From the familiar notes of the overture to the final curtain, Beauty and The Beast was a delightfully sweet, humorous and wonderfully magical production. Meticulous attention was given to every creative detail from costumes, lighting and scenic designs to the vocal arrangements, choreography, live orchestra and puppet designs. The Winspear stage has never been so alive. If you are planning to take your kids to see only one Broadway show this year in Dallas, with out a doubt, this should be it.
Our story unfolds in a quaint little village, several two dimensional cartoon-like houses sit beneath three sets of arching scenic legs painted with gold and blue “fleur de lis.” Town’s people are hustling around, going about their daily business, three silly girls flirting with Gaston (Nathaniel Hackman) (who looks like an Elvis impersonator) and his sidekick, who brings continuous comic relief to the stage by way of acting and extreme acrobatics. A bookkeeper, a baker, and a bar tender all sing and dance through an exciting opening scene.
Gaston tries desperately to charm Belle (Liz Shivener), but all his attempts fail. Meanwhile, Belles father takes off into the woods and somehow manages to loose his way. After a well-crafted puppet show depicting a pack of attacking wolves lands him at the door of the Beast’s (Justin Glaser) castle, he finds himself locked up in a thorny cage just bellow the enchanted rose. The sets for this scene are beautiful and haunting. Each large structure of twisted metal stairs glides around the stage, shifting and unfolding with the help of four white beastly creatures. The overall effect is breathtaking.
Belle rejects Gaston’s proposal of marriage and takes off into the woods to find her father where she encounters the castle and all the enchanted objects. Belle trades her freedom for her father’s release and immediately regrets her decision. True to musical theater form, she is so sad she simply must breakout into song. This song, “Home” was not a good performance for Liz Shivener tonight. She was off pitch and rushing through the music. Thankfully it was not a very long song.
The first of two great dance scenes takes place back in the village. “Gaston” homage to the aforementioned character himself was a fantastic and fun movement composition. The stage came to life with ensemble moving about in festive circles and geometric lines, weaving through one another, skipping, jumping, and twirling around. Choreographer Matt West incorporating the clinking sound of the entire ensemble taping their metal bear mugs together in rhythmic harmony, bringing the tap dance aesthetic often found in Broadway musicals into the mix in a very creative fashion.
The second ensemble dance, “Be Our Guest” was right out of Vegas with a Disney twist. It was a spectacular display of chorus girls (golden forks) and boys (golden spoons) kicking their long legs high up into the air all together like a machine under the arch of flashing yellow lights. Golden Plates, salt and pepper, and a can-can chorus all made their way across the stage, huge smiles plastered on their faces. The dance ended with dry ice shooting out of four life-sized champaign bottles from either side of the stage. It was a sight to be scene.
The rest of the show was equally magnificent. In the final scene, Belle cries over the Beast’s injured body. The moment Belle utters the words, “I Love You” the Beast rises up floating over the stage where all of a sudden he is transformed into a handsome prince and everyone lived happily ever after.