One of the most exciting aspects of Vala, aside from being able to stream musicals from anywhere and the exceptional educational content, is the original content created specifically for the platform. Original content is key for drawing audiences in and ultimately making them stick around. The Beast will be one of the first original productions to hit the Vala streaming platform, so we sat down with two of the creative forces behind the production, Susan Stroman and Tom Thompson.
A Show Meant for Vala
Mr. Thompson started off by saying, “We always wanted to take this story and film it.” After The Beast had its initial run in an off-broadway venue, he knew it was a story that would live well in a filmed environment. While the story is very much about the music and choreography, he always felt as though capturing it with a camera would enhance its overall impact. In short, Tom knew The Beast would translate to film very well. Susan added that even when they were performing the show live off-broadway, “we always saw it as a film.”
When developing the show for Vala, Tom advised, “the idea of bringing a camera into it is a perfect extension of how we continue breaking the form.” To say they were thrilled that Vala’s founder, Jonathan Brielle, connected with the story is an understatement. Furthermore, they knew streaming was the way to go considering the seismic shift in how audiences consume content now. Tom continued, “People understand streaming now so there’s no explanation behind it. The point is, this is how we’re consuming entertainment now and it will be how we continue to consume entertainment even when we go and see shows in the theatre. Streaming is not going away.”
Getting to Know The Beast
Although The Beast existed in an off-broadway format prior to coming to Vala, not many theatergoers know what it’s about. Tom provided the following synopsis, “The Beast is the story of a man who is coming to terms with all the moments in his life that he has missed. He is somebody who has gone through his life and has not been living fully in the moment, especially when it comes to one woman in particular. This is a woman who, as he looks back on his life, he has missed every single moment to make a connection with her. Considering this is a story about a man at the end of his life, we are exploring themes like loneliness, love, and death. It takes a look at what it’s like to live an unlived life. The story is told through a series of flashbacks as we move through the man’s experiences living in Italy, London, and New York. It’s all about this unbridled passion he feels for this one woman in particular. But his inability to connect is almost like he has a beast in his life that keeps him from being able to live a full life. It’s that kind of manifestation when people find excuses or reasons why they can’t achieve something in their life.”
Tom and Susan hope this is a story that every viewer, regardless of gender or walk of life, can relate to. After all, who hasn’t at one point (or many points) felt like they weren’t living their life to the fullest? While the story is something we can all relate to, the romantic elements of dance intensify the passion between this man and the woman he desires. Susan continued the thread, “Our male dancer is more rhythmic jazz and contemporary whereas the woman is a classical ballerina, so it’s almost like two opposing dance forms come together to create sparks. Whenever lovers dance, no words are necessary as they fall in love. The idea that this love between these two characters spans many years is powerful and it has to do with the two different styles and techniques coming together.”
Understanding The Vala Difference
Creating a musical for the stage and creating a filmed production on a sound stage can be two very different things. When asked what the difference was creating a show for Vala, Susan said, “Well, you’re very much in collaboration with the camera, the cinematographer, and how every moment is about the camera and how the camera is a dancer itself. So, we even adjust the show for the camera. The camera is a whole other character and that impacts our set designer and costume designer. In every way, it’s a whole new world in film. To be able to look at The Beast in a new form is thrilling for us because we love the story so much. Also, to know that the show will touch audiences who never got to see it off-broadway makes us very happy.”
Tom added, “Everything feels possible on a soundstage. Here, it’s about honoring the spirit of the theatre and finding the hybrid between film and theatre. Up until this point, a lot of theatre that’s typically on television is just a capture of the show. This, on the other hand, is using the soundstage as an environment and then create a world that is still like something you’ve never seen before. It’s all about the collaboration between all the different departments to find out how to make it work and discover what that new idea is.”
To close out the notion of this Vala difference, they both offered, “When you do a show, you know you have to deliver that show eight times a week, every night. With Vala, we can capture the best of the show without having to worry about something going wrong in the theatre as sometimes it does. Not that that isn’t great when an audience can share something going wrong on stage but this way, it will be how we want to see it in the end without the chance of something going awry in a live performance. You’re allowed to look at things differently and come up with different results.”
Check out The Beast When It Launches Exclusively on Vala
When asked if they had any doubts about adapting a relatively unknown show for a streaming platform, both Tom Thompson and Susan Stroman answered with a resounding, “no”. Tom brought that a bit further, “I think the challenge of every project is just being true to the story you’re telling and to know the story you’re going to tell is a story you feel like you’re doing honestly. Working together with Stro and John Kander, we’ve had enough experience together to really be able to honor the story we set out to tell. It comes with a lot of collaboration with different teams but it’s always about the challenge of doing the work and getting the final result to the screen. There’s nothing better than actually seeing it come to life. It can’t be beaten.”
The story of The Beast is something everyone can relate to and, as a morality tale, serves as an example that we should all be living our lives to the fullest. Be sure to catch this incredible production when it launches exclusively on Vala.