Thursday, July 27, 2017

Beauty and The Beast

"Never as before, never just as sure", one of the well-known lyrics of the title song, is so true of the musical version of the beloved Disney tale of "Beauty and the Beast." It has all the crowd favorite songs and loveable characters as the 1990's version of the movie, with a lively in-person production that rivals the new film. It is sure to delight both long time fans and those new to the classic "somewhat strange" romance. 

I was lucky enough to be given tickets and attended opening night with my children, both big fans of the story. Everywhere we went the auditorium was buzzing with little girls throughout the lobby, dressed the part in princess costumes themselves. The young audience was certainly part of the performance, like when Belle called out "Papa!" and a young child chimed in "papa" as well, drawing chuckles from the adults. Many fans who only know the movies may be surprised by the additional songs from all characters, which truly add to the story and allow moments that otherwise were skipped over. They give the characters and their conflicts more depth, and the singing is truly remarkable.

The show is put on at Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts by North Carolina Theatre company, who has been dazzling audiences for decades. The lavish sets and ensemble blend seamlessly from scene to scene, revealing scary woods with actors as convincing wolves (perhaps even more so that the new CGI versions). The "little village" characters and building swish around as in an actual busy town square. The costumes, well these are unparalleled as the crowd audibly gasped at Belle's beautiful yellow ball gown. 

NC Theater clearly is proud of their program and it's professional training, as demonstrated by the inclusion of several current students of the conservatory. One audience favorite was the little teacup Chip, played by local rising 6th grader Andrew Delano Farmer, as professional and endearing as any actor. The actors playing Lumiere, Cogsworth, and LeFou are so wonderful, even the "rug", a character sadly absent from the new film. Catherine Charlebois is Belle, and our Beauty is absolutely lovely, both heartfelt and self-assured. Ben Michael stars as Beast and is more fleshed out in this role, going from mysterious and intimidating, to comical in how tries to shed his old ways, then earnestly charming as he learns to love again. 

The show's intermission comes at just the right time for the younger crowd, one song after "Be Our Guest". This number, which arguably is the highlight of the show, is complete with an ode to Busby Berkley beauties and dancing forks, spoons, dishes, napkins, and even a whisk come to life. It certainly is challenging to avoid all the delightful sovenirs, but children can be distracted by a cup of hot cocoa and the photo opportunity with roses and a NC Theater backdrop.

The second half is quite exciting, with Peter Saide as Gaston, as a self-obsessed braggart that turns evil, attempts to lock up Belle's father and even slaps her when she speaks out of turn. The younger audience booed, clearly shocked and dismayed at the injustice. The most stunning part for adults and children alike was the impressive scene that unfolds at the castle, complete with a set of aged stairs that appear to crumble in front of us as fog rolls in and leads to a fight to the death. I won't ruin it for you but Beast's transformation in front of our eyes is a spectacle like I've never seen in live theater, and truly impressive in how they pull it off.

I can't recommend the musical enough - NC Theater's performance of Beauty and the Beast is enchanting and a sight to behold for all ages. You only have 6 more chances to see it so don't drag your feet, get your tickets here

FTC Disclaimer: In exchange for a blog post about this production I was given free tickets to see the perfomance in order to properly review it. The opinons contained are my own.

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