×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Beauty and the Beast

Born in Hollywood as an animated film, Disney's version of "Beauty and the Beast" has returned home as an opulent stage musical, a year after its Broadway bow. Both good and bad choices have been made in adapting the 1991 film, but with its outstanding performances, fantastic production values and memorable score, this show should warm the hearts of all but the most curmudgeonly theatergoers.

With:
Belle - Susan Egan
Beast - Terrence Mann
Gaston - Burke Moses
Maurice - Tom Bosley
Lumiere - Gary Beach
Mrs. Potts - Beth Fowler
Cogsworth - Fred Applegate
Babette - Heather Lee
Madame de la Grande Bouche - Mary Jo Catlett

Born in Hollywood as an animated film, Disney’s version of “Beauty and the Beast” has returned home as an opulent stage musical, a year after its Broadway bow. Both good and bad choices have been made in adapting the 1991 film, but with its outstanding performances, fantastic production values and memorable score, this show should warm the hearts of all but the most curmudgeonly theatergoers.

This is Disney’s first venture into legit, and is virtually the same show that opened in Houston in December 1993 and bowed on Broadway four months later. With the exception of Fred Applegate, who fits in beautifully as the tightly wound human-turned-clock

Cogsworth, the principals are all vets of the original cast, and their experience shows: These are razor-sharp performances.

Susan Egan’s transformation is much more subtle than the Beast’s, and she handles it beautifully, and sings with great expressiveness.

Terrence Mann makes the Beast’s often vain attempts to control his anger — and, later, overcome his shyness — extremely amusing. It’s like watching a well-coached 5-year-old at a formal dinner party; you keep waiting for the facade to drop.

For all its glitz — and the special effects are dazzling — the show is most affecting in its quiet moments, as it tells the story of two scared people who hesitantly, tentatively fall in love. The classic fairy tale, sensitively retold by Linda Woolverton (scripter of the animated film and writer of the book here), strikes all sorts of primal chords.

Director Robert Jess Ross, who has created shows for the company’s theme parks, overplays the physical comedy at times but stages the romantic scenes with welcome sensitivity.

The evolving relationship between Belle and the Beast works even better than in the film, thanks in large part to a new scene written for the play. As the two sit in the library, Belle reads the Beast the story of King Arthur. He responds by showing genuine vulnerability — a touching moment that points the way to their falling in love.

Woven into that lengthy scene is the song “Human Again,” a Howard Ashman-Alan Menken number that got cut from the movie. Like “Be Our Guest,” which also stars the household objects, it’s a huge, flashy production number that works on its own bewitching terms even as it helps move the story along.

The musical reprises the six songs that the late lyricist Howard Ashman and composer Alan Menken wrote for the pic, and adds seven new ones. Six of those were penned by Menken with lyrics by Tim Rice; they’re serviceable, but can’t compete with the late Ashman’s brilliant wit. “If I Can’t Love Her,” which the Beast sings to close act one, makes the strongest impact, thanks to Mann’s passionate rendition.

What keeps the show fromgreatness is the decision by someone to tone down the sense of danger one felt watching the movie (which reflected the spirit of the original fairy tale.)

The audience should be scared for Belle as she is chased by wolves, but the dancing carnivores aren’t threatening.

Belle’s would-be suitor, Gaston (Burke Moses), who is a menacing clown in the film, is merely a clown in the play.

Even the dramatic climax, when the lynch mob storms the Beast’s castle, is played largely for laughs.

Someone obviously decided that the show shouldn’t be too disturbing to an audience dominated by parents and their children.

But this is a disturbing story and kids somehow survived watching the film. It’s doubtful that Walt Disney, who understood the necessity for strong villains , would have accepted this sanitized approach.

Gary Beach shamelessly plays to the audience as candelabra Lumiere, but his amusing hamminess is perfect for the character. Tom Bosley has little to do as Belle’s father, and does it well enough.

Matt West’s choreography is often quite clever. The dance during “Gaston,” which includes synchronized chinking of beer mugs, is particularly delightful.

Ann Hould-Ward’s costumes are appropriately colorful and fanciful. Stan Meyer’s sets are amazing. With its cathedral-like ceilings and staircases heading in various directions, the beast’s castle is both beautiful and intimidating.

