Beauty and the Beast is one of my all-time favorite movies. I will vigorously champion it, both as a Disney movie and as a piece of cinema (did you know it was the first animated feature to be nominated for Best Picture AND REMAINS the only one to be nominated within the original constraints of the category???), so it’s no surprise I jumped at the chance to see the Broadway production when it came through town. I’d seen the musical version performed at two different high schools, but never put on by a professional company.
This production of Beauty and the Beast invites you inside a lush storybook, with a literal frame around parts of the action, captivating puppets and beautiful illustrations serving as a backdrop to Belle’s “poor provincial town.” I loved the decision to stage the story like a literal fairytale, occurring inside the frame of the pages of the kind of books Belle loves so much.
From a performance side, this is definitely a family-friendly production. I saw a lot of families at opening night (including several Belles and, of course, an Elsa), and there was hearty laughter throughout the theater at some of the sillier bits. They definitely played up the slapstick, though there was also some surprisingly strong innuendo…I guess that’s all part of the classic playbook of family entertainment, though: some gags are for the kids, and some for the parents! Gaston and Lumiere definitely stole the show in both categories, though I have to give a huge thumbs up for Lefou, whose impressive physical comedy (including tumbling!) really made the role.
But the most important part of a show like this is, of course, the musical numbers. Do they dazzle? Will they have you bouncing along in your seat? For me, it’s a giant yes! These are some of my most beloved Disney songs, and it was awesome to hear them all live. The choreography of the big production numbers was just stunning. I didn’t think they’d be able to top the hilarious rendition of “Gaston,” but of course, “Be Our Guest” totally stole the night (as it must!). I felt just as starry-eyed as the little girls dressed as Belle during this rousing, glittering tribute to Broadway spectacle. There are some really fabulous special effects during this show, which always make a theatrical experience feel a little extra magical.
If you love Beauty and the Beast, and especially if you have kids who love it, don’t miss this show…it’s a classic for a reason, and it’s only in town through the weekend!
Beauty and the Beast runs through March 22 at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts.