The live adaptation will never be identical to the film but it does need to be just as magical, and in that respect, this rendition missed the mark.
Although Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is a “tale as old as time,” the tale itself isn’t always told in exactly the same way. I’ve now seen this story on stage three times—twice at The Fabulous Fox and once at The Muny—yet I can say I’ve never seen the same production twice. Sure, the script and plot don’t change, but naturally, the character portrayals do…for better or worse.
An international sensation, the live performance of Beauty and the Beast has been seen by 35 million people and is the eighth-longest running Broadway musical. If you’re walking into this show with hearts in your eyes for the Disney movie, you’ll enjoy hearing the classic songs you’ve been singing along to for years, but you’ll also hear several new numbers by Alan Menken (who composed the Oscar-winning movie score) and lyricist Tim Rice. They don’t compete with the movie’s signature tracks, but they add a bit more depth of characterization, and they give the show’s namesake characters an added opportunity to show off their vocal range, power-ballad style.
Visually, this production is lovely, and the vocals are spot on. However, there is a glaring fault with this rendition: the extent to which they cater interactions and costuming (in a couple instances) to the adults in the audience. Allow me to explain: Lumiere (Ryan N. Phillips) the candlestick, is a flirty character, but in this particular production he was extra suggestive in his speech and gestures, primarily toward his flame, Babette (Melissa Jones). To give you another example, at one point, Beast (Sam Hartley) actually smacks Belle’s bottom flirtatiously with his tail. WHY?! This was completely unnecessary.
One of the most memorable numbers of the show is “Be Our Guest.” I look forward to it, but I struggled to enjoy this time around because I was too distracted—i.e., a tad disturbed—by the skimpy outfits on stage. (I’m looking at you, dancing dishes.) Four words—way too much cheek—and I’m obviously not referring to the two on their faces. Families flock to see this show. There’s an appropriate time and place for creative decisions like the ones I’ve alluded to above, and this show isn’t one of them.
Criticism aside, there were elements of this show that I adored. The villainous village heartthrob Gaston (Christiaan Smith-Kotlarek), his sidekick LeFou (Matt Dasilva), and Belle’s father Maurice (Thomas Mothershed) were all well cast. They looked and sounded like they’d been plucked directly from the beloved Disney movie, aided by their astounding animated approach to their characters. Because those three characters were portrayed similarly to the movie versions of themselves (this seems to be the case in every production of this show I’ve seen), it’s difficult to love this rendition’s namesake characters because they don’t match the movie version quite as well. Some consistency where character portrayal is concerned would have been nice. For example, Brooke Quintana, who played Belle, had an absolutely incredible voice, but she didn’t sound like the Belle the audience is used to. Her vocals were very deep, powerful, and concentrated, rather than effortless. Hartley’s performance as Beast was memorable, and his physical acting definitely deserves applause. What intrigued me most about his take on the character is the way in which his actions compared to and contrasted Gaston’s.
In conclusion, is this show worth seeing? Sure. It’s the same sweet story so many of us have grown up with, and that others still will as well. However, this rendition is simply not quite as easy to love as the movie, and that will surely cause some viewers to leave disappointed. The live adaptation will never be identical to the film—and doesn’t need to be—but it does need to be just as magical, and in that respect, this rendition missed the mark. | Megan Washausen
You can catch the final performance of this show on Sunday, March 13, at 6:30 p.m. For ticket information, visit www.fabulousfox.com.