For fans of the original, going to see the live-action remake of #BeautyAndTheBeast was most likely a surreal experience and a pleasant surprise. Four new (to us) songs — "Aria," "Days in the Sun," "How Can a Moment Last Forever," and "Evermore" — joined the set list, as well as numerous other changes sprinkled throughout the rest of the score — an altered lyric here, an extended dance break there — often so subtle you couldn't quite pick out what was happening but simply knew there must be something there that wasn't there before.
Part of the reason for that fluidity was 8-time Oscar-winner Alan Menken, who wrote the original 1991 Beauty and the Beast along with the late Howard Ashman, as well as the Broadway musical with Tim Rice (The Lion King).
Menken explained to EW how Beauty and the Beast will always have a special meaning for him:
"It’s probably the most romantic of the Disney animated musicals. It’s a passionate love story and it’s got a lot of depth. And in my life, of course, a lot of that power comes from the fact that it’s the last complete score that Howard Ashman and I wrote together. And he never lived to see it. He was working on it as he was growing sicker and sicker, which is…the backstory to the creation of the movie is as heartbreaking as the movie is."
To a millennial that grew up watching the 1991 Beauty and the Beast on loop, the idea of changing a single hair on the Beast's face sounds like absolute blasphemy. But overall, thanks to Menken, Rice, and even Ashman, the music was one area in which the new movie rang as true as it did in the original. Let's take a closer look at some of the biggest musical changes in the live action Beauty and the Beast.
Another number that got revamped for the reboot was the even more raucous "Gaston." With LeFou being outted as gay, we knew there had to be some changes, but there were more than a few. Menken told ComicBook.com:
"We have new lyrics in 'Gaston.' Not actually new lyrics, they’re actually Howard Ashman’s that were outtake things. We had also put some of the outtake lyrics from Howard in the Broadway show. And the reason that they hadn’t been used in the animated was that they were quite edgy. 'I hunt, I sneak up with my quiver and I shoot in the liver.' That’s a little hard for an animated film, but I thought it was great for this... You know, I think there may a little bit of extra aggressive edge to 'Gaston,' which is fun, with the dance break and all that in the movie version."
'The Mob Song'
There is a change in "The Mob Song" that feels like a follow-through to those changes in "Gaston." Gaston sings:
"Call it war, call it threat / You can bet they all will follow for in times like this they'll do just as I say."
While LeFou sings:
"There's a beast running wild, there's no question / But I fear the wrong monster's released."
Menken told THR about the choice to make that change:
"Bill wanted this sense of Gaston as a demagogue at that point, and the turnaround of LeFou. It was just a few lines — I hated to lose Howard's lines, every word of Howard's is precious."
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'Be Our Guest'
"Be Our Guest" is the show-stopping number that lends itself the most to Broadway-style fanfare. Director Bill Condon paid homage to that legacy by sticking all sorts of little musical Easter Eggs in the number. He told Metro UK:
"There are tons of Easter Eggs but they’re all to do with musicals. So for 'Be Our Guest,' there’s 'Cabaret,' there’s 'Chicago,' there’s Martha Graham, there’s Bollywood, 'Singing in the Rain,' Esther Williams, Busby Berkeley and 'West Side Story.'"
Check out our detailed list of all those musical Easter Eggs in "Be Our Guest," as well as the others, right now!
Casting Audra McDonald as Madame Garderobe was a brilliant move that proved that the casting directors for the live-action Beauty and the Beast actually do care about and know where to find real singers. If anything, it was disappointing that she was so underused. But at least she got to sing the opening number, "Aria," the first of the new songs for the movie. Including this song in the sequence that was previously so ominous and gloomy established the light-hearted and playful tone that shined through in the rest of the movie.
'Days In The Sun'
"Days in the Sun" gave us a glimpse into the longing of the castle to return to their human lives, and felt like a more mature and melancholy take on the Broadway "Human Again." Producer David Hoberman has said that he thinks this one is a-shoe in and might earn Menken his ninth Oscar. Menken himself explained to THR how the song came to be:
"'Days in the Sun' initially came about 10 years ago, when the idea of a 'Beauty and the Beast' live-action film was first floated around. I was in London opening 'Sister Act,' and Tim [Rice] and I got together and wrote two songs, including 'Days in the Sun.' It's a lullaby when the enchanted objects and Belle and Beast think about what they miss about their lives. Bill thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to establish a lot of backstory — we're emotionally attached to these characters, and we want to feel more of a connection to who they are."
'How Does A Moment Last Forever'
Repeating "How Does a Moment Last Forever" twice in the movie and then again during the credits made the song feel as precious and familiar as any of the originals. The lyrics themselves — "How can a story never die?" — feel almost meta, capturing how passionately we the audience already feels about this story. The song also adds rich backstory to Belle's family life. Menken explained to EW:
"'How Does a Moment Last Forever' is very French and holds the backstory for Belle and [her father,] Maurice. It asks, 'How do we hold on to those fleeting moments in our lives?' Incredibly, we have Celine Dion singing it over the end credits, which is just so amazing. I think that song has some extra meaning for her because we lost her husband, Rene [last year]. They were such a devoted couple."
Like Emma Watson, Dan Stevens (Beast) isn't a professional singer, but he really comes through at the eleventh hour in "Evermore." It's just over three minutes of musical and — thanks to Tim Rice — lyrical goosebumps that make all the other musical shortcomings (*cough* Emma Watson *cough*) seem like small potatoes. Again, it felt like a definite nod to the same character's wistful and building Broadway ballad "If I Can't Love Her," and its heartbroken reprise, which falls at the same point in the story after Belle leaves and before "The Mob Song."
The Disney president of music and soundtracks, Mitchell Lieb, explained to Billboard why "Evermore" needed to be added:
"'Evermore' happened late in the game. There was a conversation about how the movie is called 'Beauty and the Beast' and the Beast should have a song. Alan [Menken] came back quite quickly with a phenomenal musical bed, and then Tim [RIce] turned around a magnificent lyric about letting Belle go. It’s like a Phantom of the Opera moment."
'Beauty And The Beast'
Menken explained to ComicBook.com that, sometimes, freshening up old classics isn't nearly as sacrilegious as it seems:
"I think it’s really healthy to give little changes to all of the songs as they come in. And we did that for the Broadway show, too... We have a change at the end of the movie where we found some lost lyrics from 'Beauty and the Beast' that Howard had written and was perfect to end the movie with. Those lost lyrics were just so great to get into the movie...[There] are subtle changes to 'Beauty and the Beast.' They kind of go into a waltz feeling in the dance, but again, essentially, it’s 'Beauty and the Beast.'"
Those new lyrics are the ones Emma Thompson (Mrs. Potts) softly sings right after the enchanting Audra McDonald (Mme Garderobe) adds her coloratura to the old ones:
"Winter turns to spring / Famine turns to feast / Nature points the way / Nothing left to say / Beauty and the Beast."
It makes just as much sense that these lines were cut from the original as it does to have them reintroduced now. The "Winter" of the enchantment was emphasized much more strongly in this version than the last one, as well as the historical imagery that goes with "famine" and "feast." And the last two new lyrics seem to be a heartwarming wink to the original, acknowledging how this new film was a natural return that paid homage to and, in some ways, improved upon its predecessor.
What did you think about the music in the live-action 'Beauty and the Beast'? Did it do justice to the original?