‘Beauty and the Beast’ at The National Theatre by Mariya Danilenko

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, directed by Rob Roth, is an extravagant musical fit for children and adults. The show is filled with fun and dazzle including incredible singing and musical numbers, a beautiful complex set, colorful costumes, and streamers that explode onto the audience. It is a show that fulfills your childhood dreams and leaves you breathless.

Emily Behny as Belle and the cast of Disney's 'Beauty and the Beast.' Photo by Joan Marcus.

The scenic design (Stanley A. Meyer) and costume design (Ann Hould-Ward) are extremely detailed and extravagant. The costumes are similar to those in the Disney film. Belle (Emily Behny) wears the same incredible yellow ball gown except this time it’s not animated. Meyer’s set is ever changing. The show begins in the small provincial town where Belle (Emily Behny) and Gaston (Matt Farcher) live. Here Meyer’s set includes small movable townhouses and shops where the local baker and bookstore clerk appear in the opening. Afterwards, the set transforms into the castle of the Beast (Dane Agostinis), including the grand stairwell and Belle’s bedroom.

“Something There” is an incredible performance by the protagonists of the show, Belle and Beast, that demonstrates the vocal and acting abilities of the actors. Both Emily Behny and Dane Agostinis have powerful vocals, and in this song the contrast between Behny’s softer voice and Agostinis’ deeper one creates a sweet melodic duet. In this song, both characters are shy to reveal that both have started developing feelings for one another. During the song, Beast reveals that he never learned how to read so Belle reads aloud The Legend of King Arthur. Beast (Agostinis) becomes so excited during parts of the book that he growls at it in disapproval or in delight, while Belle (a self-proclaimed book worm) is happy to share a story with the Beast and help him learn to read. This number shows the unusual relationship blossoming between Belle and the Beast, which Behny and Agostinis make seem so natural.

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

Emily Behny is charming as Belle and she sings “Home” and “A Change In Me” beautifully. Dane Agostinis also performs “How Long Must This Go On” and “If I Can’t Lover Her” with power and emotion in his lush baritone. Matt Farcher delivers an egotistical  and fun “Gaston,” while Jimmy Larkin is funny as his punching bag Lefou. Michael Haller (Lumière), James May (Cogsworth) and  Julia Louise Hosack (Mrs. Potts) are endearing, and have great chemistry when they are together on the stage.

“Be Our Guest” is the best number of the show. Lumiere (Michael Haller) starts the song with his passionate French accent in front of the curtain, then as the song builds the curtain lifts and dancers with fork hats move in circles. As the number continues other dancers appear in large skirts and begin to can-can, revealing multi-colored layers and ruffles that practically hypnotize! At the end of song, giant champagne bottles roll onto the stage and pop, blowing that champagne smoke and steam over the dancers and singers. Matt West’s choreography is so much fun.

If you love the Disney version, Beauty and the Beast is a fantastic musical to see with your family and children. It brings the animated feature to life and is more stunning on stage than on any screen.

Running Time: 2 hours and 30 minutes, including a 15 minute intermission.

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

Beauty and the Beast plays through June 24, 2012, at The National Theatre – 1321 Pennsylvania Ave NW, in Washington D.C. For tickets call (202) 783-3372, or order the online.

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