It’s official—I’ve been smitten. Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is simply the one of the most enchanting love stories of all time, and this touring production rocked my world.
Whether you’re a fan of the animated version or not, there’s enough in the show to assure a fun time for all. With incredible music by Broadway legend Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Ashman and the amazing Tim Rice, what’s not to love? Direction by Rob Roth surpassed my wildest dreams and the stellar cast put me over the top.
Emily Behny as Belle is a vibrantly trebled soprano and all of her numbers have a perfectly pitched ring. With great theatrical range, she is able to relay heart-felt affection and concern for her Father and respectful annoyance for her bag-of-wind suitor, Gaston. Such theatrical sensibility is essential for her to portray the emotional transitions that she undergoes in her budding relationship with the Beast.
Before we get to him, though, Matt Farcher as Gaston is a gorgeous hunk of a guy with a powerful voice and biceps to die for. Although the make up designer is not credited, their handiwork is seen in the character’s dim-witted expressions.
Gaston is accompanied by his goofy side-kick LeFou, a master of funny takes, multiple pratt-falls, and the literal butt of way too many of Gaston’s abundant smacks. Julia Louise Hosack plays Mrs. Potts channeling Angela Lansbury’s soothing vocals, James May is the dependable Cogsworth, and Michael Haller sparkles as the French luminescent Lumiere whose hands really do light up!
Now back to the Beast. Dane Agostinis brings an endearing sense of humanity to this role, and although at first he seemed to lack the stature needed, his voice reminiscent of Mandy Patinkin, and gentle mannerisms more than made up for any shortcomings.
The basic story is the classic tale of finding true love where you least expect it. If the Beast, who is really a Prince, can learn to love and be loved, all will be well. If not, then he and his household will be doomed to live in their cursed states for eternity.
Of all things, puppetry added to the show’s charm. From the very beginning when the handsome prince denies the gnarled up old woman a simple request, she turns into a lovely long-limbed enchantress nearly two-stories tall! The ferocious wolves snarling for a quick human appetizer? Again, puppets. All designed by none other than Basil Twist! Remember him? Enlightened souls caught his work splashed all over town earlier this year. The rest of us will have to live with our regrets and catch a glimpse of why he’s so acclaimed as seen by his work in this show.
Choreography by Matt West was sublime with standout renditions for Gaston’s self-indulgent number. Of course, there’s the ultimate showstopper—”Be Our Guest” – which was stunning. I wondered how the production could match the magic of the hyperbolically beloved animated movie since real life dimensions and the whole gravity thing can get in the way of the best conceived ideas for items moving in space. But believe me—the scene surpasses the animation, mainly because the actors are able to relay how much they missed having company with a loss that was nearly palpable. What was just a fun musical number on the screen comes across as a last-ditch desperate attempt to relive good old days when they were human.
Needless to say, the choreography and costumes by Ann Hould-Ward shows Broadway at its finest, while the orchestration zipped along in perfect time. Roth’s direction brings the entire show to life while touching the heart.
With dire headlines running rampant 24/7, it’s just so pleasant to curl up and enjoy a good old-fashioned journey between two misfits who learn to appreciate each other from the inside out, and find true love just in time before the final sparkling red rose petal falls.
Disney’s Beauty and the Beast runs thru June 24, 2012 at The National Theatre, 1321 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC.
Disney’s Beauty and the Beast
Book by Linda Woolverton
Lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice
Music by Alan Menken
Originally Produced by Disney Theater, Current NETworks Presentations, LLC
Presented by the National Theatre
Reviewed by Debbie MinterJackson
Running Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes hours with 1 intermission
- Mariya Danilenko . DCMetroTheaterArts
- Patrick Pho . WeLoveDC
Jennifer Perry . MDTheatreGuide
- Roman Gusso . ShowBizRadio