Broadway’s Beauty and the Beast stage director Rob Roth has resigned from the Disney show’s upcoming U.K. and Ireland tour after the text of an email he either sent or intended to send praising Scott Rudin and belittling actress Karen Olivo was leaked on social media by an airline passenger seated next to Roth on a recent commercial flight.
In a statement Roth made to the U.K. theater publication The Stage yesterday, the director said, “Upon consideration of recent events, it is clear that I am not in a position to lead this production at this time. I see now that the sentiments included in a private email that went public were thoughtless and insensitive, and I am profoundly sorry that my comments have caused unintended pain. I deeply regret making light of bullying, which I know to be a horrible experience. For the good of the show and this wonderful company of artists, I have made the difficult decision to step aside as director.”
Disney quickly announced that Roth would be replaced with director and choreographer Matt West: “Following Rob Roth’s decision to step aside as director, Disney Theatrical Productions is pleased to announce that Matt West, original choreographer and longtime member of the Disney Theatrical family, will direct and choreograph the brand-new production of Beauty and the Beast which launches its UK and Ireland tour in Bristol this August.”
Roth had been expected to revamp the popular musical for the upcoming tour until the contents of his April 16 email were read, transcribed and shared by the unknown seatmate. Roth later confirmed that the email was authentic.
In the email, Roth congratulated Rudin, whose reported bullying and workplace harassment was the subject of a recent Hollywood Reporter article and prompted Moulin Rouge! star Karen Olivo to quit her show in protest over what she said was the industry’s silence on the subject. Roth’s email suggested that Rudin be awarded an “honorary Tony Award for somehow getting that horrible woman to quit acting…God bless you Scott for your service to American theatre.”
The Beauty and the Beast tour is set to launch this August at the Bristol Hippodrome Theatre in Bristol, England.
Beauty and the Beast opened on Broadway in 1994, earning Roth a Tony Award nomination. The production closed in 2007. Disney was considering a revival in 2019 but official plans have not been announced. Roth also directed London’s West End production of the musical, as well as the Broadway production of Lestat, based on the Anne Rice Vampire Chronicles with a score by Elton John and Bernie Taupin.