Two South Carolinians are making their international Broadway debuts in roles for Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast.”
Cameron Mitchell Bell of North Augusta and Harrison Leahy of Bluffton just finished shows in Cairo and Istanbul earlier this month and will take the stage Wednesday in Beirut.
Bell, 30, is a Governor’s School for the Arts & Humanities and University of South Carolina School of Music alum. He plays a townsperson in the ensemble and understudy for Cogsworth the clock and Belle’s father Maurice.
Leahy, 9, plays the teacup Chip.
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“This is my first time really traveling,” said Bell, who recently finished a national tour of Broadway’s “Annie.” “I just saw the whole country. Now I get to see the whole world.”
Bell said he is especially excited about going to Italy, because he studied classical music at USC.
Leahy, who alternates traveling with his mom or dad as a chaperone, said his favorite stop so far has been Taipei, Taiwan, where he ate sushi off of a conveyor belt.
His first acting role came a year ago on Hilton Head Island in the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina’s production of “Gypsy.”
“At first I just wanted to sing and not be onstage. But once I got to that first show, it was wonderful,” he said.
After his Hilton Head debut, Leahy went to New York for an acting intensive and heard about the “Beauty and the Beast” international tour audition.
A few weeks later, he was on his way to China with the cast.
Leahy splits the role of Chip with another child actor doing every other show.
When reached for an interview, Leahy was finishing a homeschooling lesson and packing for Egypt.
Audiences abroad can vary widely, Bell said. In some countries, it is considered rude to clap during a performance. In others, a second bow has to be coordinated because the audience won’t stop clapping.
But all of them are familiar with the story of “Beauty and the Beast,” he said. “Disney is almost a universal language.”
For Leahy, the “Beauty and the Beast” role has opened up a commitment to acting.
“This is his passion,” his mom, Stacey, said. “We’re here to support him.”
Leahy now has a posterboard of all the shows he wants to do in the future, including “Matilda” “Elf: The Musical” and “Finding Neverland.”
“As long as it’s fun for him, we’re behind him 100 percent,” added Harrison’s dad, David Leahy. “As soon as it’s not, it’s back to being a normal kid.”
For Bell, the “Beauty and the Beast” role is validation after deciding to exclusively audition for Broadway shows. It’s also a testament to the arts training he received in South Carolina.
“I think it’s important to know that even though South Carolina may not be a mecca for the arts, they are putting out people that are going on to be successful,” Bell said. “I’m a proud South Carolinian and want to share what the arts of South Carolina have done for my career.”
- Read about Bell’s S.C. Governor’s School classmate and “Mad Men” actress Teyonah Parris.