BWW Reviews: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST a Magical Time For All
Be their guest. Be their guest. Put their production to the test. Take a program in your hand, cherie, and they provide the rest. Lots of dance. Lots of song. Why they only live to serve. Try the staging. It's delicious. Don't believe me? Ask the hundreds of children and adults who eagerly attended Broadway Sacramento's opening of Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" Wednesday night.
A refreshing change from the original Broadway production, Network's tour remains true to the heart of the originals while delighting audiences with incredible passion and amazing talent on display. Rob Roth's direction gives "Beauty and the Beast" incredible comedic energy perfected in the slap-stick humor between the proud, muscled Gaston (played by Joe Hager, whose strong-voiced Gaston is definitely worth swooning over) and gullible sidekick Lefou (a flexible Jimmy Larkin, having no trouble tumbling about the stage).
Gaston wishes to marry the most beautiful girl in town, because, naturally, he deserves the best. But Belle, who enjoys reading books and helping her father build his inventions, refuses, instead dreaming of a life of adventure away from her provincial town. When she trades her freedom to save her father from a beast's imprisonment, Belle's solid will and spirit melts the Beast's heart. They begin to grow closer - and grow closer to breaking the spell that turned a prince into a beast, enchanting all his servants with him.
Given the thousands of people that auditioned for the beloved musical, not to mention the quality its Disney brand demands, this cast's exceptional talent comes at no surprise. Hilary Maiberger as Belle unveils a beautiful voice, enchanting as the residents of the Beast's castle. Darick Pead displays a brilliantly mature voice, relating to viewers as he transitions from the temper-tantrum-prone prince to the conflicted Beast, tortured by his appearance and inability to act like a true gentleman. Erin Edelle (Mrs. Potts) gives a memorable performance of the title song made famous by Angela Lansbury. Hasan Nazari-Robati makes the perfect Frenchman as Lumiere the womanizing candleholder. And James May plays word battles with Lumiere as the uptight Cogsworth the clock.
The production also comes with a pared-down script and new design. Simplified sets and script both help and hurt the production. Costumes include puppet wolves and wonderful gargoyle dancers that move set pieces about. The rest of the cast gets a colorful, pastel palette. Plus, many of the show's gorgeous backdrops (with hidden Mickey's; be on the look out) have a similar impressionistic painting look. Enchanted characters start out more free-moving and human, with dialogue implying they slowly turn more and more into things. Their minimal attire mirrors this concept, leaving some things to imagination, but looking lovely on stage. Belle's bright village comes straight from a pop-up storybook with its stencil shapes. Large drapes and Pull-on pieces mimicking old vines with candle lights peeking through make up the castle interior, going for a less successful take on what is perhaps a "Phantom of the Opera" air.
The production replaces Belle and Maurice's "No Matter What" duet with a sweet moment reflecting on how love changes a person, a truly romantic notion that many dreaming young women will relate to. The changed script also connects to an inspiring second act solo added for Belle, "A Change in Me." "Maisons de Lunes" gets the cut for a humorous scene between Gaston and the head of the local insane asylum, written to fit the show's cartoon nature. And the hilarious fight between the villagers and the enchanted objects of the castle is, unfortunately, dispensed with. This cut results in a rushed, anti-climatic fight between the Beast and Gaston, majorly limited by the scenic design.
Even with all the cuts, the musical still lasts two and a half hours. For the most part, abridging the script proves advantageous to the story telling. Musically, the first act goes by much too fast, never allowing audiences to truly savor the more serious moments of the score. Still, the pace improves considerably in the second act, and it never hinders the cast's comedic timing. It's a "tale as old as time" told with marvelous gusto, thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish and worth seeing over and over again, especially with this cast.
Disney's BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
Through March 17