Lumiere’s flames have been reduced to a pair of halloween decorations. The cast moves the wobbly scenery and the orchestra is thin and reedy. Belle’s wedding gown is the same dress she wore during the title song, with a piece of pink tulle thrown over top.
Yes, this non-Equity tour, produced by NETworks and playing at the Oriental theatre for an extended six week run, is a flimsy cardboard cutout of this tale as old as time story we all grew up with. I had these same reservations when I saw this tour last year.
However, going into the show with set expectations helped me enjoy this production much more than last time, and that’s because of a few things: the wonderful performances from the leads and the fact that this time the Beast actually transformed, where before a technical glitch occurred resulting in a 30-second blackout and an anti-climatic reveal.
I also sat next to a little girl who remained fully engrossed from beginning to end, so the magic is clearly not lost on the ones who matter, despite the pale production values.
This magic mostly stems from the strong material (featuring a rock-solid score by Alan Menken, Howard Ashman and Tim Rice) and the fine acting work of the leads. Emily Behny’s Belle is a smart cookie with clear, Disney-friendly voice. You immediately like her and root for her. Dane Agostinis as the Beast reminds us that underneath that giant suit of fur is a scared and spoiled young man who has a heart, but is afraid to have it broken. To finish off the love triangle, Logan Denninghoff hits all the right marks and flexing poses as Gaston (if perhaps he hits them a bit too broadly for my taste).
The supporting cast is very good, too, and generally better than the tour cast last year — particularly Julia Louise Hosak’s warm and well-sung Mrs. Potts and Jen Bechter who steals every scene as Madame de la Grande Bouche.
I’d recommend this production to families and school groups. It’s a great introduction to live theatre. However, you’d think Disney could at least open up its pocket books to spring for a proper wedding dress for poor Belle.
“Beauty and the Beast” plays through August 7 at the Oriental Theatre. More info here >