Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Also see Susan's review of Sanctuary City
The focus of director Marcia Milgrom Dodge's vision is that beauty is not, and should not be, skin deep. Neither Belle (radiant Jade Jones) nor the Beast (stalwart Evan Ruggiero) fits the physical images popularized in the 1991 Disney animated film, the 1994 Broadway musical adaptation, or the 2017 live-action remake, but that doesn't matter as much as Belle's intelligence and questioning spirit, and the way she (and the Beast's servants) help him realize that he is capable of giving and receiving love.
The humor of Linda Woolverton's book is never mean-spirited. The townspeople may consider Belle a little strange, because she loves reading and because they think her devoted father Maurice (Sasha Olinick) is a fool, but they can't ignore her charisma and empathy. The swaggering bully Gaston (Michael Burrell) wants Belle to be his wife–or, actually, his status symbol–simply because of her excellence, even though they have nothing in common.
The chemistry that grows between Jones and Ruggiero is lovely to watch, with powerful support from the half-human, enchanted servants caught up in the Beast's spell. Returning cast members Bobby Smith (Lumiere) and Dylan Arredondo (Cogsworth) have added detail to their performances, joined by new additions Kelli Blackwell (practical Mrs. Potts) and Tracy Lynn Olivera (hilariously temperamental Madame de la Grande Bouche).
Josh Walden's choreography ranges thematically from Gaston's display of pushups and wrestling with furniture, and the packs of vicious wolves who live in the dark forest, to the extravagant "Be My Guest," which just keeps building and building, and the gentleness of the moment when Belle and the Beast dance.
The scenic design by Narelle Sissons uses model buildings to bring Belle's village to life amid the vast emptiness of the Beast's castle, enhanced by Colin K. Bills' lighting design and Matt Rowe's sound design. Ivania Stack's costumes take inspiration from the earlier Disney versions but stand on their own.
Nine musicians, including pianist/conductor Walter "Bobby" McCoy, provide the necessary underscoring in addition to giving strong support to the cast.
Disney's Beauty and the Beast runs through January 1, 2023, on the mainstage at the Olney Theatre Center, 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road, Olney MD. For tickets and information, please call 301-924-3400 or visit www.olneytheatre.org.
Book by Alan Menken