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Beauty and the Beast

Walt Disney World is open but a lot of things have changed. Everybody is wearing a face covering, crowds are being limited, and a lot of attractions and events aren't available. One of the things missing from an average day at the resort are the stage shows like Beauty and the Beast — Live on Stage or the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular at Disney's Hollywood Studios. One might think the shows have been put on hold for the same reason parades and fireworks shows have been stopped, for safety reasons, and while safety is a factor, it's actually a union dispute that is keeping these shows away.

Stage shows while generally easier to put on than rides, are actually a bit tougher in the age of COVID-19. Seating would need to be managed to allow for social distancing and you have the performers themselves to take into account. One might think that stage shows were being left closed because the safety was simply too difficult to manage, the same way that events that draw crowds, like fireworks, have been put on hold, but that's not the case, at least not directly.

There are multiple unions that represent the variety of different positions that employees within Walt Disney World hold and the resort was able to come to terms with most of them before reopening, but Actors’ Equity Association has been a major hold out. The union has filed a grievance against Disney World over the safety procedures the park has put in place. The union is asking for regular COVID-19 testing for its members and it wants members to be able to wear masks while performing, but Disney has rejected those demands.

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Recently, this has led to Beauty and the Beast — Live on Stage being removed from the location it has performed in since 1991, and replaced with The Disney Society Orchestra and Friends, a musical show in which a six-piece band plays familiar Disney hits, including a medley from Beauty and the Beast, it's all part of an ongoing dispute between Walt Disney World and Actors’ Equity Association, the union that represents several hundred Walt Disney World performers.

The issue is still being negotiated between the two sides and the Orlando Sentinel says an arbitrator could be called in if no agreement can be reached. The Actors Equity Association represents performers who work in several shows in the parks, including Finding Nemo - The Musical, and Voyage of the Little Mermaid.

In the meantime, while some performers are not returning back to work, others that would not otherwise be working right now have a chance to do so. The band performing the shows as The Disney Society Orchestra and Friends is actually the Grand Floridian Society Orchestra, which regularly performs in the lobby of the Grand Floridian hotel. That hotel has not yet reopened and isn't expected to until next month, so the musicians are getting a chance to go out and play rather than sit at home and wait.

One assumes that the long-running Beauty & the Beast show will return to its home as soon as the union agrees to return to work, along with the other shows that have either been put on hold or modified to remove union members.

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