The stage musical Beauty and the Beast is currently touring the US. I was fortunate to see the show at its stop at the Broward Center for Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale. It was an evening of genuine enchantment, beautiful music, and fairy tale settings.
The stage is striking, with curlicue borders that gave the set the appearance of an illuminated storybook. The show made use of excellent backdrops and minimal stage props that contribute to the fairy tale feel of the show. I was surprised but glad to see that it incorporated the use of puppetry into the show, something that is a growing trend on Broadway. The beautiful enchantress and the wolves were expertly handled and were an added, exciting bonus.
Brooke Quintana (past credits include Eponine in Les Miserables, A Chorus Line) is lovely as Belle, with powerful vocals in juxtaposition with her endearing personality. Sam Hartley (Les Miserable, Into the Woods) steals the show as Beast. His transformation from angry Beast to a falling in love Beast is simply perfect. One of the most adorable things Beast did when he was trying to “flirt” with Belle was walk by and swish his tail at her. Hartley’s emotional rendition of “If I Can’t Love Her” brought tears to my eyes and left my guest sobbing.
It’s always a treat to get to hear “Human Again”, as that was a song cut from the original Disney film. Lumiere ( Ryan N. Phillips), Cogsworth (Samuel Shurtleff), Stephanie Gray (Mrs. Potts), Melissa Jones (Babette), and Stephanie Harter Gilmore (Madame de la Grand Bouche) all shine as they wistfully sing about better days to come
Christiaan Smith-Kotlsrek was perfect as the self-absorbed, self-aggrandizing Gaston. Unlike a good many Gastons that are played for laughs, you know this Gaston was no laughing matter. A cruel bully with no regard for anyone, Smith-Kotlsrek was downright menacing. Even though Lefou (Matt Dasilva) was comic relief, took his share of lumps, and was downright acrobatic in his pratfalls, at times you got the impression that even the sycophant was afraid of Gaston.
One of the funniest sequences features Danny Burgos as Monsieur D’Arque. Apparently he has quite the nose for sniffing out mental illness.
You can’t mention Beauty and the Beast without the famous dance scene and the transformation scene. Both were exquisitely lovely, and I know there were no dry eyes next to me during those sequences. For some reason, the show really struck my guest in the heart, as she found herself sobbing repeatedly. You may take that as a sign of a fabulous, genuinely moving show.
This is my second time seeing the show, and this touring company, the sets, and the creative re- imagining using puppetry just exceeded every aspect of that long ago experience.
It’s a tale as old as time indeed, and the message of the tale is truly timeless. Treat yourself to see this spectacular show. And think of it as the perfect enticement to see the live action feature film starring Emma Watson, coming to movie theaters soon!
NETworks presents Disney’s Beauty and the Beast at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts from June 15th through 19th.