. . .exceeds expectations in every way. . .
The plot of “Beauty and the Beast” needs little explanation. Most people are familiar with the 1991 Academy Award Winning film (and the forthcoming live-action remake starring Emma Watson). It is the story of an arrogant prince who is put under a spell due to his selfishness. He is transformed into a repulsive beast-like creature and must remain that way, permanently, unless he is able to find and embrace the power of true love. Along comes a beauty named Belle, who learns to love the man for who he is, not how he looks.
Lexi Rabadi’s Belle is portrayed with confidence and intelligence. She is excellent at holding her own in interactions with all of the male characters, whether it be her father, the Beast, or her evil suitor, Gaston. Rabadi’s performance highlights the character’s self-sufficiency and reminds the audience that Belle is not the typical Disney damsel who requires rescuing.
Matt Farcher makes interesting choices for the Beast. He often emphasizes the character’s awkwardness and vulnerability rather than anger and vengeance. By doing so, the audience is able to feel more sympathetic to his condition. These choices also help us see that both the Prince and Belle have a lot in common. Their similar personalities and outlook provide a much richer justification for falling in love.
Make no mistake, it is not simply the leads that are excellent, every single performer in the thirty-two member cast is top notch. James Patterson (Lumiere) and Brian Cali (Cogsworth) are the heart of the show. Charis Leos (Mrs. Potts) and Michael Ianucci (Maurice) serve, nicely, as the wise parental figures of the piece. Whereas, Nathaniel Hackmann (Gaston) and Ethan Carlson (LeFou) expertly play the villains with equal parts humor and menace. Beyond the supporting cast, every member of the talented chorus has a moment to shine. Forks, spoons, plates, silly girls and booksellers are just a few of the eclectic characters that add polish and depth.
The diverse musical numbers are consistently outstanding. Mrs. Potts’s quiet rendition of the title song is equally as engaging and memorable as the boisterous, energetic “Gaston” performed by members of the ensemble. As expected, the conclusion of “Be Our Guest” was literally a showstopper. The audience’s appreciative applause lasted, for what seemed like, several minutes. I imagine it would be both difficult and rewarding for the cast members to stand perfectly still for so long, waiting patiently for the cheering to subside.
The backstage team also displayed significant talent and quality. The lavish sets were enhanced by a series of elaborate digital projections. Costumes were colorful, intricate, and looked expensive. Make-up and wigs are a huge part of this show, and the team’s design made for a convincing blend of human (Gaston), animal (Beast), and machine (Cogsworth).
I had the pleasure of seeing the original production on Broadway in the mid-nineties. With confidence, I can say that the Fulton’s production meets or exceeds the original in all major ways. Treat yourself and your family to this wonderful experience.