As the singing and speaking voice of the animated heroine Belle in Beauty and the Beast, Paige O’Hara added a Disney classic to a career that has spanned Broadway, opera and concert stages, and the recording studio.
“I had been a Disney fanatic from the time I was little,” Paige once said. “As soon as I heard about the project, I called my agent and said, ‘I have to be seen for this.’ I ended up auditioning five times for Belle, but from the very beginning I felt very confident, because I knew this was my part. It was just one of those things you know.” Paige reprised the role of Belle in the sequels Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas and Belle’s Magical World, and the unprecedented success of Beauty and the Beast has earned her multitudes of fans of all ages all around the world.
Born in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Paige made her Broadway debut in the 1983 revival of Showboat. She was also featured in the Houston Grand Opera’s 1989 production, which allowed her to make her international debut when the production was selected to open the Cairo Opera House in Egypt.
Paige co-starred as Ado Annie (the girl who can’t say no) in a national tour of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic Oklahoma! in 1979, directed by William Hammerstein. She went on to perform the title role in the original musical comedy The Mystery of Edwin Drood, both on Broadway and in the national tour, and co-starred in Gershwin’s Of Thee I Sing/Let ‘Em Eat Cake, conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas. In 1995, she starred as Fantine in the award-winning Les Miserables on Broadway, mesmerizing audiences with her heart-wrenching rendition of the song “I Dreamed a Dream.”
With demand for her services growing around the world, Paige toured Japan with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, and in London in 1995 starred as Venus in the BBC’s broadcast of Kurt Weill’s One Touch of Venus. She is a featured vocalist on the recording of Mack and Mabel in Concert, also recorded live in London, and starred as Nellie Forbush in the Australian production of South Pacific in 1996. As a concert soloist, she has appeared at the Hollywood Bowl, the Boston Pops, the Turin Opera House in Turin, Italy, and with orchestras across the United States.
On film, sharp-eyed moviegoers spotted her in a cameo role, playing a television soap opera star in Disney’s 2007 live-action/animated fantasy Enchanted.
She now lives in Las Vegas, where she and her husband appeared in The Great Radio City Music Hall Spectacular with the Radio City Rockettes. She has also appeared in the smash hit Menopause: The Musical.
“I love Belle,” Paige once said. “I love the fact that she is a revolutionary kind of heroine. She’s very smart and odd and is looking for adventure—not a husband. She was a first, in a lot of ways, for a Disney Princess and was ahead of her time in the film and for Disney. I think that’s why, almost 20 years later, people still love her.”