Tag: Beauty and the Beast

Review: Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (Chicago Shakespeare)

Emily Rohm as Belle, Beauty and the Beast, Chicago Shakespeare       
      
Beauty and the Beast 

Alan Menken (music), Linda Woolverton (book),
     Tim Rice and Howard Ashman (lyrics),
Directed, Choreographed by Rachel Rockwell
at Chicago Shakespeare on Navy Pier (map)
thru Aug 26  |  tickets: $18-$25   |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets 
    
        
        Read entire review
     

July 9, 2012 | 1 Comment More

Review: Beauty and the Beast (Broadway in Chicago)

  
  

Timeless story transcends wobbly production

  
  

Benjamin Lovell, Jen Bechter, Michael Haller, Erin Elizabeth Coors, Julia Louise Hosack, and Noah Jones as Chip

  
Broadway in Chicago and NETworks present
  
  
Disney’s Beauty and the Beast
 
Book by Linda Woolverton, Music by Alan Menken
Lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice
Directed by Rob Roth
at Ford Center for the Performing Arts, 24 W. Randolph (map)
through August 7  |  tickets: $18-$85  |  more info

Reviewed by Barry Eitel

The love story between a beautiful girl and a beastly prince has staying power—the original French fairy tale is centuries old. The most recent reincarnation, a horrendous movie featuring an Olson twin, at least illustrates how the tale is still in the modern consciousness. Let’s not forget there was also that ‘80s TV show. The quintessential telling of the story, however, will always be Disney’s 1991 smash hit full of dancing home furnishings, the only animated film to be nominated for Best Picture until Pixar Dane Agostinis (The Beast) and Emily Behny (Belle)came along. Logically, Alan Menken’s catchy music in the movie was transformed into a Broadway musical. Now it’s a favorite of high schools around the country. And a new non-Equity tour that’s settling down at the Oriental.

Dollar for dollar, a high school production may be the better value.

Let me qualify that—the performances here are not so bad. The spectacle is pretty neat most of the time. But it’s outrageous that people are shelling out 85 bucks when there is exponentially better theatre in town for a fraction of the price.

The plot follows the story and music of the film closely, with a few stage adjustments to flesh out the characters. The living cutlery looks more human. It’s not as innovative as Julie Taymor’s The Lion King (remember when she was innovative?) but it ain’t plush costumes, either. In fact, the screen-to-stage adaption is graceful and embraces the challenges of the medium.

What’s going on at the Oriental, though, is a roughly-sketched copy of the original. The town’s wishing well is wobbly. The orchestra is stripped down to the bare minimum. And the performances are terribly broad, almost across the board.

Dane Agostinis’ Beast, for example, is pretty un-beastly. Agostinis goes for some weird comic choices that diminish the character. It works for the awkward courtship, but not so much when he is supposed to terrify us. Most of the comic relief characters have a similar problem with commitment to the material. Benjamin Lovell’s Cogsworth gets too caught up in trying to appear stuffy and so he never actually comes across as stuffy. Andrew Kruep’s clownish Lefou (Gaston’s bumbling sidekick) has some great physical bits—he pulls a few moves that look like he stepped out of a cartoon—but he doesn’t back them up with the emotional stakes great clowning requires.

Logan Denninghoff as Gaston, Andrew Kruep as Lefou, and the villagers in Disney's "Beauty and the Beast". Photo by Joan Marcus

Emily Behny’s Belle carries the show well enough. She doesn’t always portray Belle’s driving individuality, but she taps into her sense of humor and genuine sweetness. Logan Denninghoff plays her foil, Gaston, with gusto, something Agostinis could learn from. Michael Haller’s lecherous Lumiere is another shining performance (pardon the pun). His amusing goofiness trumps most of the other objects’ posturing.

This Beauty and the Beast feels fundamentally cheap. Instead of reevaluating concepts and execution, it feels like NETworks is trying to put up a Broadway-level show with a much smaller budget. The diminished orchestra fails to fill the space and many of the ensemble numbers seem empty of vibrancy. “Be Our Guest,” one of the most cherished numbers of the original, is anticlimactic no matter how much Haller hams it up. They should have took the show back to the drawing board and played up their strengths.

