Beauty and the Beast - musical review (September 14, 2002)

We went to a show on a Saturday evening at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium. I'd not seen the show before when it was at the Shubert, so I was looking forward to seeing this touring company.

I did like the show, but it didn't blow me away. My reaction is pretty much, "OK, I've seen it, I don't need to see it again", whereas with Lion King, I was totally amazed by the show and ended up seeing it three times.

Part of the problem I had was the venue. During the first half, it was extremely warm in the theatre, not just uncomfortable for me but to the point where it was becoming a physical problem. Maybe someone complained because they seemed to have turned up the air conditioning a bit more during the second half.

Another part of my problem is that I know and love the film so much that it was hard to see it being performed on stage, so it took me a while to get into it.

For some reason, I also flashed back to "The Phantom of the Opera" quite a bit during the course of the show. I don't remember getting any of those comparisons from the film. Maybe it was because I'd recently seen "Phantom" again, for the first time in about three years. Maybe it was because of the re-tooled script. When Beast said to Belle, "Make your choice", regarding either her or her father being imprisoned, I about fell out of my chair.

Most of the problems I had with the production had to do with the musical choices that were made. Oddly enough, I had similar problems with the production of "Phantom" that I'd recently seen. The woman performing Belle had much more of a shrill voice than I expected, and there were a few parts where it seemed like she was struggling to reach a note. I wasn't crazy about the portrayal of Beast either. He was played much more comically than in the film, and much more than I'd wanted. It worked for what it seemed to attempt, but I would have expected that sort of portrayal in a version of the story that was aimed more towards children's theatre, not a Broadway production. I liked the three fawning women in the movie, but they were a bit over-the-top in the show. And Babette (the feather duster) really bothered me. Much more sexual than I expected and it seemed out of place, I thought. I really liked the person who performed Gaston though. I thought he did an excellent job. And, I did like the men who performed Lumiere and Cogsworth, though they did remind me quite a bit of Firman and Andre...

I know it seems from what I've written that I didn't like the show. I liked it ok, but just had a lot of problems with it. Again, kind of like the recent "Phantom" production. As a musical production itself, it was very good, and I think a first timer would have loved it. I've seen "Phantom" many times and in comparison to the ones I've seen, I'd say it was the worst, but worst compared to all the great ones I've seen. Similarly, I think the production of "Beauty and the Beast" was impressive as a Broadway production, but because of my own personal quirks, it didn't live up to what I would have wanted.


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