Justine “Icy” Moral is not quite the same as Belle, the bookish heroine of “Beauty and the Beast.” While Moral is as striking, intelligent and spunky, she hails from Maryland instead of France. The American born Filipina plays Belle at Wheelock Family Theatre’s production of “Beauty and the Beast” from Feb. 2 to March 4.
“Kids in family theater want to see someone on stage who looks like them,” Moral said. “These kids come up to me and say, ‘Wow, I can do this in the future. I can be this role.’ They can grow up to be who they want to be and not be pigeonholed.”
The production is based on the Disney animated film, following Belle on her journey to free her father (Robert Saoud) from the Beast (Jared Troilo), a cursed prince.
“Hope is such a big theme in this show,” Moral said. “I hope it inspires people to be more compassionate and loving toward each other.”
Moral loves singing. She grew up listening to her father play guitar and her grandmother put on Broadway soundtracks.
“When I was six or seven, I would try to steal the mic from my mom during karaoke at home,” Moral said. “I couldn’t say the words, but I would be on tune.”
Her mother enrolled her in voice and dance lessons, taking her to auditions. Moral’s vocal chops landed her a pop album “Dream Away” at age 14 in the Philippines, before she returned stateside for high school and college. She has a bachelor’s degree in classical voice from the Johns Hopkins University Peabody Conservatory.
“Growing up, my parents supported me so much,” Moral said.
Her nickname “Icy” comes from her family, as Moral was born during a blizzard. Moral’s grandmother slipped on ice while helping her mom get to the hospital, and the nickname stuck.
“When I went to the Philippines to record my pop album, the label wanted a name easier to pronounce than ‘Justine,’ so they asked for my nicknames,” Moral said. “They thought it was memorable and cute to use ‘Icy Moral.’”
With the success of diverse casting in productions such as “Hamilton,” Moral sees more opportunities for all ethnicities. She was heartened to see her Japanese American friend Diana Huey cast as Ariel for the national tour of “The Little Mermaid” in 2017.
“This is America; it’s so diverse,” Moral said. “It’s important to have representation on stage.”
“Beauty and the Beast” will play at the Wheelock Family Theatre until March 4. For tickets, visit www.wheelockfamilytheatre.org.
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