Children’s shows are not unknown to Broadway. They’ve long been a welcome part of it, particularly Disney shows like Mary Poppins and The Lion King. These shows are often enjoyed by children and adults alike. One would think that Beauty and the Beast would be no exception to Disney’s success on Broadway, so it was with much anticipation that I took my seat in the Orpheum Theatre on Tuesday night. Unfortunately, I was disappointed.
The production was put together in a way that would have been good if it were a high school with limited time and budget, but since this is supposed to be an award-winning Broadway musical, I was unimpressed. It seemed poorly done, from the confusing set to the weak musical numbers.
The story is of a girl named Belle in France who is forced to live in a castle as the prisoner of a horrible beast, where she befriends the talking household objects. It was a successful movie when it was released in 1991, but it didn’t translate well from screen to stage. The set tried and failed to have a mystical storybook feel to it, but instead it was confusing and the magical element was almost entirely lost. The opening scene featured two magical costume transformations that the audience didn’t get to see because they happened during lights-out. The costumes were alright, but only just. The villagers and household objects were as true as possible to the movie, but maybe they should have tried for something different so that Mrs. Potts and the Beast wouldn’t look quite so awkward. One costume for a sentient feather duster was downright uncomfortable for its little skirt and fishnets. I understand that there should be something to entertain the parents in the audience, but that should have been covered by production quality. There’s a time and place for quivering French maid skirts, and a show aimed at small children isn’t it.
That’s not to say that the show didn’t have good moments. Anticipated showstoppers like “Be Our Guest” and “Gaston” did have me smiling despite shaky beginnings. These numbers featured twirling dresses, confetti streamers, high kicks, and other dazzling elements that had the children ooh-ing and aah-ing. “Tale As Old As Time” was more magical than the actual magic in the plot, with Belle and the Beast twirling on a cloud underneath the stars.
Certain members of the cast added their charm to the show as well. Patrick Pevehouse played a very convincing candlestick, and Emily Jewell and Kelly Goyette as Mrs. Potts and Madame de la Grande Bouche were a pleasure to watch. By far the two standouts were Cameron Bond and Tony D’Alelio as Gaston and Lefou, who fully and enthusiastically embraced their roles as bully and sidekick. Sadly, the rest cannot be said for the title characters ofBeauty and the Beast. Neither Jillian Butterfield nor Ryan Wood played their parts convincingly, apathetic and unenergetic during their solo numbers. They and the ensemble stubbornly refused to sell the show, almost as though they knew as well as the audience that it was terrible.
Overall, if you’re a parent looking to spend an evening with your child, Beauty and the Beast will be fun for the child but probably not for you.