TPAC’S “Beauty” Shines!

I suppose every theatre critic has wanted to write those immortal words – “SENSATIONAL!” “SPARKLING!” “BREATHTAKING!” “NOT
TO BE MISSED!” – that seem to appear on every billboard ad for every Broadway show that comes to town. Well, the time has come.
I attended the return engagement of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” Tuesday night, and I can honestly say, for the first time,
“Beauty and the Beast” is the most fun I’ve had at a major theatrical presentation in recent memory. A fairy tale on a grand scale,
played with wit and verve, humor and pathos, “Beauty…” is a classic tale of love, lust, pride and revenge. Its characters are bigger
than life, and all too human. More than two dimensional singing icons, Belle, Gaston, Lumiere, and of course the Beast all traverse
the minefield of human existence are changed by the experience – some for the better; some for the worse.

Gratefully, playwright Linda Woolverton, who also penned the screenplay for the animated Disney feature, left the story line intact.
Rather than drag you through some totally unexpected plot twists, Ms. Woolverton instead expanded the story from its original 90
minutes to 2 * hours by fleshing out the characters. We learn that the Beast, while still a prince, though prideful of his looks and
wealth, never learned to read. Belle, who appears supremely confident in the animated version, reveals her own insecurities at being
the ‘odd-woman out.’ Both grow, and more importantly recognize that they are growing, poignantly expressed by Belle in “A Change
In Me,” one of the new songs written for the Broadway show.

Of course the great songs from the animated version were retained. The hopelessly romantic title cut; the hilarious barroom ditty
“Gaston” (I use antlers in all of my decorating…Oh what a guy that Gaston!), and the showstopping, “Be Our Guest.”

Special kudos to Monica M. Wemitt as the delightful Madame de la Grande Bouche (the chest of drawers) for her marvelous comic
timing. Jacqui Graziano, Melissa Lone, and Michele Tibbitts were delightful as the three silly girls. (I’m still trying to figure out why
Gaston wanted Belle, when these three were available.) And of course Andrew Boyer as Cogsworth and Rob Lorey as Lumiere stole
the show with their antics.
“Beauty and the Beast” is more than a classic fairy tale, and it is more than a scintillating Broadway show. It is a fable, a parable, a
morality play about the transforming power of love, and our desperate need for forgiveness. It is about seeing past appearances, into
the heart.
Sensational? Sparkling? Breathtaking? Not to be missed? Yes. There. I’ve said. And I mean it.
Disney’s Beauty and the Beast plays TPAC’s Jackson Hall through March 9, 2003.


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