Emily Jewell recently joined the tour of “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast,” currently playing at Seattle’s Paramount Theatre. She spends most of her evening dressed in an oversized teapot as everyone’s favorite enchanted housekeeper Mrs. Potts.
After a childhood of singing in choirs and appearing in plays, Jewell earned her BFA in Musical Theatre at Viterbo University in LaCrosse, WI. Since then she’s lived and worked in Chicago, co-founded Elements Theatre Collective in California, and, more recently, toured with ArtsPower’s “My Heart in a Suitcase.”
In September, she joined the cast of Disney’s “tale as old as time” and arrived in Seattle earlier this week. Based on the Academy Award®-winning animated feature film, the musical has been performed before more than 35 million people worldwide. Jewell is happy to answer questions about playing one of the world’s most famous talking and singing teapots.
You’ve played a few of my favorite characters, Aphra in “Or” and Kate Monster in “Avenue Q”. What’s the appeal of strong and even slightly quirky characters like these — and Mrs. Potts — for you?
Strong, quirky characters make my job so fun and rewarding! What I love about Mrs Potts is her hope in a situation that could seem hopeless. From the beginning she sees the kind of man the Beast could be, all of his potential, past his rough exterior and into his heart.
Obviously, you’re a lot younger than Angela Lansbury when she voiced the original Mrs. Potts. Do you try to do her inflections or style, or do you take the teapot in another direction?
I love bringing life and voice to Mrs. Potts and what a wonderful inspiration Angela Lansbury is! I do use a British dialect and share a lot of her warmth, but no two actors are the same and I’m sure the audience will see many similarities and differences in my performance.
Does the costume make the woman … or the teapot? What’s the hardest part of being an animated piece of crockery?
The day I put on that teapot for the first time felt like completing a puzzle. Each rehearsed line, music note, set piece, light cue, prop, and costume piece needed to be there to complete this character and beautiful story. I feel so honored to be playing her and am thrilled to share this bubbly teapot with audiences across the country.
Like most Disney musicals, you’re playing to the audience who probably knows the story as well, or better, than you do. Like Hamlet’s “to be or not to be” speech, do you ever hear a bit of anticipation of a line?
Surprisingly, no. Like many of our audience members, I grew up with this movie and these characters. I have my favorite lines and moments, performing “Be Our Guest” and sweet little scenes with Chip for example. But what I love about this show is the way it pulls the audience into the story and invites them to use their imaginations and travel this journey with us every night from the first note to the last.
And, since you’re in to Seattle, we have to ask about your beverage of choice: coffee or tea?
Both! Coffee in the morning, tea in the evening.
“Disney’s Beauty and the Beast” opened Oct. 21 and continues through Oct. 26 in downtown Seattle. For more information, check the Seattle Theatre Group’s website.