ABC plans to honor Disney’s Beauty and the Beast this holiday season with an epic animation and live action hybrid special, and the project has just found its beast. Emmy, Grammy, and Tony-nominated musician Josh Groban will play the lead role of the Beast in the 30th anniversary special, which boasts a star-studded cast that also includes Rita Moreno, Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter H.E.R. and Broadway actor Joshua Henry.
The special, titled Beauty and the Beast: A 30th Celebration, sounds like it will follow in the footsteps of the network’s 2019 special, The Little Mermaid Live! which intercut animated sequences from the original film with new stage performances featuring different actors in familiar roles. This time, however, the production doesn’t seem to claim to be live, but will instead be filmed at Disney Studios in front of a live audience, to air in December on ABC with a Disney+ debut a day later.
Though Groban is best known for his musical stylings, he has a history with screen and stage acting as well, debuting on Broadway in 2016 with the Tony-nominated, Tolstoy-inspired play Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812. He also has some history with Beauty and the Beast. The singer contributed the original song Evermore to the soundtrack of 2017’s live-action adaptation of the Disney classic, which I had honestly forgotten existed despite it starring Dan Stevens and Emma Watson.
While Disney keeps introducing more and more live-action adaptations despite their wildly varied quality and success, it sounds like Beauty and the Beast: A 30th Celebration will capitalize on fans’ love of the original hand-drawn animation that made the Disney Renaissance-era 1991 film stand out, as press materials explain that “performances will be seamlessly woven through the original feature film” over the course of the two-hour special.
While more cast has yet to be announced, R&B musician H.E.R. will play Belle, while Joshua Henry is Gaston. Meanwhile, legendary performer Rita Moreno will narrate the enchanting evening. It’ll be interesting to see if this special reaches the heights of competitor NBC’s recent tradition of live musicals, which has included a John Legend-led Jesus Christ Superstar and holiday renditions of Annie and The Grinch. FOX, meanwhile, has also gotten in on the live musical game, most notably with 2016’s Grease Live!
Beauty and the Beast: A 30th Celebration will air at 8 pm EST on 15 December 2022 on ABC, and will be available on Disney+ the following day.