Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Disney's Beauty And The Beast"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"


note: entire contents copyright 2016 by Sheila Barth

"Disney's Beauty And The Beast"

A Review by Sheila Barth

When NETworks’ national touring production of Broadway hit musical, Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,”  returned to Massachusetts, specifically Lowell Memorial Auditorium, in 2014, Winthrop theatergoers had an extra treat. Their hometown shining star, Stephanie Moskal, had toured with the company for two years, performing in major national and Canadian venues, and received rave reviews portraying Babette, coquettish, enchanted French feather duster, in the Beast’s castle. Moskal left the company and currently lives in New York. Last week’s production of the European traditional fairytale, at Boston’s luxurious Opera House, hasn’t lost any of its luster, bells and whistles. It’s even better. It still boasts Stanley A. Meyer’s stunning pop-up, storybook set, Ann Hould Ward’s elegant costumes, a battery of Natasha Katz, John Petrafesa Jr.‘s and illusion designer Jim Steinmeyer’s eye- and ear-popping spectacular stage effects, a super talented cast, and marvelous musicians. The production also boasts award-winning songs by Alan Menken, Howard Ashman, and lyricist Tim Rice, notably, beloved theme song, “Beauty and the Beast,”and splashy ensemble number, “Be Our Guest”.   For 2-1/2 hours, the packed, multi-generational audience was lulled into awed silence. From Musical Director-Conductor Kevin Francis Finn and Co.‘s melodic overture and the bombastic opening scene, to the rollicking finale, this new version mesmerizes. Rob Roth, who directed the Broadway premiere, helms this production, emphasizing not only its grandeur and special effects, but the story’s timeless theme - looking beyond people’s physical appearances, and finding goodness and love. For the young, spoiled prince (marvelous Sam Hartley), he learns his lesson the hard way. When a repulsive, elderly witch sought shelter against the storm for the night, he turned her away. Suddenly, she transformed into a looming, beautiful enchanted fairy puppet, (designed by Basil Twist) dooming the prince to live as an ugly beast. She transformed his castle staff into  talking household items Unless he finds love and somebody to love him before his time runs out, they will never be human again.  A kindly mother, Mrs. Potts (Stephanie Gray), is a teapot; her young son, Chip, a teacup. Sexy Babette (Melissa Jones) is a feather duster, and the Beast’s right-hand servants, Lumiere (Ryan N. Phillips) and Cogsworth (Samuel Shurtleff) , are an illuminated standing lamp and grandfather clock. Celebrated music star Madame de la Grande Bouche is an elegant chest of drawers, and other castle staff members are dancing dishes, silverware and napkins, singing and strutting in charming, welcoming number, “Be Our Guest”. As the first act closes, an explosive cannon blasts a shower of multi-color ribbon streamers on the audience. In the village, narcissistic chauvinist Gaston (terrific Christiaan Smith-Kotlarek) flexes his biceps and unleashes his terrific voice in his self-pronounced praise, “Me”. Although the ladies are ga-ga over Gaston, he wants the most beautiful - and strangest - girl, appropriately named Belle (Brooke Quintana), who prefers reading books to Gaston’s advances. Belle’s father, Maurice (Thomas Mothershed) is a bumbling inventor whom the townspeople and Gaston jeer. Besides Gaston’s bluster, there are several other comical scenes and punny lines like, “If it’s not Baroque, don’t fix it,” including the acrobatic antics of Gaston’s faithful follower, LeFou (Matt DaSilva), and the Beast’s awkward transformation from socially inept to gentle, lovestruck giant. There are terrifying scenes, too. Behind a see-through scrim, a pack of large, howling, white wolf puppets lurk and lunge at prey in the woods, attacking Belle’s father, Maurice, and the Beast, who rescues Belle. When the Beast stomps and roars, he’s scary, too; especially when he captures and imprisons Maurice, then locks him in the dungeon. So’s a creepy pseudo-psychiatrist, whom Gaston later bribes to commit Maurice to an insane asylum.   A dramatic battle between musclebound Gaston and the tamed Beast is startling, (kudos, fight choreographer Rick Sordelet). Be sure to check this touring company’s schedule. There are currently five productions globally- this North American tour, the UK, Japan, Germany and a new international tour. If you missed this brief, run in Boston, let’s hope it returns, so you, too, can bask in its magic and magnificence. 

"Beauty And The Beast" (?????)
BROADWAY IN BOSTON
@ Boston Opera House, 539 Washington Street, BOSTON MA
1(866)870-2717

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

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