AT&T Performing Arts Center, Dallas
IMAGE ABOVE: Photo by Amy Boyle, courtesy of AT&T Performing Arts Center.
When Walt Disney Pictures released their 30th animated film in November 1991, it became the studio’s highest grossing animated film to date, and had the distinction of garnering six Academy Award nominations, including a nod for Best Picture. Yes, the storytelling, plot and sweeping grandeur of the animation were very impressive then, as it is today.
Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is the classic story of Belle, a young woman in a provincial town, and the Beast, who is really a young prince trapped in a spell placed by an enchantress. If the Beast can learn to love and be loved, the curse will end and he will be transformed to his former self. But time is running out. If the Beast does not learn his lesson soon, he and his household will be doomed for all eternity.
Disney eventually transformed the story into a Broadway hit musical that ran for over 5,000 performances before closing in 2007. The show is now on its fourth national tour, the original Broadway creative team has been reunited to rejuvenate the production, and it shows beautifully on stage at the AT&T Performing Arts Center as part of the Lexus Broadway Series through April 27.
A “tale as old as time,” the show still dazzles with it’s memorable music by by Alan Menken and lyrics by the late Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, and it’s top-notch production design. Costumes by designer Ann Hould-Ward (a Tony Award® winner for her work), are terrifically imagined; extravagant and beautiful to look at. In fact, much care has been given to the entire proceedings, with an exaggerated storybook look given to the sets and many intricately painted backdrops. And better, the choreography takes a prominent role not just in the many big dance numbers (“Be Our Guest” is a sweeping and colorful showstopper), but in adding a great deal of physical comedy to some of the sidekick characters, and some brutality to the Beast.
Yes, the show is still family fare, but with just a bit of modern thinking to give it some depth. The storytelling has clarity and vigor, making the two-and-a-half hour show waltz. It helps when the leads (Hilary Maiberger as Belle; Darick Pead as Beast) have strong voices; her’s a lifting operatic songbird, his a rich, throaty baritone.
Disney is reportedly eying Beauty for a makeover. Let’s hope the charm and imagination that still lives in this new touring production makes a successful jump back to the silver screen.
– SCOT C HART