Monday, August 19

Bruin Belles


Bruin Belles

and the ‘Beast’

Who says UCLA theater alumnae can’t get jobs? Former college
roommates Susan Egan and Sarah Uriarte have found themselves
playing the same role ­ Belle from ‘Beauty and the Beast’
­ but on separate coasts. The musical, which opens at the
Shubert on Thursday and has been running on Broadway for nearly a
year, highlights some of Westwood’s best ­ and most
similar.

"It’s odd that two Belles happened to be roommates in college.
But if you

look at the details … there are a lot of similarities." ­
Sarah Uriarte

The East and West coasts finally have something in common when
it comes to theater ­ UCLA.

Two Bruin alummae and ex-roommates, Susan Egan and Sarah
Uriarte, find themselves now playing the same role in Disney’s
stage musical "Beauty and the Beast."

Egan brings the role to Los Angeles Thursday night, while
Uriarte keeps the role on Broadway.

"It’s odd that two Belles happened to be roommates in college.
But if you look at the details, we’re about that same age, we’re
about the same size, we have all the same interests, we both have a
passion for theater ­ there are a lot of similarities,"
Uriarte says.

"We’re enough alike, that I wasn’t that surprised when I was
cast as Belle. But it is unusual that we were roommates."

Even with all those similarities, these two girls were nothing
alike when they first met in UCLA professor John Hall’s musical
theater workshop.

Egan was a freshman and Uriarte a sophomore. Egan was a theater
student and Uriate a music student. They just clicked.

Even now, both strongly believe it’s because of UCLA’s classes
that the two are where they are today and have landed some of the
most plum roles on Broadway.

It wasn’t always bright lights and applause, though. Both
Uriarte and Egan agree there was a lot of preparation involved
before they got to Broadway.

Egan began her training in high school and through college as an
anthropology student.

"For an actor it’s very important to have a well-rounded
education," says Egan. "Now when I do a piece from the 1890s, I
know a little bit about the 1890s and can use that knowledge to
help prepare for the role.

"Taking a multitude of classes has helped me in life," Uriarte
explains.

"You can be in the right place at the right time, but if you
haven’t done the training and you haven’t done the work and the
homework, you’re not going to get the job."

And Uriarte practices what she preaches. She studied violin for
10 years and started taking voice lessons at the age of 16.

"The training I got (at UCLA) was invaluable," Uriarte says. She
and Egan have professors John Hall and Gary Gardner to thank for
that. Uriarte feels she got most of her trainingin Hall’s
class.

"John Hall has been an absolute inspiration to me," she says.
"He taught me almost everything that I know about auditioning and
having magnetism on stage."

But while Uriarte feels Hall is responsible for her preparation,
Egan believes it’s because of Gardner that she got where she
is.

"My attention turned to UCLA not only because of the department
there and the opportunities within school, but because it’s
surrounded by Los Angeles and there are so many opportunities
(within the city) that they encourage you to take advantage of,"
Egan says.

"I remember Gary Gardner encouraging us all to go to an audition
for ‘No No Nanette’ at La Mirada Civic Light Opera," Egan
continues. "And I got the role of Nanette. That’s where it
started."

But for Egan, the basics started even earlier than that.

"We had this lecture and they said, ‘you know there are a great
number of classes that are taught by professionals here at UCLA in
the acting department. But look around you at the people you’re
sitting with because these are the people you’ll be working with.
You’re looking at your directors. You’re looking at your
choreographers. You’re looking at your writers.’ And you know,"
Egan says with a smile, "it’s really true."

For Egan, the theater department "was a safe place to
experiment, succeed, fail and meet people." And those people have
continued with Egan into theater careers.

"It’s not that I’ve moved to New York and am surrounded by a
different group of people, it’s the same people I’ve always been
involved with," Egan says.

"It’s really exciting," Egan continues, "because all these
people I did shows with at UCLA, I see around Times Square in
pictures on the fronts of theaters."

Uriarte was one of those people. While Egan was playing Belle,
Uriarte was portraying Eponine in "Les Miserables" across the
street.

"We kept missing each other," Uriarte explains from her dressing
room on Broadway. "Then I got ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and I saw
(Egan) for about two weeks while I was learning the show. We were
like ‘Hi! How ya doing?’ It gave us the chance to catch up a little
bit," she says.

While these two actors are playing the same role partially
because they look so much like the original Belle, Uriarte says
that’s as far as it goes.

"The (Broadway) director told me that he didn’t want me to be a
carbon copy (of Egan) because it would take the life out of my
performance," Uriarte explains.

"(The directors and producers) really stressed that they wanted
it to be individual and that there was no pressure. It was nice
because not all shows are like that."

When most shows recast, the director gets upset when the new
actor doesn’t give a repeat performance, but Uriarte says "they’ve
been really free with me here and it’s been great because that way
I can enjoy creating the character myself."

So, if you’ve seen "Beast" recently in New York, you’re going to
get a different show here in Los Angeles because the two actresses
have done a lot to make the character their own.

Egan is so interested in individuality that she’s already
considering other forms of entertainment in which she can become
involved. Even Uriarte has branched off into television with her
first commercial spot.

While both want to expand their horizons, both say they’ll stick
with theater in some way.

"I definitely plan on coming back and staying put on stage,"
Egan says. "I think it’s an education. If you can do that, you can
do anything," says Egan.

STAGE: "Beauty and the Beast." Running indefinitely at the
Shubert Theater. Performs Tuesday through Saturday at 8 p.m.,
Sunday at 6:30 p.m. with a Saturday matinee at 2:00 p.m. and a
Sunday matinee at 1 p.m. TIX: $25-65. For more info call: (800)
201-1555.

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