Upon entering the Orpheum Theatre, my first inclinations about Beauty and the Beast held true: it is a show for children (mostly). Not to say that the little girls all dressed up in their princess costumes weren’t adorable – they were – but I don’t think that they saw all of the flaws in the production that a more astute observer may have noticed. The theatrical production does not deviate from the Disney storyline whatsoever, which was to be expected. It’s a simple tale: father gets kidnapped, girl saves father, kidnapper tries to become a gentleman, girl falls in love with kidnapper, and they both live happily ever after. That’s fine. That’s exactly what Beauty and the Beast for Disney has always been.
But where this production failed was in their target audience. This show is for those who are in their childhood and those who want to relive it. However, there were aspects of this show that were clearly not appropriate for children. This is with special regard to Babette (Melissa Jones). I’m willing to bet that this was not an acting choice, but a directing one – she was incredibly suggestive throughout the show. She was sitting on the laps of some men, and she had a few moments with Lumiere (Patrick Pevehouse) that implied their relationship, especially behind closed doors. I was rather uncomfortable watching many of these moments with young children in the audience.
To say that the show did a complete disservice to the legacy of the story would be untruthful. They did manage an impressive costume design (Ann Hould-Ward). The majority of the costumes were stunning. Gaston’s (Tony D’Alelio) costume was spot-on. He looked as though he had popped right out of the animated movie, which was only exacerbated by D’Alelio’s phenomenal acting – I genuinely believed that he was terribly chauvinistic and irritating, but in a way that was amusing. The costumes for the household items (Lumiere, Babette, Cogsworth, Mrs. Potts, Chip, and Madame de la Grande Bouche) were stunning and practical, as the dresser had functional “drawers” that popped open on the side and the candelabra had working lights on his hands. However, even the costumes had their drawbacks. Belle’s final dress – her famous yellow dress – was definitely not up to par. I had been expecting a fantastical dress that was instantly identifiable as “the yellow dress.” And yet, it wasn’t. The pickups on the skirt didn’t read very well at all, and the sleeves were puffy, not off-the-shoulder. And in the final scene, when Belle is getting married, instead of designing a new dress (or even an elaborate cover for the yellow dress), what appeared to be pink tulle was draped around the skirt. The original skirt was clearly visible and the “new dress” had no reference to anything recognizable from the movie. It seemed extremely misplaced.
I wish that this show had not tried to be something that it wasn’t. All I wanted was a live production of the movie, as I think that’s how to cater to children and those who wish they were still children. Yes, I will say that the show was not a bust – the songs were good, the set was relatively fine (it wasn’t phenomenal, but I’ve definitely seen worse), and the acting was generally okay. But all I wanted was the movie on a stage, and I’m sad to say that it was not delivered.