Monday, April 2, 2012

EVENTS: Beauty and the Beast Comes to Pittsburgh: An Interview with "Silly Girl" Amanda Grace Holt

Dane Agostinis as The Beast and Emily Behney as Belle (Photo by Joan Marcus - The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust) 
The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and PNC Broadway Across America invite you to be their guest as NETworks Presentations LLC Broadway musical, Disney's Beauty and the Beast takes center stage from April 3 - April 8, 2012 at Heinz Hall.  It's the beautiful Disney version we all know and love directed by Rob Roth and choreographed by Matt West and features the famous Academy Award Winning score by Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice. I was able to talk to PA native, Amanda Grace Holt about her role as a Silly Girl/Enchanted Object.

Amanda Grace Holt from Beaver PA (The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust) 
Amanda began her dance career studying at Paula Scriva's Dance Studio in Rochester, PA.  She then went on to attend Point Park University [ my alma mater : ) ] and in 2006, graduate with a BA in Musical Theater and minor in Dance. She has quite a few productions under her belt including Pittsburgh Musical Theater's  Joseph and the Amazing Technicolored Dreamcoat, West Side Story (Teresita), and Evita. Amanda has also been a part of R.Evolucion Latina's Choreographer's Festival (NYC Dancer), Hair- Italian Tour (ensemble), and Cinderella (Stepsister - Joy).

In this interview with Amanda, she tells us a little bit about her experience touring with Disney's Beauty and the Beast and what it's like to be a part of the performing arts.

The Pittsburgh Look: Good Morning Amanda!

Amanda Grace Holt: Good Morning!

TPL: So tell us a little bit about your experience at Point Park University and how did it help you get to where you are now?

AGH: Well, I was a musical theater major with a dance minor there and honestly, when I went into college I was more of a dancer so being a musical theater major was a little scary for me but the teachers there are excellent and they really helped prepare me for the acting and singing world as well as the dance world.  So yeah, it was great! One teacher in particular, Zeva Barzell, I'm sure she's still teaching there, she was an excellent musical theater teacher and really helped us focus in on what shows we were right for, and when we left college and went out into the city, what to really shoot for in auditions.  And Keisha Lalama was a fabulous dance teacher!  She really kept me on my toes in that department and kept me ready to audition.

TPL: Yeah they have a wonderful program!  So which character do you play in Beauty and the Beast?  And describe them a little bit for us.

AGH: I am one of the Silly Girls- and it's easy to compare to the movie, cuz everyone remembers the Silly Girls as the blondes in the tavern that pine after Gaston.  It's a great role, I love it!  Ours are a little different, we're not so much the same as they were in the movie, my character in particular is a little more quirky and a little more of a tomboy and you'll have to see the show, but she's always fainting after Gaston [laughs].

Belle and the Beauty and the Beast cast (Photo by Joan Marcus/ The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust) 
TPL: Does she have a name at all?

AGH: Uh, in the show we're just the Silly Girls.

TPL: Ok!  Are you also an enchanted object?

AGH: I am!  I get to - in "Be Our Guest"- I'm a fork, a plate and a napkin.

TPL:  Oh how cool!!!!

AGH: Yeah it's great, we're constantly changing, the costumes are fabulous. In fact on Broadway, Anne Hould-Ward [costume designer] won a Tony award!  So we're fortunate enough that in our production we've been able to work with all the original creators.  So I would say NETworks has done a great job keeping the show as close to Broadway as they can.

TPL: How did you prepare for this role?  Was there any kind of studying you had to do or anything special you had to do to get yourself set to be a Silly Girl?

AGH: It's not so extensive for this character besides having a huge crush on Gaston [laughs], but we rehearsed in New York City for a week where we learned all the choreography and a little bit of scene work for Silly Girls and it was great.  But pretty much just grab the attention of Gaston is our main goal for the Silly Girls and through that we have a lot of "trip-ups" and silly moments so, it's great!

Gaston and the Town People - Logan Denninghoff as Gaston (Photo by Joan Marcus/The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust) 

TPL: So how is this show - how does this specific production, differ from any other productions you've been in so far? What makes this show special to you?

