Interview with Paige O'Hara

Paige O’ Hara is known for voicing the character of Belle in Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast”. She has since reprised that role numerous times for Disney. Paige is also a veteran of the New York stage, she made her Broadway debut playing Ellie May Chipley in the 1983 Broadway revival of “Showboat”. Since that she has been in numerous production including Broadway’s “Les Misérables”. With Disney releasing its timeless classic “Beauty and the Beast” on Diamond Collection Blu-Ray/DVD Combo pack release of on October 5th, Movie Mikes had a chance to chat with Paige about her career and her work for Disney.

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Mike Gencarelli: How did you originally get involved with Disney and become to wonderful character voice of Belle from “Beauty and the Beast”?
Paige O’ Hara: Well you know, I was working in New York as a Broadway actress for many years. I read about the movie in the New York Times and asked my agent to get me an audition. I went in and auditioned several times. It was odd because they would close their eyes when we would audition, then send the tapes back to the producers in in LA. Eventually the directors and producers came in and I auditioned in front of them and they would close their eyes again. So out of 500 actresses I was the lucky one to get the part.

Mike Gencarelli: You also have reprised your role as Belle numerous time in other Disney projects, how have you become connected to the character?
Paige O’ Hara: It is a lifelong effort. I am constantly recording different project for the CD-ROMs, the sequels and whatever comes up. It is kind of great because I made my voice higher when we started to record and Howard Ashman said “No no no no, we want that womanly sound”. That is why now as I get older I can still do Belle.

Mike Gencarelli: Are you excited about the release of “Beauty and the Beast” coming to Disney Bu-Ray?
Paige O’ Hara: Yes, I didn’t even have a Blu-Ray player. My husband went out and bought one. We watched it and after seeing the movie a few times, I was absolutely blown away by it. The clarity, the depth, the detail was just remarkable. It was something I had never seen before with the original. The technology has improved so much. What was so wonderful and as an artist, I also paint for Disney as well, I could look at the characters that were hand drawn and see details and little things like Belle blushing. These are little things you couldn’t see in the original DVD. It was remarkable. I really got goosebumps watching it.

MG: Was it fun having a cameo for Disney’s live action “Enchanted”?
PO: Oh I loved it! Wasn’t that fun?. I thought It was so great that the director Kevin (Lima), brought myself and Jodi Benson and Judy Kunn and we did little cameos. Actually Jodi’s part ended up being pretty big. It was great fun. I really enjoyed it. I got a lot of fan mail from it.

MG: Tell us about playing the role of Fantine in Les Misérables on Broadway for almost 10 years?
PO: It is amazing. It was a tough part to play. You were exhausted by the end of that play. Mostly when I was in New York for the first 15-20 years, most of the roles I did were comedic roles. Elle in “Showboat” and Ado Annie in “Oklahoma”. I did a whole series of Jerome Kern’s Princess Theatre shows before “Showboat”. We did those at Carnegie Hall. I kind of switched over and got to play “Evita” for quite a long time off and on at different companies. I changed over to being leading lady then.

MG: How did you realize you have such a beautiful voice, have you sang your whole life?
PO: Yes, pretty much so. As little kid, I was in acting class. I would sing and dance around the living room with my mom to show records, in particular Judy Garland, Barbara Streisand and Ella Fitzgerald. I probably realized around 10 or 11 years old that I actually had a voice. I had been already studying acting so then I started studying signing with an ex-New York opera performer who had retired in Fort Lauderdale. I worked with her and then went to a performing arts high school my mom was the director of in Florida, then went back to New York at 17.

MG: You just realized a new CD correct?
PO: Yes the CD is actually one that I revised. It is a lullaby CD for children. It is so funny, I have a lot of girlfriend that I work with at the Luxor that have children and little babies. They say that that CD just does the trick. One little boy that screams all the time teething, she put on the Merry-Go-Round song and she said it’s a miracle, it puts him right to sleep. That is a good thing. It is an easy listening CD.

MG: What else are you currently working on?
PO: I am currently working at the Luxor in Las Vegas, we are in our fifth year of “Menopause: The Musical”. I play the aging soap star. It is great. It is a great empowering point for women, it makes them feel great about themselves, makes them laugh a lot. It is really fun.

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