Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Beauty And The Beast"

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note: entire contents copyright 1998 by Larry Stark


"Beauty And The Beast"

Music by Alan Menken
Lyrics by Howard Ashman & Tim Rice
Book by Linda Woolverton
Directed by Robert Jess Roth
Choreography by Matt West

Scenic Design by Stanley A. Meyer
Costume Design by Ann Hould-Ward
Lighting Design by Natasha Katz
Sound Design by Jonatrhan Deans
Illusion Design by Jim Steinmeyer/John Gaughan
Fight Direction by Rick Sordelet
Hair Design by David H. Lawrence
Prosthetics by Jogn Dods
Production Stage Manager Dan W. Langhofer

Belle............................Erin Dilly
Gaston..........................Tony Lawson
Lefou..............Jeffrey Howard Schechter
Beast...........................Fred Inkley
Lumiere......................David De Vries
Mrs. Potts.................Barbara Marineau
Maurice.........................Grant Cowan
Cogsworth.......................Jeff Brooks
Doormat/Young Prince/Wolf...Aldrin Gonzales
Babette.........................Heather Lee
Chip..............Asher Book or Max Griffin
Madame de la Grande Bouche..Sherry Anderson
Salt & Pepper.......David Burtka & Ken Nagy
Cheesegrater/Wolf..............Eddie Buffam
Monsieur D'Arque................Barrie Wood
Bookseller....................Michael Jones
Enchantress.................Janet Rothermel
Recorded Prolog Narrator:David Ogden Stiers
Three Silly Girls:
Jane Cooke, Catherine Fries, Linda Griffin
Wolves:
Danyelle Bossardet, Angella Piccinni
Townspeople/Enchanted Objects:
Roger Befeler, Catherine Fries, Susie Gritzmaker, Pamela Hamill, Katie Hugo, Michael James Leslie, David E. Liddell, Kiri-Lyn Muir, Glenn Rainey, Kimberly Sevali, Jerry Sprague, Jr., Jerald Vincent, Roberta B. Wall, Barrie Wood


Well, this is not a Disney MOVIE, but it's not "Into The Woods" either. As with most Disney animated movies, the younger you are the better you will like "Beauty And The Beast". The costumes, the sets, the special effects, the choreography, and the slapstick and knockabout are designed to make all the actors into animated cartoon characters, and this cast has been touring long enough to make everything a recapitulation of the history of the company the Mouse built. Check your mind at the door and you'll be fine.

The center of the show is Belle (French for "Beauty" --- nudge- nudge, wink-wink), who is either onstage or talked about nearly every moment. She is really Snow White. She is an uppity romantic bookworm with an independent air who defies all rules including the Beast's direst yet gets away with it. She is the only character permitted to laugh at other's exaggerations and, like everything else she does, Erin Dilly's behind-hand laughs are scene-stealing dynamite.

Belle is wooed by the local Lothario Gaston (Tony Lawson), a kind of Miles Gloriosus egomaniac who handles her as though she were a baton to be twirled. Lawson, pompadoured as an Elvis likealook and singing like a tall Howard Keel with muscles, has a willing stooge named Lefou (Jeffrey Howard Schechter) whose face is always where the fist goes. Not even Tom & Jerry had better timing or more inventive pratfalls. (Fight Director Rick Sordelet is a genius.)

Belle's widowed dad (Grant Cowan)is really Gepetto the woodcarver. Called Maurice here he seems to have invented a temperamental Zamboni machine that chops wood when it isn't emitting squawks and sparks.

The Beast's household staff are all ossifying into objects: Cogsworth a clock (Jeff brooks), Lumiere a candelabrum (David De Vries), Mrs. Potts a teapot (Barbara Marineau), etc. They replace those mice from Cinderella, and get to shout and guffaw and scamper about shoving the plot toward completion. De Vries, whose hands burst into flames at the drop of a cue, thinks he is Maurice Chevalier, and will have you thinking so too. Aldrin Gonzales does a show-stopping routine as a dancing doormat (stolen from Mummenchanz) in the elaborate spectacle number "Be Our Guest" that pulls out all stops.

And then, of course, there is Fred Inkley's Beast --- which vacillates between The Tasmanian Devil and Stan Laurel. Director Robert Jess Roth's rule of thumb seems to be if ham or camp doesn't seem to work, go for cute, and this cast (Inkley in particular) have been touring long enough to know what works and precisely how to ram it home.

The massive and peripatetic sets are even more ornately Baroque that the renovated Wang itself. The "Be Our Guest" number is more gaudily spectacular than the "Loveland" sequence in "Follies" and occasionally the entire stage erupts in more fireworks than the Esplanade did last Saturday. And Jonathan Deans' massive sound design gives the impression that everyone is shouting at you from your lap. (I assume those who paid only $15.00 could hear this show, but I'll bet that only those paying $65.00 got to see everything on close to human scale.)

Walking to the subway I heard parents asking what looked like a precocious Beanie Baby what her favorite number was, and wondering if she'd like to run a tape of the film the next day. And I was almost tempted myself to rent the Disney cartoon, which I've never seen. But I'd have to buy a VCR and a television set to do it; and besides, live actors or no live actors, an animated cartoon is really what I had just seen.

But Erin Dilly is magnificent.

Love,
===Anon.
(Uploaded 2:35 a m)


"Beauty & the Beast" (till 25 April)
SPEAKEASY STAGE COMAPNY
BCA Theater, Boston Center for The Arts, Tremont Street, BOSTON
1(617)426-0320

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

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