Most Viewed Stories
Be Broadway Series' guest with 'Beauty and the Beast' production
'Disney's Beauty and the Beast'
Runs to March 17.
WHERE: Sacramento Community Center Theater, 1301 L St., Sacramento.
ONLINE: Broadwaysacramento.com or tickets.com.
Even though the classic fairytale "Beauty and the Beast" was penned in the18th century, its moral carries strength today: Don't judge on outward appearances, and bullying isn't okay. Those messages came through loud and clear, albeit wrapped in a love story, in "Disney's Beauty and the Beast" that opened Wednesday night at the Sacramento Community Center as part of the Broadway Sacramento series.
Walt Disney Pictures released a 1991 animated feature film based on the same story to great acclaim, winning an Academy Award for best song and best original score. It's the only animated move ever nominated for best picture. So, three years later, it opened on Broadway and has since logged more than 15,000 performances in 21 countries.
It easy to see why it is popular. When Disney puts its touch on a story, it comes alive in full glory. Before the actors even show their faces, the audience can revel in a magnificently framed stage. Scenic designer Stanley A. Meyers takes advantage of the period and setting, a France gilded by baroque and Rococo art, with stylized flourishes that move beyond the stage to the décor of the castle, the home of an arrogant prince.
Too bad that prince didn't think about being nice despite how someone looked. His rudeness to a beautiful enchantress disguised as a beggar woman sparked her ire and she cast a spell on the prince and his household until someone could love his beastly face. The production uses puppets designed by Basil Twist to cleverly spin the illusion of magic.
In the meantime in the nearby village, beautiful Belle (Hilary Maiberger) is the quirky girl in town, a sweet spirited bookworm who only has eyes for the words on the page. But the hunk of town, huntsman Gaston (Joe Hager) has set his sights on Belle, determined to make her his wife. In this case, opposites do not attract.
Under the direction of Rob Roth, Hager steals the show as the larger than life Gaston, always preening and flexing his muscles. The town's womenfolk follow him around, pumping up his already inflated ego. You want to hate him, but his affectations reminiscent of Steve Martin and Jim Carrey are hilarious. Only a very limber Jimmy Larkin as Gaston's sidekick, Lefou, manages to upstage Hager occasionally with his bumbling, but expertly timed, gymnastic moves.
When her father, Maurice (William A. Martin), gets lost in the woods and is taken prisoner by the Beast (Darick Pead), Belle exchanges her freedom for her dad's. She endears herself to the Beast's staff — remember they were transformed under the spell: Cogsworth (James May), the butler who's now a clock; Lumiere (Hasan Nazari-Robati), the maitre'd who lights up the castle as a candelabra; and Mrs. Potts (Erin Edelle), the cook, now a teapot, with her son, Chip (Gabriel Reese) as a chipped teacup.
Together they make Belle welcome in "Be Our Guest," one of the 21 songs penned by Alan Menken, Howard Ashman and Tim Rice. It's a fabulous extravaganza, especially when the knives and forks dance with the spoons and the plates take the stage on their own, much to the delight of the audience. Ann Hould-Ward had fun designing all the over-the-top costumes in this 140-minute production.
We know how the story ends. Belle loves the Beast in spite of his outward appearance and breaks the evil spell. "Disney's Beauty and the Beast" offers a beautiful reminder that we don't have to live in a fairy tale to do the same.