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Seattle by David-Edward Hughes

Beauty and the Beast at
the Paramount Theatre

Also see Sidney Tolman's recent review of Oklahoma!

Still able to cast its spell of enchantment after several years on the road, the current national company of Disney's Beauty and the Beast is charming Puget Sound audiences at the Paramount (where happily it's not opening with a musician's strike afoot as it did several season's back at the 5th Avenue).

Linda Woolverton's book, Alan Menken's score, and Howard Ashman's lyrics were adapted faithfully (save a few too many added songs, with decent but sometimes unexceptional Tim Rice lyrics) from the mega-hit Disney animated film, the staged Beauty has enough romance and action for older audiences and a cornucopia of slapstick tomfoolery to delight the younger set. The touring cast recreates the original direction by Robert Jess Roth and choreography by Matt West faithfully and energetically, and the majority of them do full justice to their roles.

Danyelle Bossadaret is a lovely, feisty Belle with a pure sweet vocal instrument. Seattle audiences and critics saw two actors play the Beast on opening weekend, and both gave accomplished performances. Grant Norman's confidence and swagger in the role and deep, rich baritone roused the audience on opening night, while understudy Alberto Stevans found more humor, tenderness, and a more silken vocal style. In both cases, the actors play well off Bossardet's Belle, and earn huge applause at the show's curtain call. As the egocentric comic villain Gaston, Marc G. Dalio exudes appropriate self-adoration, and makes his comic numbers, "Me" and "Gaston" real crowd-pleasers, in tandem with Aldrin Gonzalez's spry and goofy side-kick Lefou.

Meanwhile, at the Beast's castle, Andrew Boyer plays his prissy indignation and anxiety to the hilt as Head servant Cogsworth who is becoming a clock, while Rob Lorey cavorts with zeal as candlestick to be Lumiere, despite an in and out French accent. Anne Kanengeiser wrings out all the warmth you could want from her role as Mrs. Potts, topped by a lovely, delicate rendering of the Academy-award winning title song. Tracy Generalovich is saucy as the feather duster-cum-maid Babette, and as the operatically inclined Mme de la Grande Bouche, Monica M. Wemitt gives an all stops out performance that lands a huge audience response on nearly every line. The only truly weak principal performance is Charles Gerber's lackluster turn as Belle's doting and dippy Dad Maurice, with the actor seemingly unable to capture the same sense of fairy-tale wonderment as his co-stars. The smaller roles and ensemble dancers are populated by a troupe that never appears to be too weary from the rigors of road show touring.

Ann Hould-Ward's handsome costume design is still dazzling to the eye as is Stanley Meyer's remarkably rich looking scenic design for the Beast's castle interior. Natasha Katz's lighting design tends to be a bit too darkly shadowy at times, and the spotlights at the Paramount are a bit off to boot.

Danny Troob's orchestrations sound grand, with conductor J. Randall Booth and his orchestra giving the tuneful score its full due. In short, Beauty and the Beast sent this critic home happily, if not ever after, at least for several hours.

Beauty and the Beast runs through October 13 at the Paramount Theatre, 911 Pine Street. For further information, visit www.theparamount.com.




- David-Edward Hughes



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