From now until March 15th in the lobby of the Orpheum Theatre, you can find yourself lost in a small sea of little girls dressed up as their favorite princess: Belle. The tale as old as time has finally made it’s way to Minneapolis, but it isn’t quite as magical as the beloved animated film from 1991. Beauty and the Beast is a must see show for young children, and pretty much only young children. The actors were animated and bigger than life, though most of the time they seemed a little too animated. A lot of the time, the humor felt forced. Through the eyes of a child, their silliness must have been captivating and wonderful, but through the eyes of someone who had just spent many long hours stuck in a public school building, it got old pretty fast.
Even though it felt like the humor was overdone, you can’t argue with the definite characterization that most of the actors had. It was like Gaston (Cameron Bond) had jumped straight from the film and onto the stage. He had the perfect “too good to be true prince charming” tone in his voice to portray the narcissistic character. Gaston’s trusty sidekick, Lefou (Tony D’alelio) may have been tiny, but knew exactly how to fill up the stage with his boundless energy. They were both tremendously silly, and the kids loved it. One of the best moments in the show was the number Gaston. The ensemble members uniquely used the sound of their cups clinking together to create an exciting and crowd winning number. Mrs. Potts (Emily Jewell) was also a crowd winner, who was nothing but pure sweetness. Her voice was lovely, and hearing her sing the classic song, Beauty and the Beast, was a pleasure. Belle (Jillian Butterfield) was a nice fit for the adventurous princess and was fun to watch on stage. She, like everyone in the cast, had a beautiful and old fashioned sound, but it was a shame to have to strain to hear it. More often than not, the orchestra overpowered the singing. It was difficult to tell if this was a mic problem or a projection problem. I even had to strain to hear the actor’s dialogue most of the time.
While the lack of sound had pushed my attention elsewhere, the lights had their significant moments. Some scenes were enhanced. There were mysterious moments where the lighting and fog shaped the stage in an intriguing way, but other times it looked like they used fancy lights just to use fancy lights. At the end of Be Our Guest, there were strobes and bright lights, but it didn’t feel like it advanced the number in any way. It would have been more enjoyable if the main source of energy was from the cast and not the lights. On the other hand, the costumes of the ensemble members in that number were fantastic. Gold, sparkly, and magnificent. It was enjoyable to see Ann Hould-Ward’s work.
Overall, I was disappointed by the show. I would have liked to see more energy from the cast and humor that didn’t feel forced. But, if your child’s favorite princess just so happens to love reading and wears a beautiful yellow gown, then by all means, be our guest and come see Beauty and the Beast