Beauty and the Beast, the beloved tale as old as time. There are few people who haven’t seen the Disney movie upon which the stage version is based. Being my third favorite Disney movie after Pocahontas and Mulan, I was truly excited to see Beauty and the Beast live on stage. With the buildup of expectations I was disappointed when the product didn’t meet the standards I had set for it. The story, which hardly needs an introduction, focuses on the young Belle who finds herself prisoner at the castle of a monstrous Beast whom she soon learns to love. Disney’s twist on the classic story made popular by French novelist Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont in 1756, is by far the best known interpretation in today’s world, and since its release in 1991 has been a cornerstone of Disney’s array of animated films. Compared to the grandeur and exceptional quality of the movie, the stage adaption falls quite short.
The look and feel of the show, which was no doubt very expensive to produce, felt similar to the shows one might encounter on a trip to Disneyworld. There’s nothing wrong with the shows in Disneyworld or Disneyland, I am a huge fan of both these places, but from a touring Broadway production I would expect something a bit different. The larger numbers from the show such as the famous Be Our Guest lack the tremendous extravagance of their renditions in the movie. Animation, of course, has very few limits where stage productions have a huge list of limits, rendering the two mediums somewhat incomparable. However, the stage production tries very hard, almost feeling forced, to get to the level of the movie. It’s simply impossible to have fountains of champagne, spinning napkins, and elaborately cascading plates on stage, and the show’s attempt at recreating these animated spectacles fell short, leaving a sense of disappointment.
Beauty and the Beast the movie does not contain much humor, but everyone enjoys a funny show. The stage version tries to change that by adding sequences of somewhat forced attempts at eliciting laughter from the audience. The attempts at adding more “adult” humor just felt awkward in the Disney context. By far the funniest additions to the show were very subtle examples of physical humor, the best of which involved a heavy sack is set on a table causing the actors to rise and fall slightly as if from a shockwave.
The performers of the show all performed quite well, and it’s no coincidence that many of them have worked together before as performers on the Disney Cruise Line. Jillian Butterfield shined as Belle in the opening song “Belle” and her bigger solos like “Home.” Ryan Everett Wood stayed true to the Beast with a nice rendition of one of the added songs, “If I Can’t Love Her.” Patrick Pevehouse with the world’s longest arms performed well as Lumiere in his big scenes such as “Be Our Guest.” Overall the cast of Beauty and the Beast was full of talent. So, Beauty and the Beast didn’t turn out to be quite the show I was hoping for, even though it is based on such a spectacular movie. Trying too hard to match the movie, often word for word in much of the dialogue, the stage version quite noticeably fell behind. No doubt a great show for kids, I’d recommend for others to stay in the comfort of their home and relive their childhood with the original.