The wonderful world of Broadway is full of sensational productions that excite and inspire but few musicals have the ability to transcend generations with magical mass appeal like the musical “Beauty and the Beast” which delighted audiences this past weekend at Kingsbury Hall. Fan’s young and old were treated to a stunning visual spectacle that often blurred the lines between the animated Disney movie and the live action on stage with a performance that more than did justice to this wonderful tale that’s as old as time.
“Beauty and the Beast” is the rare musical that successfully bridges generational gaps by appealing to children as well as adults with a production that turns a new generation of children in to life long fans and transports adults who have seen the original Disney film down memory lane to when they were young. An aura of awe and wonder are beautifully blended together with a sense of nostalgia that is so thick you could almost sweep it away with your hand. Not that you would want to as the best part of the evening was feeling as though you were a child experiencing the songs and love story of “Beauty and the Beast” for the first time.
The nearly seamless transformation of this timeless Disney classic to the stage is a marvel in itself as the musical mimics the movie in almost every way from staying true to the story in song, set pieces, and pinpoint accuracy to the endearing quirks of nearly every character. The magical world of Disney is brought to life with intricate set pieces that immerse the audience completely into the story. Clever stage craft combined with bright and colorful scenery transport the audience from the dark forbidding woods into the serene French village and most impressively create the experience of exploring the Beast’s castle along with Belle and her quite literally animated furniture friends.
Which leads to the next most impressive part of the stage adaption of “Beauty and the Beast” the creative skill and imagination of the costumes that bring a clock, candle, tea pot, dresser, and a host of dancing cutlery to life on stage to the absolute merriment and delight of the audience. The dynamic duo of the uptight Cogsworth, played by Samuel Shurtleff, and the lusty Lumiere, played by Patrick Pevehouse, are brilliant recreations of their original animated selves and wonderfully brought to life through beautiful costume, daring choreography, and skillful acting. A full range of talking and constantly moving furniture, all faithfully taken from the movie, wonderfully complement Cogsworth and Lumiere thanks to great on stage chemistry and perfectly timed humor from everyone in the cast. Pevehouse’s Lumiere in particular stands out as an audience favorite as he quite literally lights up the stage with his outrageous French accent and insatiable appetite for female companionship.
On the more human side of the cast Belle, played by Jillian Butterfield, brings spunk, spark, and a made for Broadway singing voice that will match even the most critical fan’s expectation for the character of Belle. Perhaps the most endearing performance belongs to the strapping Gaston, played by Cameron Bond, who uses his charm, vanity, and constantly flexing biceps to successfully woo the audience if not his intended object of affection Belle. Bond plays Gaston perfectly as though he were the actual animated Gaston in the flesh and with the help of a gaggle of giggling girls along with a host of loyal villagers present the most engaging musical number of the night when they sing his praises in “Gaston”.
Even with a stellar cast and spectacular set pieces at the end of the day it was the beloved music of “Beauty and the Beast” that won the night. While there are many other Broadway musicals that have lavish sets and popular catchy songs few have the ability to collectively inspire nostalgia and fascination from multiple generations like “Beauty and the Beast” does in grand fashion from the dashing bonanza of dancing dishes and cutlery in the musical number “Be Our Guest” or making the audience swoon with the romantic moonlight masterpiece song “Beauty and the Beast”. The cast and director do a wonderful job of showing why “Beauty and the Beast” truly is a tale as old as time and why Cogsworth was quite correct when he says “If it ain’t Baroque, don’t fix it.”