AGH: I think the main reason why I love this show is that it's a great show for the entire family - it's not just a show for kids.  Like I see moms, dads, grandparents, people go to see the show for a first date, we've had proposals after the show, so it just really speaks out to everyone.  And it's full of singing, dancing, laughter, romance, suspense - it has it all!  So I think that's what I love most about it.

TPL: What kind of message do you think the show has for its audience?

AGH:  Well, I think Beauty and the Beast itself has a timeless message of seeing past the exterior into the heart of someone.  There's the old saying "don't judge a book by its cover," and I really think that's a great message for everyone.

Belle and the Beast (Photo by Joan Marcus/ The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust) 
TPL: Tell us a little bit about the cast; what's it like traveling with them, what are they like?

AGH: We are very fortunate, we call us our- "BTB" - our "Beauty and the Beast Family." And I mean we live together, we eat together, we work together, we go out together [laughs] so we see each other every day but I honestly can say that there's not one person that doesn't fit in with our group.  So it truly is like having a family on the road, and we're also so blessed to have the experience to be in the show and fortunate enough to see the world, or see the United States, it's been great!

TPL:  So a lot of casts - I remember when I did theater and stuff way back in the day - a lot of casts have like off-stage traditions, like sometimes before they go on stage, or maybe before the show starts, do you guys have anything like that? Do you have any off-stage traditions?

AGH: I mean we do have...a lot of stuff off-stage. I will share one thing: before the show we have a "Positivity Circle," so right before the show we all get together and say something positive about our day to get us going for the show.

The cast of Beauty and the Beast (photo by Joan Marcus/ The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust)

TPL:  That's awesome!  What's your favorite costume in the show?

AGH:  Oh my gosh!!! [laughs] That I wear or outta the whole show?

TPL: Let's do both!! Let's do your favorite costume you wear and then in the entire show, I gotta know both....


AGH:  Ok let's see......[pause]....I guess....I mean I do love my Silly Girl dress, it's green, and I do love green and it just has that old look; it's corseted and the big skirt and puffy sleeves, lace around the neckline, so I do enjoy wearing that.  And of course in "Be Our Guest" the enchanted objects are great too!  But I would say, out of the whole show, my most favorite costume is the Wardrobe.  It's extravagant.  You have to see the show, I had actually never seen Disney's Beauty and the Beast [on Broadway] before getting cast in it, I had seen the movie, so it was a real treat for me to see what they were gonna do with the Enchanted Objects, how they we're going to bring them to life on stage.  I was so impressed with The Wardrobe!

The Enchanted Objects (Photo by Joan Marcus/ The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust) 
TPL:  I can't wait to see those costumes!  So what have you learned so far in your experience as a performing artist?  Like what kind of advice would you give to those still in school and just starting out?

AGH: Honestly, I know a lot of people say this, but to never give up. This business is so tough and I have gone about a 2 year span of trying to book a show and it can get very frustrating but never give up, and never take anything for granted.  Every performance is bringing a smile to someone's face, or helping an audience member through maybe a tough time, so every performance is an excellent one - whether you messed up or not!

TPL: So this is our last question, I ask this question in all my interviews because it is called The Pittsburgh Look, and also I hear that you are a Pittsburgh girl...

AGH: Oh [laugh] I live outside the city but I'm a huge Steeler's fan [laughs] .....

TPL: [laughs] So the question is, what is your favorite thing about Pittsburgh?

AGH: Ooo[pause]...well.....the Steelers [laughs].  No honestly, the community.  I feel like the community in Pittsburgh is so great, any time you meet someone that's from Pittsburgh, we get along in a heartbeat, I feel like I've known them forever, even if I just met them like 2 seconds ago, so honestly I love the community and the people.

TPL: Ok well I think that about does it.  Thank you so much!

AGH: You're welcome Janine!

Beauty and the Beast (Photo by Joan Marcus/ The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust) 
Tickets (about $20 - $77) are on sale now!!  For more information on NETworks Presentation of Disney's Beauty and the Beast click here!
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