Beauty and the Beast

Shubert Theater, Century City; 2,200 seats; $65 top

Production: Walt Disney Prods. presents a musical in two acts with music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman, Tim Rice and book by Linda Woolverton; director, Robert Jess Roth.

Creative: Choreography, Matt West; sets, Stan Meyer; costumes, Ann Hould-Ward; lighting, Natasha Katz; hair design, David H. Lawrence; illusions, Jim Steinmeyer, John Gaughan; prosthetics, John Dods.

Cast: Belle - Susan Egan
Beast - Terrence Mann
Gaston - Burke Moses
Maurice - Tom Bosley
Lumiere - Gary Beach
Mrs. Potts - Beth Fowler
Cogsworth - Fred Applegate
Babette - Heather Lee
Madame de la Grande Bouche - Mary Jo Catlett
With: Jeremy Lelliott, Adam Wylie, Jamie Torcellini, Cleve Asbury, Donna Marie Asbury, Bill Burns, Sherri Curtis, John Dewar, Gregg Engle, Ivy Fox, Suzi Carr George, Linda Griffin, Pamela Hamill, Suzanne Harrer, Skip Harris, Jeffrey Howard, Linda Igarashi, Linda Kerns, Jonathan Kline, Michael Lang, Kenneth McMullen, Julie Pappas, Michael Paternostro, Lise Simms, Darick Spaans, Arlene Thomas, Tracy Venner, Randy Wojcik, Stephen Zinnato. With the voice of David Ogden Stiers.

More Legit

  • Signature Theatre Celebrates Millionth Subsidized Ticket

    Signature Theatre Offers $35 Subsidized Tickets, Celebrates Millionth Sold

    Just the other night, a Manhattan cab driver told Signature Theatre executive director Harold Wolpert that he couldn’t afford to take his girlfriend to a show. In response, Wolpert motioned to his theater, saying that they offer $35 subsidized tickets. The driver said he’d try it out. “It was a great moment,” Wolpert said. “We’re [...]

  • SOCRATES The Public Theater

    Tim Blake Nelson Waxes Philosophical on Writing a Play About Socrates

    Despite Tim Blake Nelson’s knack for playing folksy characters in films such as “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” in his soul lurks the heart of a classicist. Nelson, who stars in HBO’s “Watchmen” series this fall, has also penned the play “Socrates,” now running at New York’s Public Theater through June 2. Doug Hughes directs, [...]

  • TodayTix - Brian Fenty

    TodayTix Banks $73 Million to Boost Theater and Arts Ticketing App

    TodayTix, a Broadway-born mobile ticketing start-up, is looking to expand into a bigger global media and transaction enterprise with a capital infusion of $73 million led by private-equity firm Great Hill Partners. The investment brings TodayTix’s total capital raised to over $100 million, according to CEO and co-founder Brian Fenty. Part of the new funding [...]

  • Ethan Hawke, Bobby Cannavale and Griffin

    BAM Gala Marks Leadership Change, Celebrates Brooklyn as 'Cultural Center of New York'

    Wednesday’s annual gala celebrating the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) served as a poignant moment of transition for the New York stalwart of contemporary performance. As long-time artistic director Joe Melillo, who along with Harvey Lichtenstein transformed BAM into a vanguard of progressive art, prepares to pass the torch to new leadership, gathered patrons and [...]

  • Tootsie Santino Fontana

    Listen: Santino Fontana on How Broadway's 'Tootsie' Was Adapted for Our Times

    Broadway’s “Tootsie” has turned into one of this season’s Tony Awards frontrunners, winning raves for its deftly funny update of potentially problematic source material — and for a firecracker cast led by Tony nominee Santino Fontana (“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” “Frozen”), who makes his character’s transformation, from difficult actor Michael Dorsey to female alter ego Dorothy Michaels, [...]

  • Death of a Salesman review

    London Theater Review: 'Death of a Salesman'

    August Wilson famously disavowed the idea of an all-black “Death of a Salesman.” In 1996, he declared any such staging “an assault on our presence and our difficult but honorable history in America.” Arthur Miller’s antihero is no everyman, Wilson implied; Willy Loman is very specifically white. Critic John Lahr was inclined to agree: “To [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content