BWW Reviews: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST Enchants Durham
The much-loved story of Beauty and the Beast has made its way to Durham this week. The national touring company has taken up residence at the Durham Performing Arts Center. Get out your ball gowns and dust off your princess crowns, and settle in for a memorable evening of theater.
The musical is a stage adaptation of the 1991 animated film, which was highly successful, and was the first animated feature ever nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. The show tells the same story of Belle, an intelligent girl who doesn't quite fit in around town, and the beast who keeps her captive in his castle. The beast and all of the other people in the castle are victims of a spell which changed a prince into a beast and the help into teapots, candelabras, clocks, and more. In order to break the spell, the beast must learn to love and be loved in return. This production is the creative team's re-working of the original Broadway vision. It includes set pieces moved around the stage by townsfolk and gargoyles, tapestry backdrops, and plenty of charm.
Despite a lot of location and set changes, the show moves very smoothly thanks to a talented and committed cast, from the leads to the ensemble. Hilary Maiberger is charming and sweet as Belle, with a voice that will not disappoint even those who have every word of the animated film memorized. Darick Pead, as the Beast, plays up the comic moments of the show, which is sure to delight many. Also, Tim Rogan hits the nail on the head as the chauvinistic Gaston - you'll end up feeling conflicted because his performance is great, and his character is so disgusting. The actors playing the enchanted objects bring vivacity to the castle - Hassan Nazari-Robati's Lumiere is irresistible. Mrs. Potts, played by Kristin Stewart pulls out all the stops in the iconic title song. The cast, which features a rather large ensemble, works well together to bring such an epic story to life.
The choreography by Matt West is fun, lively, and contributes to quality storytelling. The hallmark of the choreography is the number "Gaston," in which the townspeople use the metal beer steins they are holding as percussion, clinking them with one another's mugs. It is complicated, precise, and well-executed by the large ensemble.
Additionally, the illusions in the show are remarkable. It truly looks as if Chip is just a teacup on a saucer and that the beast is suspended in midair. It's enough Disney magic to make even the grown-ups believe. The illusions are the cherry on top of this musical sundae, as they take it from a great show to a magical one.
Beauty and the Beast runs through October 13. While parents will likely not find the content objectionable for young viewers, when planning to bring children to the show, keep in mind that it is a full-length musical with two acts, and that there are some moments when the beast and the castle are quite scary. For tickets and more information, visit www.dpacnc.com.