It's The Norm
January 10-16, 2002 ARCHIVES
"It's The Norm" - Recent Entertainment Events in Las Vegas

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Paige O'Hara


by Norm Johnson
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A wonderful lady lives in our little village. She is cute, perky and as sweet a person as you'll ever meet. The lady and her husband, Michael Piontek, called me up the other day and invited me, and my lady friend, to attend a special filming of a new version of an already classic film. It would be shown at the Imax Theatre inside the Luxor Hotel & Casino.

Well, folks, who could turn down Belle? I wouldn't if I could've, know what I mean. So now you know. Paige O'Hara, who just recently co-starred with Robert Goulet at the Venetian Hotel, is "Belle" in the Disney classic of "Beauty and the Beast" and she and Michael now call Las Vegas their home.

You are aware that I am still recovering from surgery, having a new artery installed from my right leg to the left leg in the hopes of increasing my circulation and dimming the pain I used to feel when I walked. Thus far it's working, but gang the incisions in the groin area are still painful. But off we went to the Luxor to get a big hug from Paige (that alone is worth the trip) and to see this new version of the classic.

Well let me tell you this is the way to see it. That huge screen and the sound system of Imax leaves nothing to the imagination. The original version was released in 1991 and was the first animated film ever to be nominated for an Oscar in the Best Picture category, plus five other nominations. At the Oscar ceremonies in 1992 our "Belle," Paige, sang the nominated song from the film (incidentally trophies were won for Best Song and Best Original Score).

This new version of the classic has even added a new song and some six to eight minutes. The never before seen sequence is titled "Human Again." And Ms. O'Hara does a magnificent job of singing as she did in the original version.

Dick Cook, chairman of the Walt Disney Motion Picture Group, wanted to celebrate its 10th anniversary in a big way, so he put his animation department to work to bring "Beauty and the Beast" to the really big screen. So on New Year's Day at more than 100 Imax theatres throughout the world, everyone will get the same chance I had to see an absolutely beautiful film.

Of course one might think I am slightly prejudice towards this film, what with having three daughters and a slew of grandkids that are always bugging me to get them tickets to anything to do with the film. And who can blame them. It's a wonderful story with a fantastic cast of voices: Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Potts; Jerry Orbach (of Law & Order fame and Broadway) as Lumiere; Jo Anne Worley as The Wardrobe; Richard White as Gaston; Robby Benson as the Beast; Rex Everhart as Maurice and of course Ms. O'Hara.

Kirk Wise, who directed the filming and the revamping of this version, was originally looking for someone who could create a character completely with her voice to play the part of Belle. "We would sit there during auditions with our eyes closed because we wanted the voice to be the only thing that inspired us. When we heard Paige's voice for the first time, everything clicked. She has a little touch of Judy Garland in her voice along with a very unique quality. We knew she was special."

Paige, like a hundred plus Broadway stars, had heard about the auditions. "I had been a fan of Howard (Ashman) and Alan (Menken) and knew all their recordings (they wrote the music for the film)," recalled O'Hara. "As soon as I heard about the project (in 1990), I called my agent and said I have to be seen for this. I ended up auditioning five times for the role of Belle, I knew my persistence would pay off and it did. I just loved the music and the story."

O'Hara's involvement with "Beauty" has earned her worldwide legion of fans both young and old. In addition to a Platinum Record for selling over 1 million copies of the original soundtrack (which has since gone double platinum), Paige is kept very busy recording for Disney and others.

Once you hear her sing those wonderful songs, and should you ever meet her, I believe you'll know why she is a favorite of the Disney Studios. And gang, believe me, even if you have seen the original film, you got to see and hear it in this new big format. It's fabulous!

I'm outa here.

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