Walking to the Ordway last Friday night with the Christmas lights in Rice Park and the ice skaters nearby, it felt like my friend and I were passing through an enchanted winter wonderland. And for me, the enchantment continued as the curtain rose on the Ordway’s production of Beauty and the Beast. The first scene opens in the village with the townpeople singing about Belle and her desire to not conform to the provincial life of their small town. I felt like I was seeing the movie come to life, and I was hooked.
In many stage productions that have also been popular movies, there are songs that are unfamiliar to the audience. I have been disappointed by these songs at times because they seem to add length but not substance to the story. This was not the case for me with this production. I felt that the new song “No Matter What,” which introduces us to Belle’s father Maurice, really speaks of their love and support of each other and their dreams. “How Long Must This Go On?”—sung by Jeremiah James as the Beast—showcases James’s strong voice and acting ability: he is able to convey his feelings of loss and despair despite the makeup he wears for almost the entire show.
Laurine Price is the perfect Belle: she portrays the transformation of her character from an independent, loving daughter trapped in a small town to a woman who experiences fear, despair, and finally happiness and love in her encounters with the Beast. Jonathan Burgard as Gaston and Christopher Sergeeff as his sidekick Lefou give us the villains we love to hate, along with comic relief with their slapstick antics. The entire cast has strong voices and carry the story from beginning to end without a hitch. I do feel that the characters of Lumiere (Bradley Greenwald) and Cogsworth (Ed Dixon) are hard to understand at times, but it can’t be easy portraying a talking candelabra and clock. Again, because the material is so familiar it’s easy to fill in the blanks and follow the story.
|disney’s beauty and the beast, playing through january 3 at the ordway center for the performing arts. for tickets ($27-$75) and information, see ordway.org.|
The sets are very clever, particularly as they are manipulated to portray the transformations among the different scenes. The wolves in the forest and the fight scene between Gaston and the Beast are appropriately scary, to the point where I would caution against bringing very young children. I did see some of the younger children, not getting frightened, but getting distracted during parts of Act One, which lasted almost 90 minutes. I, on the other hand, was enthralled with the entire production from beginning and end and would be happy to go back and see it a second time. Because there was lots of action it was hard to decide whether to focus on the main characters or all the other acting going on at the same time on stage.
I have to admit that I did not read the program until I sat down to write this review and I was surprised to find out that this was the Ordway’s own production and featured many talented local actors, crew and musicians. I believe that this production matches or surpasses many of the touring Broadway shows that I have seen. I would encourage you to consider taking your family to see it during this holiday season. You won’t be disappointed.
|This event is featured in the Daily Planet’s complete guide to holiday theater. Throughout the holiday season, the guide will be updated with links to new Daily Planet reviews—so you know who’s been naughty and who’s been nice.|