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Linda Onorevole is Belle in LabTV’s ‘Disenchanted!: Stay-At-Home Version


On Sunday, October 4, Lab Theater dta (doing theater as) LabTV will air the final showing of Disenchanted: Stay-At-Home Version, a comedy in which Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Hua Mulan, The Little Mermaid, Pocahontas, The Princess Who Kissed the Frog and Belle from Beauty and the Beast come together to vent about how things actually turned out following their presumptive “happily ever after.” Linda Onorevole plays Belle.

“I’m the little theater enigma,” laughs Linda, encapsulating her unlikely foray into the realm of musical theater.

Virtual style.

Onorevole is actually a classically trained soprano. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music Education from Montclair State College and a Masters in Vocal Performance. She’s trained in opera and arias, although her milieu is more concert and recital halls than the community theater stage.

“I’m used to standing in the crook of the piano and barely moving my arms,” she quips. “So moving across the stage, doing dance-type movements and being in costume added a lot of elements that were well outside my prior experience.”

But having so far survived “Twilight Zone that is 2020,” what’s a little acting and dancing?

“Not to take anything away from the talent of professional actors and dancers, don’t get me wrong,” she immediately qualifies.

In addition to COVID, working from home and trying to hold everything together at the Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce, where’s she Director of Operations, Linda’s mom had a terrible car accident on March 2, just two weeks before the shut-down, followed by a month in rehab. Onorevole needed some comic relief in her life. Serendipitously, she saw Lab’s audition notice and was cast as Belle.

“This was the safest way for me to get into theater because I didn’t have the anxiety of having to remember lines and movements and deliver them in front of an audience,” says Linda. “It gave me peace of mind to know that if I did make an error we could go back and do it over.”

But Onorevole is a trained professional and came in ready to rock and roll.

“We did one rehearsal at the theater for blocking and analysis of movement and the second time I went in, it was full costume, full make-up and let’s film.”

The filming session took three hours, but only because Director Annette Trossbach, Musical Director Julian Sundby and cinematographer/film editor Paula Sisk wanted to film her number in several different ways.

“By the end of the three hours, my pipes were a little tired,” Linda adds, marveling at the entire process. While Belle only had the one number, some of her cast mates (Rachael Lord (who plays Snow White), Kimberly Suskind (Cinderella) and Nancy Fueyo (Sleeping Beauty)) had multiple numbers and others were in duets and choruses in addition to their  solos.

But what blows Onorevole’s mind most is the editing job that Sisk undertook to distill 30 or more hours of film down to a tight one-hour show  (“after all,” asks Snow White in the show, “who wants to watch a livestream that goes on longer than that?”).

While Onorevole doesn’t share too many personality traits with the character she portrays, she and Belle do have one thing in common. As evidenced by her impromptu foray into the realm of musical theater, Linda possesses Belle’s adventurous, risk-taking spirit. Belle, you may recall, is a fictional character in Walt Disney Pictures’ 30th animated feature film Beauty and the Beast (1991). Originally voiced by American actress and singer Paige O’Hara, Belle is the non-conforming daughter of an inventor who yearns to abandon her predictable village life in return for adventure. When her father Maurice, is imprisoned by a cold-hearted beast, Belle offers him her own freedom in exchange for her father’s, and eventually learns to love the Beast despite his unsightly outward appearance.

“During the animated version of the film, she sang to tea cups, candelabras and other things that came alive,” Linda amplifies. “But life has not gone well for Belle in the last twenty or so years and she’s now full on-crazy! Everything in her life – every dish, every cup [even her bidet] – speaks to her. Could you imagine? So it was fun to play her because I could be as nutty as Annette wanted. All vanity went out the window. There’s smeared make-up and weird costumes. I don’t normally look quite that insane.”

Having no previous theater experience, Onorevole placed herself totally in Annette Trossbach’s hands.

“I really like Annette’s personality and her energy, so I just trusted [her judgment] and went for it.”

Belle’s song in Disenchanted! Stay-At-Home Version has the same beat and vibe as “Beauty School Dropout” from Grease. It includes some fun and funny lyrics, like the one where she sings, “I’m the girl who picks up my husband’s poop; how much lower can this character stoop?” But Onorevole knocks the number out of the park.

“There’s a little operatic flair to the way I sing the song. But that’s the benefit of being classically trained. You can sing just about anything. [A lot of the song is in] my lower range. As a soprano, I’m usually flying high through the air, and there are a couple of high notes in there. But it’s more of the lower register. It’s a side of my voice people rarely get to hear. I played one of my rehearsal recordings for my mother and she was shocked. She couldn’t believe it was me because it is so different from the way I sound in church, for example, or singing ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ at Miracles games.”

Growing up in Nutley, New Jersey, Linda always wanted to be Snow White or even Cinderella because of the birds helping her get dressed.

“I always thought it would be the coolest job to be one of the voice-over actors for the Disney animated film,” adds Linda, who has done some voice-over work, just not for Disney.

“I’ve actually never been to Disney,” she divulges, amazed at her own revelation. “My dad lived in Lakeland for 20 year and was always in the area but never went. But if I have an opportunity I’ll go now. I want to see what all the hubbub is about.”

Seems fitting. After all, that’s the first place you go after winning the Super Bowl, so why not after concluding a successful run in your first virtual musical comedy? It might be a real lark for all eight Disenchanted! princesses to make that trip together in full costume. Now that would be quite the sight.

“I didn’t really get to meet the other princesses in person,” Linda observes. Her only real contact with them was via two Zoom conversations and a wave to one or another as she was arriving or departing the sound studio and the theater.

“I give the Lab Theater a lot of credit for being so creative and putting the show together they way that they did. But working with [Music Director] Julian Sundby, Annette and Gil Perez did provide a personal connection, which was very helpful toward developing the character and enable me to be be brave enough to let everything fly the way it needed to be done. Yes, it was a different way of doing things. But I kind of liked the challenge of that. It was fun to do something that’s so ground-breaking and Paula [Sisk] is amazing being able to pull it all together the way that she did.”

And that’s one reason why you should make plans on October 4 to catch the performance if you haven’t already seen the show.

Digital passes are available by calling the box office at 239.218.0481 or visiting Lab Theater’s website.

“If you want experience something completely different, this is ground breaking,” touts Linda. “This specific version was made for [viewing] at home and we’re one of the first companies that’s presenting it. So this is at the forefront of new theater right now. We all want to be in person again and we understand that we’ll get there, but for now if you want a great musical theater experience where you’ll definitely laugh – although it’s not for little kids – you’re really going to enjoy it. For just $25, you get to escape from COVID for an hour and see how your Disney princesses have turned after 25 years. Some of us are a hair older. Belle is 49. But it’s a great way to see how things have progressed for our princesses. You’re going to be surprised.”

What won’t surprise us is seeing Linda Onorevole in more theatrical productions going forward.

“I’ve definitely been bitten by the bug.”

And Linda does possess a strong background in the arts. In addition to her musical training, she has spent more than two decades as an arts administrator. Her resume includes stints as Managing Director of Gulf Coast Symphony, Director of the South Orange [NJ] Performing Arts Center (2010-2014), Executive Director of Wharton Arts Institute (2006-2009), Director of Marketing & Publicity of Jersey City Museum (2002-2006) and Assistant Executive Director of the New Jersey Chamber Music Society (1997-2001).

September 29, 2020.


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