We couldn’t have said it better ourselves, Lumiere, and the sentiment is shared for the show by the packed crowd at Wolf Trap’s Filene Center to see Disney’s musical Beauty and the Beast on tour last night.
There are few people, young or older, who do not know the Academy Award-winning 1991 Disney movie of the same name; it is a staple in Disney and film repertoire, one of Disney’s very best. The musical, featuring the same excellent score by Alan Menken, came to Broadway two years later and stayed for a decade, nabbing a Tony to boot. It has only gotten better with age; the production does the highest justice in bringing the beloved animated characters, music, story, and romance to life on the stage.
Our favorite characters are back and true to form: the beautiful Belle (Hilary Maiberger), kind-hearted, sensible, learned, and refined, countered by the Beast (Darick Pead), who, while still violent, is rather changed in this production. Some of the violence and dark tension of the original are pushed aside to make way for a lighter tone as the Beast struggles on stage with his newfound feelings, nervousness, temper tantrums, and wooing strategies – in all, a softer creature who we see truly learns from Belle. The cad Gaston (Tim Rogan) and his loyal sidekick LeFou (Jordan Aragon) strut around stirring up trouble, while the beloved “inanimate objects” are as bubbly and hilarious as ever, playing matchmaker and inserting laughs throughout. Some of the more suggestive humor is aimed at adults will fly right over the heads of children, especially by the romantic Lumiere (Hassan Nazari-Robati), who is balanced by his best pal and counterpart, the nervous worrywart Cogsworth (James May). Mrs. Potts (Kristin Stewart) and Chip and the whole gang are here too to witness romance blossom inside their enchanted castle.
Film fans will be familiarly comfortable with some of the most well known songs and scenes, including the happy-go-lucky “Belle”, sung about the titular free-spirited girl as she waltzes through her provincial French village, nose stuck in a book. Then there is “Gaston,” full of macho swagger, and of course, the ever classic “Beauty and the Beast.” The big production numbers of “Gaston” and “Be Our Guest” are awe-inducing in their splendor, with large colorful sets, full of lights, dancing, acrobatics, and even explosions of celebratory ribbon over the heads of the audience.
But the best parts of the show are the inclusion of a handful of new songs that were not present in the movie. Experiencing these alone is worth the price of admission. You will laugh at the delightfully narcissistic “Me” sung by Gaston. Yet it is the tender solos “If I Can’t Love Her” and “A Change In Me” sung by the Beast and Belle, respectively, that truly showcase their vocal talents and give a refreshing new dimension to their happily-ever-after romance.
Delightfully touching, entertainingly funny, and wondrously magical, Beauty and the Beast is nothing short of a childhood dream come true for the child in all of us.
Running Time: Two hours and thirty minutes with one 15-minute intermission.
Disney’s Beauty and the Beast plays through tomorrow, Sunday June 8, 2014 at Wolf Trap’s Filene Center — 1551 Trap Road, Vienna, VA. For tickets, contact the Filene Center Box Office at (703) 255-1868 ,or purchase them online.
Beauty and the Beast on Tour website.