Most little girls who grew up in the 90’s had one goal in mind: to become a Disney princess. Justine “Icy” Moral, who was born and raised in the Washington metro area, was one of those girls. What sets her apart is she is one of the few who achieved it, several times, playing Belle in Beauty and the Beast. This time around she is at The Wheelock Family Theatre in Boston.
“It was one of the first shows I saw when I was little at The Kennedy Center, and I grew up watching the Disney movie version really close to the television. So much so that my mother had to physically pull me back from the screen,” Moral explained.
A unique attribute about her, though, is that she is Filipino American. While Broadway’s Lea Salonga, one of Moral’s theatrical idols, was the first – and only – Filipina Disney princess, she was merely the voices of Jasmine (ambiguous Middle Eastern descent) and Mulan (Chinese). However, Moral perceives that with changing times, this is becoming less of an issue while she also sees a difference in what she is called in to audition for.
“It’s nice to see more opportunities because of Hamilton, but there are more opportunities to be seen. People are aware right now,” Moral said.
She also cited fellow actors Cheryl Daro, Diana Huey, and Eddy Lee, who all landed “non-traditional” roles for Asian American actors in an all-Asian cast of Proof, as Ariel in Disney’s The Little Mermaid, and in Hamilton, respectively. To Moral, this is all part of the increase in theatrical self-awareness.
“We are very lucky at Wheelock in that they’ve always done non-traditional casting,” Moral said. “You look around and see all these colors on stage and it’s beautiful!”
There is a swell in both the traditional theatre and in Hollywood communities behind the #RepresentationMatters movement, and Moral as Belle – who is typically a Caucasian French woman – is also an important step in the right direction.
“It’s so nice to see these Asian American little girls dress up as Belle. It’s inspiring,” Moral said.
While this run of Beauty and the Beast ends on March 4, this won’t keep Moral from continuing to strive for those non-Asian roles in auditions. She hopes the same for any other fellow actor who thinks they will only be cast in those “traditional” shows like The King and I and Miss Saigon.
“Don’t limit yourself and go for it! There’s always going to be opportunities to showcase who you are. Just don’t be afraid to chase after what you would like to achieve,” Moral said.
Tickets are still available, but with only three performances left they are bound to go quickly. If you’re in Boston or in the area, make sure you and your family experience this unique feature on an iconic role. (Photos by Glenn Cook)