Actress Hilary Maiberger is dating her Beauty And The Beast co-star

Hilary Maiberger, who plays Belle in the Beauty And The Beast musical, is dating her co-star in real life

With her long brown hair and big, sparkling eyes, actress Hilary Maiberger is the spitting image of Belle, her character in the musical Beauty And The Beast, now on at Marina Bay Sands.

"Many people have told me I look and sound like her," the 29-year-old says with a laugh.

Her co-actor Darick Pead, 30, the Beast in the musical, is also her leading man in real life.

Maiberger says: "Darick's very kind and giving on and off stage. Our chemistry and the ability to be vulnerable with each other enhances our performances - we're very lucky for that."

The American duo have played Beauty and the Beast in the internationally touring musical for three years and became a couple some time during their 700 shows together.

Beauty And The Beast is the traditional fairy tale about a prince who has been turned into an animal and will regain his human form only if he can find true love despite his ugliness. The story has spawned countless adaptations, with the most well-known of them probably the animated film by Disney in 1991.

Maiberger, who has two sisters working in the family's paper supply business with their 63-year-old father, has a music degree from San Diego State University and a master's in vocal performance from the Bowling Green State University in Ohio. She had wanted to be a voice teacher, but got interested in musical theatre after playing Mrs Cratchit in musical A Christmas Carol while studying in university.

"The opportunity to tell a story through music was fun. It's amazing to transport yourself and the audience into a different world and I've never turned back."

1 Do you get tired of playing Belle?

Every performance is unique as the audience is always different. I love the character Belle as everyone has felt alone and unsure of himself before, just like she did.

2 What is something you've learnt from fellow actors?

Even though we've said the lines a million times, we can't be robotic about it. In live theatre, we have to be present and listening to your fellow actors is vital.

3 What is the most challenging role you have played so far?

It is probably Eliza Doolittle in the My Fair Lady musical in San Diego last year. It was difficult doing the Cockney accent and managing her transition from loud girl to sophisticated lady. Also, it was tiring as she was on stage a lot.

My mother was all about manners when I grew up and Eliza in Act 1 was anything but polite.

However, I love how real she was and it was satisfying to tell the story of a woman who believed in herself.

4 When was your first time on stage?

As a 10-year-old, I was the flying monkey in a Wizard Of Oz musical in my hometown in Redlands. I wasn't nervous and had a lot of fun.

5 What other characters would you like to play?

Christine Daae from The Phantom Of The Opera because there's something so magical about that story, and Sibella in A Gentleman's Guide To Love And Murder, which is a comedy. I love making people laugh.

6 What are some embarrassing or funny moments you've had on stage?

There's a part in Beauty And The Beast where I jump over a fellow actor who's under a carpet. In the Istanbul performance, I tripped over him and took a tumble. I got up and continued acting as the show must go on. But I cried later because it was so embarrassing.

Some of the funniest moments are when kids shout, "Hi, Belle!", at the start of the performance when I'm there with my book.

7 Who are your role models?

One would be American theatre actress and singer Sierra Boggess. She always says, "You're incredible enough, don't ever doubt that" - kind of like how my dad tells me to stay true to myself as I can't please everyone.

8 How would you like to be remembered?

As a kind person and as a performer who is real in her performance and who always keeps the audience in mind.

sarahgyx@sph.com.sg