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An Energy-Driven Production of Beauty and the Beast

Also see Richard's reviews of Avenue Q, Storefront Church and Jeanie's review of The Snow Queen


Hilary Maiberger and Darick Pead
Disney's Beauty and the Beast has returned to San Francisco. I first saw the production at the Palace Theatre in New York in 1994 with Susan Egan as Belle and Terrence Mann as the Beast. Later I saw the touring production in Los Angeles. This marks the third time I have seen this pleasurable musical.

The current touring production is reimagined from the original designers and is scaled down. However, the crux of the story and score is still evident. What it lacks in production values it makes up for with an energetic cast of great singers and dancers. It is still as the New York Times puts it "an entertaining show for all ages."

There was a lot of laughter coming from both the kids and the adults at the Curran Theatre, as the actors make the characters come to life. One of the great assets of this beloved musical is the score, with music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice. The cast goes all out in presenting the big production number "Be Our Guest" which reminds me of a Las Vegas review like "Jubilee." This is an eye-popping production number with opulent costumes, Busby Berkeley-style choreography by Matt West, and a dazzling set by Stanley A. Meyer. The audience sees such semi-transformed household items as spoons, forks and knives dancing across the stage.

Hilary Maiberger makes an impressive Belle, the Beauty. She has a sweet soprano voice, especially when she sings "Home" and "A Change in Me." Darick Pead as the Beast has a powerhouse voice. He gives a heartrending rendition of "If I Can't Love Her" and "How Long Must This Go On?." Tim Rogan is excellent as the narcissistic Gaston, looking like L'il Abner. He preens and whacks his thighs when he is singing his ballad to his own self, "Me." Jordan Aragon plays Gaston's subordinate Lefou like a luckless sycophant. He performs some wonderful athletic feats during the performance.

Kristin Stewart is marvelous as Mrs. Potts, with warm vocal chops giving an affecting rendition of "Beauty and the Beast." Hassan Nazari-Robati is perfect as the talking candlestick Lumiere. He has a wonderful faux French accent and plays it a little gay. James May as fuss-budget Cogsworth the grandfather clock is delightful, while the very hilarious Roxy York gives a charming performance as Madame de la Grande Bouche. Paul Crane is very good in the small role of Belle's father Maurice. The ensemble of dancers is especially entertaining in the "Be Our Guest" and "Gaston" numbers. Rob Roth directs this production at breakneck speed.

Beauty and the Beast runs through January 4th at the Curran Theatre, Tickets can be purchased by calling 888-746-1799 or on line at www.shnsf.com. For more information on the tour, visit www.beautyandthebeastontour.com.


Photo: Joan Marcus


Cheers - and be sure to Check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area

- Richard Connema



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