Nevertheless, the classic parable of inner beauty wins out. This non-equity tour is much less fun than the movie, but it has its fair share of magic up its sleeves. The tour feels like an imitation in every sense. If you’ve always hankered to see the animation in real life, this is something you should check out. Otherwise, I’d implore you to see something local with more spirit.

  
  
Rating: ★★
   

 Emily Behny as Belle, and the cast of Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" in the number "Be Our Guest". Photo by Joan Marcus

   

July 2, 2011 | 1 Comment More

REVIEW: Beauty and the Beast (Broadway in Chicago)

A fractured fairytale

 

Liz Shivener - captioned

 

 
Broadway in Chicago presents:
 
Beauty and the Beast
 
book by Linda Woolverton
music/lyrics by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman
directed by Rob Roth
Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph (map)
through April 4th (more info | tickets)

reviewed by Keith Ecker 

Disney’s musical Beauty and the Beast may be a tale as old as time, but time has definitely taken its toll.

The current touring production, which is making a brief stop at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, comes across as, well, amateurish. Riddled with technical problems, it appears Disney isn’t even trying to spice up its usual schlock before serving it up to eager audiences.

Liz Shivener and Justin Glaser The musical follows closely to the animated feature’s plot. Belle (Liz Shivener) is the most beautiful girl in the village. Not so bad, right? The problem is she’s an oddball because she has an active imagination and enjoys getting lost in a good book. It doesn’t help that her father Maurice (Christopher Spencer) is an eccentric inventor.

The dashing yet brutish and egocentric Gaston (Nathaniel Hackman) has a thing for the lovely Belle. The only problem is that his extreme hubris is a huge turnoff to the lass, which only fuels the fire in Gaston’s heart even more.

One day, father/inventor Maurice ventures out into the woods where he is attacked by wolves (made possible through some fairly frightening puppetry, so frightening in fact that it terrified the little girl sitting in front of me to the point that she and her mother had to leave the theater). The old man seeks shelter in a castle, which unbeknownst to him is inhabited by a bunch of talking appliances and a Beast (Justin Glaser).

We all know where the story goes from here. The Beast makes a trade—Maurice for Belle. Slowly but surely the two opposites attract and lo and behold the magic spell that has been cast over the kingdom is finally lifted.

The only significant plot difference in the musical is that more attention is paid to the castle’s ensemble, which includes Cogsworth the clock (Keith Kirkwood), Lumiere the candelabra (Merritt David Janes) and Mrs. Potts the teapot (Sabina Petra, whose British accent is all over the U.K. map). In this version, the servants are slowly transforming into these objects, upping the stakes for the Beast to break the spell sooner rather than later.

Throughout the entire show, from the beginning to the end, there were issues with performers’ microphones. Cracks and pops would occasionally drown out dialogue or interrupt a melody. Normally I wouldn’t put so much weight on a technical issue like this, but it was never resolved throughout the two-hour musical. In addition, whereas most audiences might not notice if a microphone is temporarily tuned down too low, people sitting around me began to moan and groan with the more rustling and crackling we had to endure.

There was also a faulty light cue (Spoiler alert for anyone not familiar with the story.) The musical handles Gaston’s death in the most G-rated manner possible. It only alludes to him falling by showing him teetering over the ledge of a balcony. My assumption is that the lights are supposed to go down at the moment right before we see him fall. When I saw it, Gaston regained his footing, stared blankly out at the audience and then the lights went down.

Liz Shivener and Justin Glaser 2 Merritt David Janes - captioned

The actors were all decent, but there were no showstoppers. However, there were some impressive acrobatics, especially from Michael Fatica, who played Gaston’s right-hand man Lefou.

For a musical, there seemed to be a dearth of big numbers throughout the first part of the show. You would think that the opener “Bonjour” would be high energy, but, despite involving the whole cast, it seemed much less lively than the cartoon. The standout song was by far “Be Our Guest,” which was truly a spectacle, complete with dancing plates and forks and a tumbling rug. One of the other big numbers, “Gaston” was a miscalculated headache thanks to the incorporation of clinking metal steins into the choreography.

Small children who are fans of the cartoon will probably enjoy the show, granted they aren’t scared of some of the darker scenes, including the stabbing of the Beast. It may instead be the adults who are squirming in their seats, wishing they had just rented the cartoon instead.

 
Rating: ★★
 

Nathaniel Hackmann - captioned

      
March 27, 2010 | 1 Comment More