DISNEY’S BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
Music by Alan Menken
Lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice
Book by Linda Woolverton
Originally Produced by Disney Theatrical Productions
AT&T Performing Arts Center
Music Director/Conductor—Kevin Francis Finn
Scenic Designer—Stanley A. Meyer
Lighting Designer—Natasha Katz
Sound Designer –John Petrafesa, Jr.
Costume Designer –Ann Hould-Ward
Puppet Designer—Basil Twist
Illusion Designer—Jim Steinmeyer
CAST (at reviewed performance)
Mrs. Potts—Stephanie Gray
Lumiere—Ryan N. Phillips
Madame de la Grande Bouche—Stephanie Harter Gilmore
Monsieur d’Arque—Danny Burgos
Young Prince—Mike Baskowski
Silly Girls—Jeanette Palmer, Colleen Roberts, Sarah Shelton
Townspeople/Enchanted Objects—Kari Baker, Mike Baskowski, Danny Burgos, Ben Cullen, Mary Beth Donahoe, David Grindrod, Lance E. Hayes, Kyle Huey, Hannah Jewel Kohn, Lacey Kriston, Kevin Kulp, Jennie McGuinness, Jeanette Palmer, Colleen Roberts, Sarah Shelton Micah Wallace
Voice of Prologue Narrator—Hassan Nazari-Robati
Reviewed Performance: 6/22/2016
Reviewed by Genevieve Croft , Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Based on the 1991 Disney animated film, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is what I call one of the last “classic” Princess films closing out an era with other Disney Princesses such as Cinderella, Snow White and Aurora (Sleeping Beauty). It is not a new story-this timeless tale has been told and retold throughout the years. Written and first published in 1740 as French fairy tale (La Belle et la Bète), the concept has been used in storytelling for many years, and still continues to appear in various entertainment mediums. Recently, there was a dismal television remake of the 1980’s version of Beauty and the Beast, and even the appearance of Beauty and the Beast in Storybrooke, in the ABC Fairy Tale drama, Once Upon a Time. The most popular, however premiered in 1994, when Beauty and the Beast was adapted into a Broadway musical-it has since become the ninth longest running Broadway production of all time. No matter what the venue, audiences are still entertained by the story of Beauty and the Beast-and how the message of love conquering greed and vanity reigns as true today as it did in 1740.
Director Rob Roth brought together an ensemble cast which worked well together, and collaborated with a crew who clearly took their jobs seriously and knit together scenery, lighting and costumes that enhanced the story being told by these familiar Disney character. His overall vision and concept was very impressive. The production was presented in such a professional manner. From the moment audiences were allowed to take their seats before the show began, they were immediately immersed into the world of the play. I knew it was going to be an evening of magic, and it certainly was presented that way. The actors and the musicians were so fully charged with energy it really was a powerful experience at the theater. Roth certainly delivers a stunning, and dazzling spectacle, to the backdrop of beautiful, tight harmonies, impressive choreography. It is truly a tapestry of magic, enchantment, and classic Disney narrative presented live on stage.
Scenic Designer Stanley A. Meyer successfully transformed the grand proscenium stage into multiple locations. In a story with so many locations, each one was designed and conveyed with precision for detail. There were quite a bit of scenic changes to accommodate the multiple locations required within the story. I was absolutely awe-struck by the first impression that I got from the scenic design. Each element of the set was intricately and ornately designed. It was very colorful and presented on stage in an almost three-dimensional storybook fashion. Surrounding the proscenium was a royal tapestry that had a very antique French feel to it. Anytime there was action inside the town, or outside Belle’s home, the tapestry “frame” was present. It really felt like I was peering into the frame of each page of an illustrated children’s book.
It gave the location of the town as a warm and happy place. I was also fascinated with the specific details that were integrated into the Beast’s castle. There were many “royal” banners that were hung over head, and that would move as the location of the castle would change-giving the audience the suggestion of the vastness of the castle, and each character’s journey from one part of the castle to another. It’s these little subtle details that really make me appreciate the time, attention to detail and creativity of scenic design artists. Much like the antique tapestries that gave frame to the town, the castle was framed with the suggestion of wrought iron interiors, giving it a cold, and sad air about it.
Overall, the scenic designs left a huge impression on me. It was comforting to see this story designed in such a way that was like the film-with elements of animation (giving the appropriate homage to the original Disney film) while taking a new and creative approach to make the production something new and different. It was simply breathtaking to see the scenic elements take shape and form on stage.
Lighting was designed by Natasha Katz. Katz executed a fantastic job plotting lighting that was appropriate for each scene and mood. Like the scenic design, the lighting was also very majestic. There were some dramatic moments on stage and Katz splashed the stage with lots of primary and secondary colors-visualizing the emotions of the characters, and their interactions with each other in the sequence of the story. The quick and seamless transitions kept the pace moving, and the energy up. Lighting was exciting to watch, and provided for much of the dramatic action on stage as the story unfolded. It is quite apparent to me that each designer (scenic, lighting and costumes) collaborated well together and added their own touch of magic to the story.
Ann Hould-Ward designed costumes that were not only period appropriate but had a fine attention to detail. As the scenic design and lighting sets the time, place and atmosphere of the story, the costumes build upon that and display the personalities of each character. Not only did Ms. Hould-Ward have to create designs that fit the townspeople, but, she also had to take creative license when designed wardrobe for each of the enchanted castle objects as well. Each costume was very creative, giving the suggestion of their enchanted personalities while keeping the integrity of the original Disney animated character. I was in love with the use of color, and some of the three-dimensional details that Ms. Hould-Ward incorporated into her designs. One gem that I found particularly creative was during the large number, “Be Our Guest.” Not only is that song the one of the most popular songs from Beauty and the Beast, but, it was executed in true musical theatre fashion- it was a grand spectacle with costumes that were very artistic and imaginative. I absolutely loved the dancing “salt and pepper” shakers with white and black beaded hats, and the dancing silverware. It assuredly was everything that I would have expected in a musical like this-clever and creative.
