Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, performing at the Orpheum Theater in Minneapolis October 16-21, is a textbook family musical: filled with lots of falls, funny faces, and the occasional dirty joke for the parents in the audience. The show is another of the many Disney movies transferred to the Broadway stage. This national tour brings back together the creative team from the original Broadway production: director Rob Roth, choreographer Matt West, and costume designer Ann Hould-Ward to name a few.
Beauty and the Beast, like most Disney movies, is about a beautiful girl-next-door-turned-princess who faces a struggle but, as always, everything turns out in her favor. Beauty and the Beast differs from the rest though, by also having a beautiful message. The beautiful girl in this case is Belle (played by Hilary Maiberger); who is also very smart but judged by the other villagers. Her life changes when she is taken prisoner by a beast (played by Darick Pead). Of course, this beast is actually a handsome prince bewitched for being too vain. The people working for the beast are also affected by the curse, and are slowly turning into inanimate objects. The antidote to lift the spell is for the beast to fall in love and to be fallen in love with. The Beast wins Belle’s heart after learning an important virtue: kindness. Ultimately, the message is that being beautiful on the inside overpowers beauty on the outside: a very important message to teach children, especially in a society so influenced by the media.
Overall, the talent in this production of Beauty and the Beast is very strong. Hilary Maiberger’s performance of Belle is wonderful and very well received. Then there is Jeff Brooks’ performance of Gaston, a cocky prince whose vanity and stupidity make for great comic relief. However, the strongest performance in the show is that of Darick Pead as the Beast. He adds depth to the beast’s personality, making him more than just a monster. But the moment when the audience really falls in love with him is during his performance of the Act I finale: “If I Can’t Love Her.” He manages to break everyone’s heart with one key change.
Being that Beauty and the Beast is so well-known; some of the performances are weaker merely because they are different from the original. Hassan Nazari-Robati’s performance of Lumiere, a servant turning into a candle stick, is satisfactory but would have been better had the audience not been expecting Jerry Orbach, the wonderful actor who voiced Lumier in the movie. The same goes for Erin Edelle’s performance of Mrs. Potts, a woman turning into a tea pot. She has a wonderful voice, but cannot compare to Angela Lansbury who voiced Mrs. Potts in the movie.
The show consists of a very talented cast trapped in a mediocre production. The choreography does not do the cast any justice, but is more exciting than the sets. There are little bits of genius, but not enough to make up for the rest of it. The anticipation of “Be Our Guest,” arguably the most popular song in the show, is almost palpable. But then it starts and the audience can’t help but think that there must’ve been something more the choreographer could have done. What makes “Be Our Guest” worth it though, is when all of the chorus girls come out dressed as silverware and something revolutionary happens: they aren’t all tall, size 0 women. Every chorus girl has a different body type and they all look beautiful. This element is so invaluable, especially in a show where half of the audience are girls ages 13 and under, because it reiterates the message of the show: beauty does not have just one definition.
Though the production could be better, any child who likes Beauty and the Beast will love this show because they are not going to be focusing on the mediocre production, but on the fact that their favorite songs are being performed right before their eyes. The reason why Beauty and the Beast is so successful, like most Disney movies-turned-musicals, is because it makes children happy and is fun to enjoy as a family. It is the reason why Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is the eighth longest running show ever on Broadway, even though it is not the eighth best show ever on Broadway.