Friday, June 17, 2016
"Beauty and the Beast" Visits Browrad Center
A Disney Theme Park Ride Called “Beauty and the Beast”
By Skip Sheffield
“Beauty and the Beast” is like a Disney theme park ride; the first Walt Disney animated movie adapted for the theatrical stage. The national touring production continues a short run through June 19 at Broward Center for the Arts.
“Beauty” is an amazing theatrical jigsaw puzzle, with interlocking set pieces that roll around and change scenes in seconds. The costumes are flamboyant. The special effects are dandy. There is a story in there somewhere, but it isn’t much.
It begins with a prelude. A handsome, vain Prince turns away an old crone who is seeking shelter. Because he “has no love in his heart” the Prince is cursed by being turned into a terrible beastlike creature, played by Sam Hartley. He must find someone who will love him despite his physical appearance before a magic rose droops and dies.
A pretty, brainy, bookish girl called Belle (Brooke Quintana) lives in town with her elderly father, an eccentric inventor named Maurice (Thomas Mothershed). Belle is pursued relentlessly by the town hunk, a vain braggart named Gaston (Christiaan Smith-Kotlarek). Belle will have none of it.
When Maurice gets lost in the woods, he stumbles upon an enchanted castle which happens to be the lair of the Beast. It seems the household items were once humans who have fallen into a mysterious spell linked to the Beast. The gabbiest of the lot is a candelabra named Lumiere (Ryan N. Phillips). Phillips threatens to steal the show by his sheer force of personality.
When the town fool, Monsieur d’Arque (Danny Burgos), shows up wearing a scarf that belonged to Maurice, Belle demands to know where he found it. In the woods is the answer, so brave Belle sets out into the spooky woods and finds the same enchanted castle where her father is imprisoned.
Just about everyone knows the story from there. The Beast is fearsome and angry, but Belle is so lovely and compassionate she begins to break down his defenses. She in turn begins to see the Beast for the sensitive, caring soul he is.
Brooke Quintana and Sam Hartley are both strong vocally, but she is not the prettiest Belle I’ve seen, nor is Sam Hartley the most handsome Prince.
The real crowd-pleasers are Christiaan Smith-Kotlarek’s ridiculously vain Gaston and Ryan N. Phillips ever-smiling Lumiere. Melissa Jones’ Babette is quite the appealing coquette.
The cast vocal standout is Stephanie Gray’s Mrs. Potts, who is a teapot with an operatic voice. She delivers the signature song “Beauty and the Beast” with passion and thrills.
“Beauty and the Beast” is most entertaining with its extravagant production numbers. The most exceptional is “Be Our Guest,” with everyone getting into the act.
The orchestra is full and high precision, the dancing agile and athletic and the costumes opulent. Was I blown away? No. “Beauty and the Beast” is more a novelty than a life-changing experience. If you like Disney World you will like this show. I prefer shows of a little more substance.
Tickets are $30-$105. Call 954-462-0222 or go to www.browardcenter.org.