Stars Twinkle Brightly as Sound Quality Suffers
This "tale as old as time," adapted from the Best Picture Oscar nominated animated film smash by Linda Woolverton, is a bit pared down from the 1990s Broadway version in terms of the opulence of the sets and costumes (still credited to Stanley Meyer and Ann Hould-Ward, respectively), but original director and choreographer Rob Roth and Matt West have kept the humor, movement, and sense of wonder intact. Losing some material from the Broadway stage version (two songs with lyrics by Tim Rice for the heroine's father and a Vincent Price-like asylum keeper) is no big minus, but cutting the penultimate villagers storming the Beast's castle to spar with the enchanted furniture and tableware is a bad miscalculation. Kind of like cutting the second half of a reel in the movie.
But the actors keep the magic alive, especially the main trio of Belle, the Beast, and Gaston, the Beast's mega-muscular, self-worshipping romantic rival, as embodied by Jillian Butterfield, Ryan Everett Wood, and Cameron Bond. If there is a Broadway Disney Princess University then the lovely and lively Miss Butterfield graduated summa cum laude, hitting all the right acting beats and being the first Belle I have heard really make sense of giving the character one more pretty solo in act two, and indeed, her rendition of "A Change in Me" is the cherry on a sundae of a delicious performance. Wood plays his Beast more on the Cowardly Lion side than many have, endearing him to the audience, while his big voice powers through his love lament "If I Can't Love Her." Bond's garrulous Gaston chews upon the scenery without his comically villainous character gnashing his (perfect white) teeth too much, sings very well, and pairs with his cut-up sidekick (the excellent Jake Bridges) LeFou as if in the Abbott and Costello manner born.
Lanky Patrick Pevehouse as servant turned candelabra Lumiere serves up the Broadway pizzazz as he leads the show's production tour-de-force "Be Our Guest," and Samuel Shurtleff as his fellow servant turned clock Cogsworth has a vintage Hollywood comic character actor panache about him. Kelly Teal Goyette is an abundant source of charm as opera diva turned wardrobe Madame de la Grand Bouche and, though Emily Jewell is a bit too understated as the wise housekeeper/teapot Mrs. Potts, she sings the timelessly lovely title song with great warmth and beauty, besides keeping up a good relationship with her stage son turned teacup Chip, enacted with natural ease on opening night by ginger-headed by Ross Nemeth. Thomas Mothershed is somewhat lackluster as Belle's father Maurice, perhaps indicating that his song should be in the show.
The small but mighty ensemble shines as well, but, at the performance I attended, all but the three principal actors were undermiked or spottily miked, and drowned out by the orchestra at times. This was not just my experience, and for those seeing the show the first time it is a grievous problem. Too many of these tours have too little turnaround time going from booking to booking. That may be an excuse for opening night tech issues such as this, but it is not an acceptable one. Oh fairy godmother!
Beauty and the Beast runs through October 26, 2014, at the Paramount Theatre, 9th and Pine in Downtown Seattle. For more information, visit www.stgpresents.org or contact Seattle Theatre Group at 877-STG-4TIX (877-784-4849). For more information on the tour, visit www.beautyandthebeastontour.com.