BWW Reviews: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST - The Magic Returns to Philly
Beauty and the Beast played to an excited audience of lots of children and their parents or doting adults at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia. Chances are that everyone in the building had seen the 1991 feature film. The first animated movie ever to be nominated for a best-picture Oscar and, certainly, everyone knew how it was going to turn out in the end. But two decades later, it's still an entertaining journey.
After playing for nearly 18 years on Broadway, there's still something incredibly charming and funny about the Beast (Darick Pead) awkwardly courting Belle (Hilary Maiberger), both playing their roles beautifully. Maiberger's vocals are clear and bright. Pead's "If I Can't Love Her" big solo number starts out spoken for the most part but he finishes on a high note. The always lovely "Beauty and the Beast" is beautifully sung by Mrs. Potts (Kristin Stewart). The arrogant, laughable Gaston (Tim Rogan) and his sidekick, Lefou (Jordan Aragon) are crowd favorites and wonderfully played. Hassan Nazari-Robati and James May round out the cast playing Lumiere & Cogsworth the 'enchanted objects". The robust Madame de la Bouche played by Roxy York is a bit too "over the top" as she takes the role to the extreme and is not easily understood. "Be Our Guest" remains the showstopper and is well represented here too.
Disney's Beauty and the Beast features the animated film's Academy Award®-winning score with music by Alan Menken and lyrics by the late Howard Ashman, with additional songs with music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Tim Rice. The book is written by Linda Woolverton.
The original creators of the Broadway production are together again for this new touring production! The play is directed by Rob Roth and choreographed by Matt West, with Costume Design by Ann Hould-Ward (Tony Award® winner for her work on Disney's Beauty and the Beast), Lighting Design by Natasha Katz, Scenic Design by Stanley A. Meyer, Sound Design by John Petrafesa Jr. and Music Supervision by Michael Kosarin.
The timeless tale of Belle, a young woman in a provincial town, and the Beast, who is really a young prince trapped by a spell placed by an enchantress. If the Beast can learn to love and be loved, the curse will end and he will be transformed to his former self. But time is running out. If the Beast does not learn his lesson soon, he and his household will be doomed for all eternity.
A series of foldaway stairways serve as the staging for the castle, while glitzy and clever you never once think you're inside a castle, which is disappointing. This touring company has to pack and go in a whirlwind of city stops as do most of these non-equity traveling productions, which is likely the reason for the "portable" sets that are commonly used. Still the talent, costumes and choreography are top notch. As always the "transformation of beast- to- prince" is extremely exciting and a crowd pleaser as is the overall production.
Beauty and the Beast played at the Academy of Music November 26- December 1. For more information and tickets to Broadway Philadelphia call 215-893-1955 or online at kimmelcenter.org/bwy.
Photos Courtesy KimMel Center.