Paige O'Hara's voice has changed since she provided the voice of Belle in "Beauty and the Beast." So has her life.
When you are part of something so big, it's hard to be known for anything else. O'Hara was reminded of it last week when she did a fresh round of interviews to promote the 3-D rerelease of the classic.
Five years after the 1991 hit, O'Hara came to Las Vegas for a year's contract headlining "The Great Radio City Spectacular" at the Flamingo Hilton. She and her husband, Michael Piontek, liked it here and stayed. For the past seven years, she has anchored the role of Soap Star in "Menopause The Musical."
If you're having trouble finding common ground between wide-eyed Belle and that campy, slightly raunchy celebration of "the change," allow me to help. Both of them keep O'Hara anonymously famous. Or famously anonymous. Take your pick.
Of course we don't see O'Hara's real face in "Beauty." The title hit was sung by Angela Lansbury in the movie and by somebody named Celine Dion on the radio. In "Menopause," O'Hara was billed for a few months, but the show usually trades star billing for flexibility in scheduling.
Some fans know O'Hara is in it and bring Belle things to sign. Other people get excited when they read about her in the program. "And then there are people who don't even read the program and have no idea who I am."
This famed anonymity allows her to bow out of the show for long stretches, as she did last year to workshop a Judy Garland stage bio.
While "Menopause" keeps her busy, it's still the Walt Disney Co. that O'Hara calls "my main employer for 20 years, my main income," thanks to residuals from the movie and games and sequels. "It's been a great gift."
The gift receded when Disney finally retired her speaking voice in favor of a Belle voice-alike six months ago. "They did a one-fell swoop of all the older princesses and decided to replace all of us," she says. "I was very upset," to the point of re-recording some lines to prove she could still cut it.
But she had to admit, "I did have to work really hard and vocalize soprano for hours on end to get it up there."
She still paints Belle for Disney Fine Art. But a certain Las Vegas show also reminds her change is inevitable, and she recently went to New York to audition for -- insert full-circle Lansbury irony here -- "Mame," as well as a different Garland musical, the London import "End of the Rainbow."
Neither panned out, but O'Hara remains optimistic about a new career phase in blossom. She may not always be Soap Star, but she'll always be Belle.
Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0288.