Maybe it was the 30-something, thin-as-a-rake Mrs. Potts with the wavering cockney accent sporting a sad, civic theatre-inspired costume? Or perhaps the popping microphones that squawked their way into every production number? It also may have been Belle’s finale wedding dress, which was recycled from the one she wore during the title number, but with some cheap, pink tulle thrown over it as if to trick us?
Oh — and I’m sure the Beast’s magical transformation not happening, due to technical errors, also played a huge part. (Rather than the mystifying, spinning special effects that accompany him turning back into a prince, we got a black curtain that dropped for 30 seconds, and then anti-climactically rose for the reveal.)
And let’s not even mention that piddly band of 11.
I mean, something has to explain why I, and the rest of those around me, left this non-Equity tour of Beauty and the Beast with looks of disoriented confusion on our faces where a smile should have been. Which is unfortunate, because I was hoping to leave the Cadillac Palace enchanted.
Where was the magic?
Like everyone else, I loved the Disney cartoon. A tale-as-old-as-time story complemented by a show-stopping Alan Menkin (music), Howard Ashman and Tim Rice (lyrics) score — how could you go wrong? And, surprisingly, last night was my very first time seeing any version of the stage show.
Maybe NETworks, the company that’s producing this new tour, is to blame? I mean, the highly-respected original creative team from the Broadway production reunited to restage and reimagine the show for this stripped-down tour. But something went amiss along the way: I have a hard time believing award-winning costume designer Ann Hould-Ward actually designed or approved some of the costumes for this tour. And the scenery was very bus-and-truck and perhaps a touch too bright (I mean, this is a staged cartoon — you can tone down the pinks and purples a bit. We get it.)
Fortunately, I didn’t have any major problems with the cast. Liz Shivener is a no-nonsense Belle with a natural, pure voice. In a way, she reminded me of Amy Poehler’s character in “Parks and Recreation” in both looks and line delivery. As the Beast, Justin Glaser is menacing and touching, with a well-trained voice. Nathaniel Hackmann delivers everything you could ask for in Gaston. And the merry band of enchanted objects are fine, if a little bland (and young — most notably: Sabina Petra as Mrs. Potts.)
But, in the end, it just didn’t come together for me. I’m sure the numerous technical errors marred my enjoyment more than they should have, but I think, at these prices, Broadway in Chicago audiences are deserving of a better presentation of this beloved show than this feeble tour.
“Beauty and the Beast” plays through April 4 at the Cadillac Palace. Go here for more info >