It is truly a favorite “tale as old as time” on display at the Warner Theatre this week as NETworks presents Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, from now through January 11th. The favorite Disney musical of the enchanted prince and the girl who saves him with her love was brought to life once again with both humor and heart, well-rewarding those theatergoers who braved last nght’s bitter cold to venture out to the Warner Theatre.
Director Rob Roth brings more than a touch of Broadway charm and showmanship to the production, ensuring the show never gets bogged down or too slow for its little audience members while sincere and appealing enough for the adults. Likewise, Matt West’s choreography was both inventive and engaging, constantly surprising and entertaining the audience. “Gaston” had the cast dancing with while clinking mugs (both their own mugs and their partner’s mugs!), while “Be Our Guest” had the audience erupt in applause with appreciation for the high-kicking chorus line and the can-can. Of course, the dancing in “Be Our Guest” and throughout the night was only enhanced by Ann Hould-Ward’s creative costumes—dancing salt and pepper shakers, dancing knives and forks and plates, plates that turned into top hats, and much more. The costumes for the other characters were equally stunning: Belle’s iconic blue dress was simple yet lovely, while the costumes for the enchanted objects were very creative (Lumiere’s fiery hands and the clock hands being stuck on Cogsworth’s nose, etc).
Scenic design by Stanley A. Meyer was excellent, with simple spinning set pieces transforming into the West Wing tower or the castle library, or the beautiful backdrop for the village evoking an idyllic country needlepoint. Similarly the lighting design by Natasha Katz was never intrusive but always highlighted the action and the emotion of the scenes: the darkness of the initial scenes in the Beast’s castle underscored the oppression and hopelessness, while the rosy glow lighting of the ballroom scene imbued the whole stage with warmth.
Belle was played wonderfully, with both sensitivity and spunk, by Jillian Butterfield. Her clear, full voice made her songs such a treat, especially the act two power anthem “A Change in Me.” Ryan Everett Wood played the Beast with both extraordinary humor and vulnerability, making his act one closer “If I Can’t Love Her” surprisingly poignant. All of the actors, but Butterfield and Wood especially, did a fantastic job of not just singing the musical numbers, but acting them and imbuing them with real emotion and depth, which made the show (especially in act two) very sincere and earnest: the Beast’s death scene was very moving as Butterfield seemed to nearly break down in tears during her song. Carrying on that line of acting the songs, Emily Jewell as Mrs. Potts deserves special notice for her fantastic and heartfelt rendition of “Beauty and the Beast.” The simplicity and charm she brought to the song was a great contrast to the vocal acrobatics many singers use with this song, and really elevated he emotion of the scene.
There was plenty of humor to accompany the sincere emotion though! Cameron Bond as Gaston and Jake Bridges were hilarious with their exaggerated physical comedy (extra kudos to Bridges for all the pratfalls!), while Patrick Pevehouse as Lumiere and Samuel Shurtleff as Cogsworth likewise played off each other to great humorous effect with Pevehouse’s delivery of innuendo-filled lines and Shurtleff’s fussiness eliciting great laughs.
Between the music, the dancing, the humor, the emotion, and the gorgeous singing, this production is definitely a show for the whole family. Don’t miss this glorious Beauty and the Beast. Run and “Be [Their] Guest” at the Warner Theatre!
Running Time: Approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes, including a 20-minute intermission.