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PUT YOUR FINGERS TO THE TEST

A Disney Internet site is fun, but maddening. One way to find "Beauty and the Beast" is to call up disney.com, click on "Disney A-Z," then on "Behind the Scenes" (other options included "Disney History" and "Disney Shopping") and, finally, on "Behind 'Beauty and the Beast.' " There must be hundreds of other ways to get there.

The "Beauty and the Beast" site, in turn, presents about a dozen paths, and each of those dozen paths branches out into a dozen more paths, and so on. One click brought a voice intoning, "Once upon a time . . . " as co-workers looked up in alarm.

The tale unfolds in the pages of one of those yellowed books that Disney loves so well. In the margin, a tiny red rose identifies the opportunity for an activity. Kids can create a play from a fairy tale, and adults are encouraged to write a journal about their "Beauty and the Beast" experience. ("Dear Diary: Hardly had I walked into Shea's when I realized my date was a beast . . . ")

Along the way, there are dozens of options. Catch up on where "Beauty and the Beast" is playing around the world. (In Stuttgart, Germany, it's called "Die Schoene und das Biest.") Or compare the moral of "Beauty and the Beast" (i.e., it's what's inside that counts) to other stories, from "Charlotte's Web" to "Great Expectations."

Finally, we found what we were looking for: those fascinating details on how the show is put together. Our findings follow.

Hairy facts: Over 140 wigs are worn on stage each night. Four characters' wigs are made of yak hair. Disney says 248 pieces of hair are used on stage each night -- including wigs, mustaches, and bangs. The 30-inch-length human hair for Belle's wig was imported from India.

Bright ideas: Over 1,120 lamps and 600 feet of neon illuminate the song "Be Our Guest." The show uses 339 strobe lights. Three miles of lighting cables will be running through Shea's.

That magic moment: "The Enchantress' fireball is the first known throwable hand-held device of its kind," we read. "She can hold the ball of fire in her hand until it burns out without any physical damage. Lumiere's hands are made of flameproof plastic surrounding a flame device that uses one ounce of liquid butane per hand per show." In the last five years, the show has blown through over a ton of solid explosives. Isn't America wonderful?

Like watching the Bills in a bar: The "Gaston" number has used 750 beer mugs.

-- Mary Kunz

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