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Beauty and the Beast (NETworks non-Equity tour) Review March 31, 2012

Posted by ronannarbor in Broadway Tour, musical theater, Musicals, Theatre.
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It is the rare non-Equity tour that I review here. but NETworks production of Disney’s BEAUTY AND THE BEAST has landed at the Stranahan Theater in Toledo, and this same company will be at the Fisher Theater in Detroit next week. The show is charming, but overall this is a mixed-bag production.

Note that this is NOT the original Disney tour with its stunning sets and costumes, but a completely re-designed version of the show that has its own charm, while missing the mark at some points.

The very hard-working cast, led by fresh Emily Behny as Belle and versatile Dane Agostinis as Beast, work hard to bring out the charm in what really is a lovely Disney script and score. There’s a bit too much slapstick and prat-falling by Logan Denninghoff’s Gaston and his comic foil Andrew Kruep’s Lefou. They are very good singer/actors stuck with some bad direction from Rob Roth. The rest of the cast are good in their respective roles, and give it 110% the entire 2 and a half hours. Yep, you heard right — the 2:20 show runs 2:30 here — some of that attributed to pauses and slapstick moments that grind the entire production to a halt for stretches at a time.

The requisite moments are lovely — “Be Our Guest” and “Beauty and the Beast” radiate warmth and fun. The dance break in Gaston is masterly with clanking tankards and precision choreography by Matt West. But in my eyes, the “big moment” that most Broadway theater goers will remember from the original production was when the massive castle wall swung toward the audience and the Beast, alone in a starlit night atop a massive granite wall, sang “If I Can’t Love Her” — a theater moment that had many an adult eye tearing up at its sheer beauty.  That doesn’t happen here. Stanley A. Meyer’s sparse open-frame metalwork platforms are too minimal to provide the grandeur needed in these sets, no matter how many pretty twinkling candles are flickering in their midst. It rotates. The stars come out. And you never once forget that you are looking at a stylized chunk of metal and hoping that Beast doesn’t lean against the railing with too much weight.

In another annoyance, there is a “sampler” type stitched background for the village-based scenes. Its colorful and clutters the stage so that even the lovely village homes and other pieces disappear into that clutter. It bothers me for another reason as well. I don’t recall American Sewing Samplers to be a staple of the French region in which the musical is based.

Its almost unfathomable to believe that Beast has been touring for (gulp) 17 years now. It’s a nice look at Disney book-driven story-telling, and the completely sold-out run at the Stranahan is a reminder of the need for this type of entertainment. Good thing Disney’s new Newsies is a hit — the world needs more family entertainment like this, and Disney knows how to make that happen. Too bad NETworks skimps on the details.

In a final note: SPOILED CHILDREN ALERT — I don’t know who to be angrier with — the 3-year old who sat behind me who talked through the entire production, or her mother, who kept answering all the kids questions and never once told her to shut up, no matter how many people tried to shush them. At best, they stayed quiet for a five-minute span while mother was shoving goldfish crackers and sippy-juice cartons in her mouth. For Heavens sake, if your child can’t sit still for an hour at a stretch, then they do not belong in a theater house of a Broadway tour yet. Enough said.

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Comments

1. Bram Carlson - April 1, 2012

A fair review of the production, but allow me to correct a few points, and offer a few of my own opinions in response.

The current tour has a slightly shorter running time than the original Broadway production. “No Matter What,” “Maison de Lune,” and the Battle in the castle have all been cut and the scenes re-written to accomodate the changes. “A Change in Me” is added to this production (as it was to the Broadway production after it was written for Toni Braxton) which makes the production about even (slightly shorter) with the original production at 2 hours 30 minutes.

“Beauty and the Beast” has not been touring for 17 years. The Broadway national tours closed in 2003 after 8 years, and the current NETworks tour opened in 2010. It’s been on the road for about 10 years cumulatively.

While the designs are not identical to the original Broadway designs, as you point out, they ARE re-designed by the original Broadway design team (albeit on a smaller budget). They are re-conceptualized to fit this production that sets the action in a different season – spring, as opposed to the original designs, which set the action in autumn into winter.

While I understand your qualms with the stich-work backdrop – there are many other aspects of the design that don’t adhere strictly to the “provincial France” setting. Tri-corner hats, sailor pants, and many other design elements take the designs in to a more “fairy tale” realm rather than a realistic interpretation of “provincial France.”

2. tunsori si coafuri - June 5, 2012

They are re-conceptualized to fit this production that sets the action in a different season – spring, as opposed to the original designs


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