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Theatre Review: Disney’s Beauty and the Beast brings the story to life

Anne Evans Anne Evans Theatre Review: Disney’s Beauty and the Beast brings the story to life
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It’s a tale as old as time and not many do it better than Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Last night was opening night at the beautiful Palace Theatre for the Broadway version of the tale and it has all of your favorites. Beautiful, supposed oddball, Belle, smarmy dreamboat Gaston, hideous but endearing Beast, and the host of enchanted objects.

Darick Pead as Beast and Hilary Maiberger as Belle. Photo by Joan Marcus.

It opens just the way the movie does, with a Prince receiving a cruel, but deserving, turn of fate from an enchantress before moving on to a small town coming alive in the morning with a wonderful song. Hilary Maiberger has a beautiful voice and fills her songs with emotion. Gaston was played by Jeff Brooks for opening night, but he had the same giant muscles, huge jaw, and big ego as the cartoon, and he’s also fun to watch. The silly girls that spend their days gushing over Gaston were a bit more fanatical than fawning, but no one seemed to mind.

The sets for the show are elaborate and practical and transport you from town to woods to castle effortlessly. The contraption that Belle’s father Maurice (William A. Martin) makes is fun to see as a real working piece.

If you are planning to take young children, be warned, the scenes in the woods and the early scenes with the Beast are a bit alarming and could be scary. (There were many beautiful princesses and little Belles in the audience).

Darick Pead plays Beast with a bit more teenage angst then I like, I like him to be brooding and endearing. However, as his interactions with Belle increase and he progresses to a person of caring, Pead does ease up on the spoiled tones in his voice.

Gaston pitying himself and pouting back in the town after Belle turned down his marriage proposal -what girl would say no when asked to “come extend the family tree” with a guy- leads to the second best song and dance number of the musical, Gaston. You know the one, it starts off in the bar with Gaston’s sidekick Lefou singing Gaston’s praises and then Gaston declaring himself as the perfect human specimen and the best at expectorating. The Broadway version really ramps up the tune with a chorus line of clanking beer steins.

That leaves us with the best song and dance number of the show. Every Disney film has their whacked out crazy song and in Beauty and the Beast, it is Be Our Guest. (What are those objects feeding her?!). The Broadway version does not disappoint, complete with lots of swirling dancers in flashy costumes, shining lights, beautiful draperies, a cartwheeling carpet, and streamers galore. It’s wonderful.

'Be Our Guest.' Hilary Maiberger as Belle and the cast of Disney's Beauty and the Beast. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Hassan Nazari-Robati almost steals the show as Lumiere. His wonderful accent, comedic banter, and fun costume with his candlestick hands really light up the stage.

If you love Beauty and the Beast, this musical has everything you love, including all of the beautiful music associated with the movie with Jeremy M. Brewer shining on French Horn.  It’s only missing one thing.

I think the musical missed the best part by not raising Beast into the sky for his transformation. Shrek the Musical was able to do that with Fiona and we all know Beauty and the Beast is where they lifted that idea. The special effects conveyed the change from Beast to Prince well, but it could have been more magical.

NETworks Presentations, LLC presentation of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast plays at The Palace Theatre through Sunday, October 14. Tickets are $28-83. For more information about the show, and to buy tickets, visit columbus.broadway.com.

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