It was also fantastic to see the yellow Belle “princess” dress and the costume of the Beast come close to the characters in the film. The costume designs were very accurate, and were also visually pleasing to the eye. It was another element that pulled me into the world of the fairy tale and to the magic of the story. I have to wonder how many hours it took to create, design and execute such lovely costumes-especially
Lumiere’s candle stick “hands” that would consistently give the suggestion and illusion of lit candle flames, and Mrs. Potts’ teapot dress. I especially enjoyed seeing “Chip” on stage in his costume-as a teacup. I won’t give too much of the magic away, but, you will be impressed with how little details can create big elements of magic and spectacle.
One element that took me completely by surprise was the use of puppetry in the show. Not only did the production include the “big three” of a musical (song, dance and an amazing story) but, Beauty and the Beast also uses puppetry to expand upon the illusion and enchantment of the story. In the prologue of the story the “old beggar woman” appears behind the scrim offering a rose to the Prince, and when the Prince refuses, an amazing transformation occurs on stage. The “old beggar woman” has now changed into the “enchantress” who has cast a spell on the Prince, and into a hideous, disfigured Beast. The use of puppets created even more of a magical atmosphere on stage and further pulled me into the world of the play. I felt like a kid again, and was able to completely leave the world of today behind and allowed to be taken on a fantastic journey for two and a half hours.
Puppet designer Basil Twist gave life to the story by using puppets for the prologue and also creating and manipulating wolves in the forest scenes that were operated almost on their own (the puppeteers were very concealed-a successful feat in not breaking the illusion of the story). They were menacing, but, also allowed the story to go to new heights and allowed the story to be reimagined on stage-in a way that would not have been possible without the use of these fantastic fabric and foam creations.
Brooke Quintana was incredibly believable in the role of Belle. Through facial expression, body language, and an incredible vocal range, Quintana convincingly portrayed Belle, a selfless and caring soul who is able to see the real personality of the Beast. Ms. Quintana’s enthusiasm and honesty on stage was nearly constant, having a genuine affection for her father, and later for the Beast, who is overcome with feelings of love, friendship and care for her. Quintana never faltered in her delivery, and all interactions with other cast members were believable and spot on. She was the epitome of what I would expect if Belle had been taken out of the animated Disney film, and given three-dimensional life on stage.
Lumiere (my favorite Disney sidekick) was played by Ryan N. Phillips. Phillips was very convincing through his facial expressions, French dialect, and comedic delivery. Mr. Phillips was full of energy, and provided the audience with even more of an opportunity to laugh. Not only did Mr. Phillips deliver with his spectacular vocal range, but, he also played quite a bit of physical comedy as well-it was fantastic to see his interaction with the other enchanted objects of the castle, but, I really enjoyed seeing some of the “adult” comedy (his affection for French maid Babette, appearing as an enchanted a feather duster) that went right over the heads of the young audience members, and allowed the adults to get a laugh. Writers have been using that device for many years. It is always amusing to me to see obvious adult humor, references or puns written into children’s animated films-as writers try to appeal to audiences of all ages. Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is no different. Lumiere is the embodiment of what you can expect with his witty delivery, adult personality, but, whimsical and likeable children’s character. This production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is definitely worth seeing. The attention to detail evident in all aspects of this production makes for a satisfying experience at the theater. From the moment the overture begins, and the audience is drawn into the world of the fairy tale, you will be amazed, delighted and impressed with the magic. Whether you are the young, or the young-at-heart, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast captures this “tale as old as time” of love, greed and vanity, with memorable Disney character and the catchy songs of musical theatre songwriting legends Alan Menken, Howard Ashman and Tim Rice. This production is appropriate for all ages, and supports exactly what the theatre is intended to do-allow an opportunity for an escape from reality, and to create magic on stage while being a form of live entertainment. You have a limited time to see Disney’s Beauty and the Beast at the Winspear Opera House…and then like the petals of the enchanted rose, the production will be gone.
DISNEY’S BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
AT&T PERFORMING ARTS CENTER, WINSPEAR OPERA HOUSE
2403 Flora Street, Dallas, TX 75201
Plays through June 26.
Thursday, June 23 at 7:30 pm (ASL INTERPRETED PERFORMANCE)
Friday, June 24 at 2:00 pm and 7:30 pm
Saturday, June 25 at 2:00 pm and 7:30 pm
Sunday, June 26 at 2:00 pm
Ticket prices range from $25.00-$125.00, depending on day and seating. For information and to purchase tickets, go to www.attpac.org call the box office at 214-880-0202, or go to the AT&T Performing Arts Center Information Center at 2353Flora Street (Mon. 10am-6pm, Tues-Sat. 10am-9pm, and Sun.10 am-6:00 pm).
**Please Note-Buyers are reminded that the AT&T’s Performing Arts Center Information Center Box Office is the only official retail outlet for all performances at the Winspear Opera House. Ticket buyers who purchase tickets from a ticket broker or any third party should be aware that the Winspear Opera House is unable to reprint or replace lost or stolen tickets and is unable to contact patrons with information regarding time changes or other pertinent updates regarding the performance.