Regional Reviews: San Francisco
Disney's Beauty and The Beast
Also see Richard's review of Serious Money
Disney's Beauty and the Beast is at the Orpheum Theatre for a three week stay. This was my second time to see this charming musical. I saw a more elaborate version at the Shubert Theatre, Los Angeles, in 1995. This third touring version has less elaborate sets and a smaller dancing and singing chorus. However, what it lacks in these fields, it makes up in heart. The special effects and illusions are still there. With the team of Alan Menken (music) and Tim Rice (lyrics) providing the lovely score and Linda Woolverton penning the book, the musical still captivates the audience.
This story still fascinates me. With the effects toned down it is easier to see how the beauty mesmerizes the beast. The convincing professionalism of the show moves us rapidly to that final transformation from beast to prince and there is never a dull moment.
A lot of zany assistance comes from such characters as the talking teapot (Anne Kanengeiser), a candlestick that walks and talks with flames coming from both arms (Rob Lorey), a wonderfully delightful clock (Andrew Boyer), an amazing "grande bouche" (Monica M. Wemitt) and a ditzy maid cum feather duster (Tracy Generalovich). We can't forget the villain of the piece, Gaston (Marc G. Dalio) and his funny sidekick Lefou (Aldrin Gonzalez). Put all of this together and throw in the beauty's fumbling father Maurice (Charles E. Gerber) and you've got a delightful musical for the whole family.
Many bells and whistles are provided for an eye popping production number, "Be Our Guest." The number goes on and on and on with opulent costumes, special effects with pyrotechnics, Busby Berkeley choreography, and a dazzling set. We see semi-transformed household items like spoons, forks and knives strutting across the stage. This is an old fashioned show stopper that would make Ziegfeld proud (though, of course, he would have more girls in the number).
Beauty sports puns a plenty and some of the actors over camp just a wee bit. The dancing is very impressive, especially in the "Gaston" number. Director Robert Jess Roth has staged the action at breakneck speed, and scenic designer Stanley A. Meyer's sets slide and spin and transform with movie-like swiftness. Sometimes I did wish they would slow down a bit to allow us to get used to the characters but Disney is not known for character development. This is a show just meant to entertain the whole family and that is what it does. The kids in the audience have ball.
Danyelle Bossardet makes an engaging Belle, the beauty. She rises beyond a mere rosy cheeked young woman to a spirited and determined woman who rightfully stands up to the Beast. She is no woman you would want to defy. Bossardet has a lovely silver tone voice, especially in the song "Home." Grant Norman as the Beast has a powerful voice. He has little to do at the beginning of the play except to snarl and yell through his grotesque makeup. However, his voice is brilliant when he pours out his heartbreaking song, "If I Can't Love Her," in the second act. Marc G. Dalio as Gaston looks like a cross between Elvis and Li'l Abner and shows the whitest teeth I have seen on stage in a long time. He preens and slaps his thighs when he is singing his thriving ballad to his own self in "Me". Aldrin Gonzalez plays sidekick Lefou like a hapless sycophant, and he is excellent with that silly grin on his face. He would make a good Cantinflas.
Anne Kanengeiser is marvelous as Mrs. Potts and she gives an affecting rendition of "Beauty and the Beast" in the second act. She has a scrumptious voice that would please anyone. Even though you could only see Joey Caravaglio's head as Chip, he is adorable in that tea table.
Lumiere the talking candlestick is played by Rob Lorey. Lorey plays the role a little over the top like a roguish person, slightly on the gay side. He is wonderful in "Be My Guest." His "co-partner" Andrew Boyer plays fuss budget Cogsworth, the grandfather clock. He is a rubber faced delight. Monica M. Wemitt is very funny as the armoire/Madame de la Grande Bouche, especially when she breaks out in a Wagnerian voice. Tracy Generalovich as Babette is properly dizzy in all of her actions as the feather duster. Charles E. Gerber as Belle's father Maurice has an old time vaudeville voice that you rarely hear in today's musicals. He is a veteran of Broadway, Off and Off Off Broadway, and he knows his way around a stage. The ensemble of dancers are all excellent.
If you are young at heart or have children, I recommend Beauty and the Beast. It is a charming show. The musical runs through Sunday, November 3rd at the Orpheum Theatre. Tickets for the show can be obtained by calling 415-551-2020 or go to www.bestofbroadway-sf.com.