Stage DoorReviews

Beauty and the Beast

Princess of Wales Theatre, Toronto
1995 - Indefinite Run (now closed)
A Stage Door Review by Jim Lingerfelt
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-----We just may have enjoyed the best-ever musical theatre experience since Joseph last week at the Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto: Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.
-----First, let’s clear up one misconception. This is not just a "kid’s show." Although kids will love it (and made up about 20% of the sell-out matinee we attended), no one writes lyrics like swaggering Gaston’s addle-brained boast "I’m especially good at expectorating; I use antlers in all my decorating" for kids. Nor will kids recognize the playful pokes at Esther Williams and Carmen Miranda-style big production musicals of the ’40s, with high-stepping dancers prancing down cascading dishes, costumed as giant kitchen utensils. Secondly, although the play is faithful to the animated Disney movie, it is much more. The characters are more carefully developed, their bewitched plight of becoming less human, more object, with every dropping rose petal is more anguished, more real, and generates more sympathy. We know it’s just a fairy tale, but these teapots and candelabra are no longer cartoon characters with celebrity voices; they are, or at least were, real people, and we share their anxious desire to be restored to that state again. The stage version has also added six new songs, bringing the total to a dozen fine pieces (remember the record-breaking trio of best song Academy Award nominations?). The new songs, with music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Tim Rice (after original collaborator Howard Ashman’s tragic death just before the movie was released), add layers of character relationships and sophistication not found in the movie. Although the acting is certainly secondary to the overwhelming splendour, effects and music of this play, there are still several marvelous parts. Dan R. Chameroy as the muscle-bound, self-adoring Gaston, had already proven his adaptability to this role, in Into the Woods, where he played Prince "I wasn’t raised to be sincere" Charming. A delightful surprise was his punching-bag companion, Cliff Saunders as Lefou. That fellow bounces, and is bounced, across that stage as often and as resiliently as his cartoon counterpart.
-----Local favourite Terry Doyle has moved from Polly’s father in Crazy to Belle’s slightly off-beat dad in Beauty. He’s perfectly cuddly in the role that, on stage, is one of several that has more importance than the film version. Kerry Butler is Belle, a role that, despite its title ranking, does not really allow for much creativity. Her captor is played by a remarkably talented Chuck Wagner, although he is much more appealing as the doting Beast than as the gloating Prince (one man’s opinion; another woman’s heartthrob).
-----Appliances and household accouterments are perfectly portrayed by Judy Marshak as kindly Mrs. Potts, André Thérien and Paul Brown as Lumière and Cogsworth, and thirty others filling out the cupboards, wardrobes and closets.
-----The show opens with special effects (including the first-ever throwable hand-held fireball, that took a year and a half to develop just for this show), builds on them (including the de-corporated Chip, the son of Mrs. Potts who is fast becoming a teacup), and closes with them (a stunning levitation and spiraling mid-air transformation of Beast to Prince). There are 1000 pieces of scenery, 200 costumes, and enough lights (1.2 million watts) to illuminate the SkyDome. The theatrical wizardry and imaginative design are dazzling, from beginning to climax to climax upon climax.
-----And it’s a nice story, too.
-----Beauty and the Beast is in an indefinite run at the Princess of Wales. For tickets ($27 to $91), call 1-800-461-3333.

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Speaking of which, here's what You are saying:
The musical Beauty and the Beast was AMAZING. Even though I've seen the movie (which if followed almost exactly) about 100 times, it was still very eciting.
-----The costumes were gorgeous and also fit the movie almost exactly. Also to go in the cotegory of gorgeous were the backgrounds...WOW! Were they every neat, and the way they could move them...Cool!
-----Although all scenes were amazing, I think my favorite was "Be Our Guest," because I ghough the coustumes in that were the best, and I liked the way they used the lights to make the forks and spoons spin, plus that's always been my favorite song in the movie.
-----Now that I've told you everything I liked, you probably want to know what i kidn't like, but I can't tell you because there really wasn't anything I didn't like.
Podraigan Murphy, age 10


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