A Celebration of All Things Cultural, Artistic, and Entertaining in Madison
Dec 8, 2011
It may be a tale as old as time—or a childhood favorite if, like me, you were a kid in the nineties—but Disney’s Beauty and the Beast delighted audience members of a wide range of ages on its opening night on Tuesday.
The Broadway musical, which runs through Sunday at Overture Center, brings the 1991 animated film to life—in a magical way befitting the fairy tale.
Bookish, beautiful Belle becomes a prisoner in the enchanted castle of the Beast. Only falling in love—and getting that person to love him in return—will break the spell he and his servants are under and return them to their human selves.
While the production is true to the original Disney film, it was refreshing to hear a few new songs added to the familiar soundtrack. Also, this version seemed to place more emphasis on the changes the servants—the people turned into a clock, candlestick, teapot, wardrobe and more—were undergoing, the way they were constantly becoming more thing-like and less human, and the anxiety this caused them.
Emily Behny was a fantastic choice to play Belle, with a sweet “Disney princess voice,” as my mother, my date for the evening, put it. Just as enjoyable to watch was understudy Jeff Brooks as the egotistical villain Gaston. His conceited swagger and constant muscle-flexing were spot-on and very funny. (“It’s like he’s animated,” my mom whispered to me.)
But Michael Haller stole the show as Lumiere, the playboy candlestick. His French accent and body language were over-the-top in the best way, and he introduced several of the produdction's highlights—the grand musical numbers. “Be Our Guest,” in particular, was a spectacle, with knives, forks and plates dancing showgirl-style and shimmering streamers shooting out into the audience.
The imaginative sets proved both an asset and a hindrance. Staircases and houses cleverly rotated or moved to indicate a setting change, and a combination of puppets and a translucent screen allowed two wolf-attack scenes to feel convincing. But other tactics were less successful, such as when the Beast fought Gaston and transitioned to and from a monster.
Some of scenes were a bit frightening, at least for the youngest audience members. But attendees young and old were all smiles as they filtered into the Overture lobby. It seemed everyone was in the mood for a little magic.
Disney’s Beauty and the Beast runs through December 11 at Overture Center. For tickets or more information, visit overturecenter.com.
Photos courtesy of Overture Center.