Disney’s Beauty and The Beast | The Muny

Beauty 75Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is absolutely and undeniably the best production I have ever seen on The Muny stage!

 

 

 

 

Beauty 500

Let me just begin by saying Disney’s Beauty and The Beast is absolutely and undeniably the best production I have ever seen on The Muny stage! The evening was filled with enchantment, and the magic of the night lingered with me for days to come. I would be a guest at this show every night of its run if I could!

Although it’s practically impossible to pick a favorite component of this all-around superb production, I think the casting is what really did it for me. What I love about The Muny is the way they embrace repeat-casting. The leads for this show, Kate Rockwell as Belle and Nicholas Rodriguez as Beast, graced The Muny stage last year as Jane and Tarzan. In the playbill, Muny Artistic Director and Executive Producer Mike Isaacson notes that Rockwell and Rodriguez let him “know it was their dream to follow up their partnership as Belle and the Beast,” and thank goodness their wish was granted! Their chemistry onstage is beautiful, and both are extremely talented actors and vocalists. Playing Tarzan and Beast requires a good deal of physical acting. Rodriguez had to walk like a beast and sit like a beast. I was struck by how powerful and intense Beast is as a character. He has a terrifying temper that at times leads him to roughly grab Belle and get up in her face. In all aspects of Beast’s character, Rodriguez delivered! Rockwell didn’t just play Belle. She WAS Belle. It was as if she had literally stepped out of the animated movie and onto The Muny stage. The pipes on this woman sent the audience into a frenzy of much-deserved applause multiple times throughout the show.

The other four standouts were Nathaniel Hackmann as Gaston, Michael Hartung as LeFou, Steve Rosen as Cogsworth (our favorite stern but loveable enchanted clock), and Rob McClure as Lumiere (the enchanted, charming, French candle opera). Like Belle, Gaston and LeFou also seemed to have stepped straight out of the beloved 1991 film, LeFou especially. McClure is becoming a favorite actor of mine; I loved him as Gomez Addams and here as Lumiere. He excels greatly when playing outrageous, rambunctious characters like these and clearly has skill where accents are concerned!

Robert Mark Morgan’s scenic design is spectacular. Beast’s castle is complex and perfectly establishes the allusion that it is as grand in size as the story itself would have it. For example, we get to see Belle’s room, the forbidden west wing, the living room, the dining hall, the library, and more! Costuming was, of course, also of great importance here and Robin L. McGee didn’t disappoint! From Beast’s hairy costume, to the enchanted dancing silverware, to the members of Belle’s provincial town, everyone’s attire was spot on and completely conducive to one’s imagination.

Speaking of dancing silverware, I must conclude this review by completely fan-girling over the most spectacular number of the production: “Be Our Guest.” This song and “Beauty and The Beast” were the two moments of the show when I held my breath as the singing began, my expectations extremely high. While the latter was satisfactory but not a memorable rendition, “Be Our Guest” was absolutely PHENOMENAL! Major props to Vince Pesce for his incredible choreography work. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to have as many people onstage as this number did and ensure everything flowed properly, but it did seamlessly! It’s the most magical, almost dream-like, few minutes of the show! It’s thrilling and catchy, with unexpected pyrotechnics! There’s plenty to watch during this scene but, whatever you do, don’t overlook the enchanted carpet!

This “tale as old as time” was the perfect choice for The Muny’s 97th season family show. Being their guest at this show will be a highlight of your summer; it was one of mine for sure! | Megan Washausen

Disney’s Beauty and The Beast runs at The Muny through August 7. For ticket information, visit http://muny.org/shows/2015-season.

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