Monday, May 20, 2019

   Based upon the Academy Award-winning 1991 Disney animated film, DISNEY’S BEAUTY AND THE BEAST premiered on Broadway in 1994. In 1998 it received the Lawrence Olivier Award for Best New Musical in London.
     Dear reader, I must tell you here and now that this review is going to be a long list of accolades for an outstanding full-on production that’s unforgettable.
     Enchanting Lilliane Buonacore, who played Ariel in last season’s production of Disney’s The Little Mermaid is a fetching Belle. Her ribbon of silk voice, which Ursula clearly did not get to keep, is la crème de la crème.
     Cole LaFonte, who played Prince Eric in last season’s THE LITTLE MERMAID, is the Beast. As powerful displaying his fiery anger as he is poignant being “tamed” by Belle’s reading to him about King Arthur, LaFonte is a commanding presence onstage.
    Illuminating the proceedings with his candle labra-like hands, Bob Hoppe is smashing as Lumiere. This superb musical theatre actor ‘waxes’(sorry!) poetic as he leads all the Beast’s very animated kitchen utensils in an elaborately conceived and executed version of “BE OUR GUEST.”  
     Scott Severtson’s performance in the role of the arrogant, narcissistic and self-absorbed Gaston, is, as usual, top-notch. Belle’s unrelenting suitor, who refuses to stop stalking her, Gaston is the character we love to hate. Flexing, posing and swaggering throughout, Severtson nails this character with consummate skill. 
     In yet another outstanding performance, Tracy Warren delivers an indelible portrayal of Mrs. Potts. This multitalented actor’s singing of the title song, “Beauty and the Beast,” is delicious to the ear. 
     Wayne Kennedy plays Maurice, Belle’s kindly inventor father as well as providing us as audience with a masterful sound design. The “bone-headed inventiveness” of Maurice’s newest contraption is eye-and-ear-popping- all on its own. And whether the wolves are howling or the Beast is roaring, Kennedy’s design delivers the goods with clarity and ease.      
     Scott Beyette is most memorable as Cogsworth.
     Danielle Scheib is a deliciously comical and sexy Babette.
     Leo Batlle is both goofy and amusing as Gaston’s fawning sidekick, Le Fou.
     Alicia K. Meyers and Matthew D. Peters share credit for direction and choreography. As co-directors these two artists keep the stage alive with vibrant action throughout. Likewise, their success in the realm of choreography ranges from the exuberant tankard-clanking dance in “Gaston,” to the gorgeous ballroom dance for which this show is famous. The duo even allows for a bit of tap dancing in one number.
      Thanks to Tom Quinn’s projections BDT Stage’s production has a certain visual fluidity akin to that which one finds in cinema. Mr. Quinn’s visual illusions allow for the child in each and all in attendance to be swept, wide-eyed and mystified, into this beloved fairy tale. The decorative illustration of the rose on the stage frontispiece at the top of the show is a wonder all on its own. 
   This production also leans heavily upon the delight created by stage magicians. At certain junctures in the story a sparkling cloth appears before the objects in a scene. And Presto/Change-O, the drape is instantly drawn away leaving some new wonder for us to discover. These quick flashes of magical legerdemain involving stage transformation work beautifully. The ultimate transformation of beast to prince is something altogether different. It’s a masterful stroke of theatrical magic! No spoilers here! 
     Linda Morken’s costume design is a knock-out! The visually spectacular gown Belle wears for the famous waltz near final curtain is simply gorgeous. Those she created for all the other characters are eye-popping!
     Amy Campion has done an outstanding job with the scenic design. Her creation of Belle’s village is enchanting. The Beast’s castle is an architectural wonder that’s awe-inspiring.
     Brett Maughan’s lighting design is magnificent!
     The prosthetics for the show are created and designed by stage make-up magician Todd Debreceni.
     The memorable and tuneful score for this romantic fairy tale by Alan Menken, Tim Rice and Howard Ashman, is played with true musical virtuosity by Neal Dunfee and the BDT Stage orchestra.

   Exhilarating and enchanting, the joie de vivre of this production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is infectious. 

                                Run to see it.
Marlowe's Musings

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