‘Beauty and the Beast’ still casts its spell, despite cut corners

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 >

4 thoughts on “‘Beauty and the Beast’ still casts its spell, despite cut corners

  1. As I walked by the Oriental yesterday, I made a mental note to get tix to B & the B. I have never seen it and everyone I know loves it. However, given this fact, I want to see a full-fledged production complete with all the gorgeous sets and costumes. I do not want to see Lumiere’s flames as mere “Halloween decoration.” :( Thanks for this review, Bob. You saved me $150+
    Deb Elston

  2. I just happened to be at the show on July 7th & thought it was a wonderful production! I have never seen the equity tour of this show, but I do have season tickets to Broadway Across America shows & have had them for years, & one thing I know for sure is that this cast was amazing! We took our 5 year old grandaughter and she absolutely loved it! Well worth the money we spent and we had center orchestra seats! The singing was way above the talent that some of our numerous equity tours we’ve seen the last 6 years and the acting, dancing and overall performing was perfect for a Disney show. Maybe Lumiere’s “flames” only “lit” up, so what? What about the talent of the cast members themselves? Aren’t they the ones who we are hoping are “amazing “too?
    Kathy B. Cincinnati

    1. Hey Kathy. Take a moment and read my review. I had no problem with the talent of the cast. It was the cheapo production values that drove me insane.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s