Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern
Beauty and the Beast
Kravis On Broadway presents the NETworks production of the smash hit Broadway musical Beauty and the Beast at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts. Based on the 1991 Academy Award-winning animated feature film, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, Disney's Beauty and the Beast was nominated for nine Tony Awards, including Best Musical, when it opened on Broadway in 1994. It is now the sixth longest-running show in Broadway history. With music by Alan Menken, Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, and book by Linda Woolverton, the stage version has memorable new songs added to the animated version.
The story is set in a provincial small town in France and features a beautiful and bright young heroine, her handsome and loutish suitor, a cursed young prince and an enchanted castle. The morals of the story are: true beauty is more than skin deep, and love has a redemptive power. A romantic fairy tale fantasy for people of all ages, this is a show designed to be filled with special effects and illusions as well as dazzling production numbers and costuming.
The original creators of the Broadway show join forces again for this new touring production. The play is directed by Rob Roth and choreographed by Matt West, with Costume Design by Ann Hould-Ward (Tony Award winner for her work on Disney's Beauty and the Beast), Lighting Design by Natasha Katz, Scenic Design by Stanley A. Meyer. "It has been wonderful to bring the entire original design team back together to work on this new production of Beauty and the Beast said director Rob Roth. "We have remained very close as a team over the years of producing the show around the world, and it has been so much fun getting together to re-explore and re-invent the show for this new NETworks tour." "The theme of Beauty is about seeing past the exterior into the heart of someone, and this is reflected in the design for the show, which is about transparency and layersseeing past one thing and into another," he added. For additional information the tour of this show, visit www.BeautyAndTheBeastOnTour.com.
Those expecting the lush production values and glorious costuming understandably associated with Beauty and the Beast may be disappointed in this NETworks production of the show. The costuming for Lumiere, Mrs. Potts and Cogsworth are especially lacking in structure and creativity. As the characters continue to morph into the inanimate object versions of themselves, they are supposed to acquire more details that make them increasingly aware of their change. The addition of a winding key to Cogsworth, and a few extra feathers at Babette's wrist is just not enough. Mrs. Potts' mushy looking costume is the worst of the four. It actually was hard to tell she was a teapot when she first entered stage. The use of puppets as wolves and the illusion of the enchantress behind a scrim both come off looking amateurish. They do not add to the desired element of fantasy, but rather make us more aware that we are watching a staged piece. The lighting for the show is uniformly too dark. It is unclear as to whether the intent is to mask what is lacking in production value, or if the lighting design is just poorly executed.
Liz Shivener (Belle) has nice clarity in her singing voice, though it is lacking in depth and color. Her straight-toned singing makes her voice sound a bit more like the voice of a teenager than desired. Her acting is sound, however, and especially lovely in the scenes when Belle discovers her growing affection for the Beast. These moments, which are often sloppily directed, are genuinely clear and believable. Justin Glaser is well cast as the Beast. He captures the conflict of the man trapped in a body not his own, without focusing on bitterness or resentment. Interestingly enough, while he does such a nice job conveying the clumsy grace of the Beast, once he is transformed back into his own form at the end of the show, Glaser has surprisingly awkward stage presence. As well as Glazer sings the role of the Beast, it is obvious when he is unmasked that the audience has been missing about 25% of his sound due to microphone positioning within his costume. It is like listening to a glorious new voice. How unfair to the singer and to the audience that we don't get to fully hear that voice for the entire show.
Nathaniel Hackmann unleashes his lush, rippling baritone singing voice with precision as Gaston. There are even a couple of moments on held high notes that hint at a portion of his voice left untapped in this role. While he possesses the right attitude and swagger as Gaston, he is missing the brawn and stature. The phrase "where's the beef?" comes to mind. He is the perfect straight man in his physical comedy set-ups of sidekick Michael Fatica (LeFou). They have a nice chemistry together. Fatica shows wonderful timing, and deft, slap-stick style physical comedy skills as LeFou. His performance is one of the highlights of the show.
The trio of Keith Kirkwood (Cogsworth), Lumiere (Merritt David Janes) and Mrs. Potts (Sabina Petra) are missing the tight feel of three old friends. Petra lacks maternal warmth in her portrayal. Kirkwood misses the comedic opportunities of playing his role as more reserved and stodgy. Of the three, Janes has the firmest grip on his character, but muddles it up with an overly thick and inconsistent French accent. While the ensemble really delivers in ensemble numbers such as "Human Again" and "Be Our Guest," this production is filled with too many production value issues and acting choices that are just not quite right.
Lyricist Tim Rice is probably best known for his collaborative work with Andrew Lloyd Webber on the musicals Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. He also wrote the lyrics for Chess (music by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus) and The Lion King (with music by Elton John). Rice received both an Oscar and a Golden Globe Award in 1993 for the song "A Whole New World" from the film Aladdin.
Composer Alan Menken is best known for his numerous scores for films produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios such as The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and Pocahontas, each of which won him two Academy Awards. He also composed the scores for The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, Enchanted and Tangled. Menken has received a total of eight Oscar Awards.
Lyricist Howard Ashman collaborated with composer Alan Menken on the films The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Alladin. He also wrote the book and lyrics for the musicals Little Shop of Horrors and Smile.
This production of Beauty and the Beast is scheduled to appear January 4-9, 2011, on the Marden Stage of Dreyfoos Hall, in the Raymond F. Kravis Center for the Performing Arts. The Kravis Center for the Performing Arts is located at 701 Okeechobee Boulevard in West Palm Beach, FL. For tickets to this show, and/or information on their season, you may contact them by phone at 561-832-7469 (561-832-SHOW) or 1-800-572-8471 (1-800-KRAVIS-1), or online at www.kravis.org.
The actors and stage managers in this production are members of Actors' Equity Association, the union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.