As I walked into the Orpheum Theatre this past Tuesday night, I wasn’t sure what to expect. After all, I’d grown up watching the classic Disney movie Beauty and the Beast, and was skeptical that the stage version would be up to par. However, I left the theater with happy thoughts and a reassurance that movies and stage can actually blend together.
From the second you enter, you feel as though you’ve been transported into a wonderland straight out of a storybook. From the lit rose on the scrim to the fanciful scrollwork decorating each side of the stage, each scene felt like a page in a much beloved children’s storybook. Everything, the music, the lights, the sound effects, the set, everything is slightly exaggerated, just as a children’s show should be. However, although the show was clearly geared towards children, there were subtle nuances only understood by the teenagers and adults in the audience, just as the original Disney movies are. Certain things, such as the placement of the pendulum on Cogsworth, the loveable if not naïve grandfather clock, to the costumes (or lack thereof) of the silverware in the ever-classic number “Be Our Guest” showed the mastery of making a show entertaining for all ages.
Though this show had an impeccable set, wonderful actors and actresses (an audible “awww” echoed throughout the room the first time the adorable Sean Reda (Chip) spoke) and incredible orchestration, the special effects were really what took the show from good to great. The lighting distracted the audience when necessary: when human turned into beast, when beast turned into human. Any type of transformation was made onstage, adding to the kind of magic only Disney can pull off.
However, no show is perfect, and the age old saying “You’re only as strong as your weakest link” certainly proved to be true here. Hilary Maiberger, who played Belle, was a talented singer technique wise, but lacked expression when she sang. The first act dragged on; I felt myself getting tired, so I can only imagine the myriad of young children, many dressed in Belle costumes, were probably quite close to falling asleep. However, the show picked up immensely after intermission, and the second act, while being physically shorter than the first, was also livelier and had altogether better singing, acting, and dancing.
Nevertheless, no show is perfect. This show was one of the better ones I’ve seen recently and I would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone, with or without young children, if they’d like an evening full of beautiful costumes, winsome music, and a love story that’s truly a tale as old as time.
And if that doesn’t sound like a perfect evening to you, I don’t know what would.