BWW Reviews: Enchanted Objects Come Alive in BEAUTY AND THE BEAST at Wolf Trap
In 1994, the newly formed Disney Theatrical Group opened Disney's Beauty and The Beast on Broadway at the Palace Theater and became the eighth longest running Broadway show, when it ultimately closed in 2007. Since its inception, this "tale as old as time" has played everywhere from elementary schools to international opera houses. Now at Wolf Trap, the NETworks Presentations, LLC touring company is playing through Sunday on their final leg of their national tour before taking the summer off.
This production, led by the exquisite, golden-voiced titular character, Hilary Maiberger, brings a youthful charm and naivety to Belle. Maiberger's voice has a beautiful color and timbre and when she sings the audience becomes enchanted. The other half of this odd pairing is the Beast, played by Darick Pead. Pead's greatest moment is the final moment of Act One, the power ballad, "If I Can't Love Her". The final moment as the Beast questions his life, Pead's rich voice just effortlessly fills the open air arena.
Besides the star crossed lovers, the youthful cast is full of many supporting characters who bring new life to these inanimate objects, particular Roxy York, as the opera-diva turned wardrobe and Stephanie Moskal as the French maid feather duster. York is a big voiced comedienne that has great stage presence, and Moskal is able to play a G-rated temptress without crossing a line in a family show. Kristin Stewart as Mrs. Potts, who sings the Oscar-winning title song, has a beautiful voice, but to no fault of Stewart, is too young and slight to play the den mother of the group.
As the villainous Gaston, the standout of the show is Tim Rogan. Rogan (a local Catholic University graduate) is the complete package. Tall and strapping man with an amazing baritone voice, Rogan plays Gaston with such gusto and conviction, that his villain is not, ironically, cartoonish, which is an all too familiar trope. While the famous Maurice Chevalier inspired song "Be Our Guest" is the usual show stopper, in this production, Gaston's self-titled number with clinking beer steins is the highlight of the show and a lot of that has to do with Rogan.
While the cast is full of spunk and vigor, the show does fall flat in its technical aspects. The original set design which added magic to the Broadway production, is just flat and dull here, and shows sign of wear from the constant setting up and taking down from city to city. Ann Hould-Ward, who won a Tony for her costume design, has created beautiful costumes that unfortunately for many of the cast, just are too ill-fitting. The biggest drawback of playing in an open air theater in the summer time when the sun doesn't set until intermission, is that the "magic" of theater is a bit revealed when abrupt blackouts that end a tense scene is ruined by watching the actors walk off stage and the set crew come in to change the scene. This magic, however, was rectified in the second act as the sun went down.
This production of Beauty and The Beast is most definitely a success. As I looked around in the audience, a few seats away from me was a little girl dressed in a yellow Belle dress who was mesmerized by the production and stayed awake long past her bedtime to be enchanted by this show. And that is why theater happens. And this little girl in the yellow dress will remember this night for a long time and maybe some day we will see her playing Belle on stage at Wolf Trap.
Beauty and The Beast plays through Sunday, June 8 at the Filene Center at the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts.
Photo credits: Joan Marcus