what happens there.

SP: Are you excited for your next stop at ASU Gammage in Tempe, Ariz.?

LS: Yeah. I haven’t spent much time [there] other than driving through, so I’m pleased to be stopped there. I’m a Midwestern gal, so all this time being able to be out West has been really, really cool for me because it’s so completely different than any landscape I’ve ever known, because now I live in New York.  So, that’s one of the great things about touring — getting the opportunity to see things that you wouldn’t really otherwise. So I get to check another state off my list, that’s for sure.

SP: Finally, do you have any other comments or information you would like to add?

LS: Just that audiences are just responding so well to [the show]. It’s kind of more than anybody could hope for. It hasn’t toured in quite some time. I know that we’re here in San Antonio, and it hasn’t been here for nine years. It’s going well, and people really, really enjoy it, because it’s just for everybody really. I think people from Arizona would really like it too … This show being so family friendly, it ends up being a lot of peoples’ first, a lot of peoples’ childrens’ first show that their parents bring them to, which I think is just so cool because going to see theater meant so much to me as a kid.

It’s an honor to have a little girl come up and [say] “This is my first show!” It’s incredible, just because it played such a big part in my life, even when I wasn’t participating in it, because I didn’t start until late.

But my parents, with what money we did have, would take us to go see things and would take us to see shows coming through. So, it’s cool to be on the other side of the spectrum and have the kids look at me with their big, beautiful eyes and tell me how much they loved it — it’s a really cool thing to be a part of.

Tickets can be purchased online at www. asugammage.com, over the phone by calling 1-800-982-ARTS (2787) or in person by visiting the ASU Gammage box office.

Reach the reporter at mmattox@asu.edu.

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