Philadelphia Theatre Review: ‘Beauty and the Beast’ at The Academy of Music by Darlene Olsen

Start with the Academy Award-winning Disney animated feature film which included a delightful score by Alan Menken and the late Howard Ashman, sprinkle in five new songs Menken composed with lyricist Tim Rice, support that with Director Rob Roth, a great cast and orchestra, choreography, lighting and costumes, and two fabulous leads, and you have a spectacular touring production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast the likes of which I have never seen before.

Emily Behny (Belle) and Dane Agostinis (Beast). Photo by Joan Marcus.

The young and beautiful Emily Behny brings warmth and charm and toughness to her role as Belle and her renditions of “Home” and “A Change In Me” are beautifully sung. Dane Agostinis makes a terrific Beast  – singing, acting, dancing, and yelling, but it’s his gorgeous Baritone which fills the Kimmel Center with heavenly vocals during “How Long Must This Go On” and “If I Can’t Lover Her.”

Matt Farcher as the obnoxious Gaston steals the show with his barroom anthem “Gaston,” while  Jimmy Larkin is hysterical as his abused acolyte Lefou. Candlestick Lumière (Michael Haller), the fussy British clock Cogsworth (James May) and the warmly maternal Mrs. Potts (Julia Louise Hosack), are all endearing, and Haller is a hoot as he lends a flame to the rousing and high-kicking “Be Our Guest” alongside his dancing and singing utensil friends.

Emily Behny (Belle) and the cast of 'Beauty and the Beast.' Photo by Joan Marcus.

Tony Award-winning Costume Designer Ann Hould-Ward dresses the cast in lavish and eye-popping colorful costumes. They are simply stunning! Scenic Designer Stanley A. Meyer and  Lighting Designer Natasha Katz create a magical look to the show. Sound Designer John Petrafesa provides crystal clear sound and sounds effects that are frightening and

The high-kicking ensemble of talented singers and dancers dance up a storm performing Matt West’s high-energy choreography, especially during “Be Our Guest” and “Human Again.”

And kudos to the excellent group of musicians conducted by Carolyn Violi – who played Alan Menken’s incomparable score so beautifully.

Beauty and the Beast may be a ‘tale as old as time,’ but this joyful production, which brings back the original Broadway design team back together – is filled with funny and powerful performances and gorgeous singing. It’s pure magic.

The cast of 'Beauty and the Beast.' Photo by Joan Marcus.

Running Time: 2 and ½ hours including a 15 minute intermission.

sney’s Beauty and the Beast plays through Sunday, June 10th at The Academy of Music – 300 S. Broad Street, in Philadelphia, PA. For tickets, call the box office at (215) 731-3333, or purchase them online.

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