Disney’s Beauty and the Beast
Book by Linda Woolverton
Directed by Rob Roth
Belk Theater at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center
September 29 – October 4
I tend to be a sucker for those in need. Especially the sincere-looking folks planted on a street corner with an “Anything you can give – God bless you” sign made from tattered cardboard and most likely, a black Sharpie. But if someone less fortunate showed up on my doorstep asking for shelter, I can’t say that I’d oblige.
Rudely rejecting a beggar isn’t my style, but it’s exactly how a young, handsome prince is transformed into a shamed hairy mammoth in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, currently at Blumenthal’s Belk Theater.
After being cursed into a life of physical humiliation, Beast (Sam Hartley) retreats to the cheerless castle he shares with his servants who have been transformed into household objects – Mrs. Potts (Stephanie Gray), the teapot and her adorable broken teacup son, Chip (Deandre Horner), Cogsworth (Samuel Shurtleff), the clock, Lumiere (Ryan N. Phillips), a French candelabra who is dating Babette (Melissa Jones), the maid turned feather duster, and Madame de la Grande Bouche (Stephanie Harter Gilmore), the wardrobe.
The only remedy for dissolving the curse initiated by the rejected beggar is to find reciprocal love before the last petal falls from the red rose she left with him, which will be on his upcoming 21st birthday. It has been 10 years since it’s inception.
A deep blue and gold whimsical backdrop, sets the tone for the dreary love story. Winding vines of yellow adorn the curtains followed by layers of rich reds and violets. I didn’t quite understand how the rear screen covered in a bright meadow of prancing deer and rabbits fit in – but ok. Maybe it was a necessary contrast from the constant gloominess brought on by Beast and his misfortune – or meant to set a merrier tone in the small village where Belle (Brooke Quintana)  and her father Maurice (Thomas Mothershed) live as outcasts. With Belle’s love of books that allows her to escape her dull existence and her father’s ill-favored quirky inventions, both must stave off the arrogant brute, Gaston (Christiaan Smith-Kotlarek), who enjoys the attention of the townspeople (and a cold mug of beer) but can’t seem to secure a moment with Belle, who is repulsed by the very site of him.
The irony – upon Belle’s encounter with Beast (offering to trade places with her father whom he captured in the forest) she barely sees his disfigured face, but does recognize his barbarous personality. Experiencing hints of humanity throughout her time spent in the castle fosters hope where she had none previously. Perhaps this should be the tale as old as time – seeing beyond physical flaws and examining the visible aspects of one’s true character.
Each main character was effective in their role, although I thought Beast could have been a bit more intimidating with a deeper voice and more animalistic ways. Costume designer Ann Hould-Ward created lavish and colorful garb that resembled a sophisticated circus tour. The many children in attendance were entertained sitting atop laps and jumping at the bursts of fireworks and pops of streamers.
The ensemble’s energizing performance of “Gaston” included smashing metal bear mugs against each other and synchronized stepping, much like a drill team or college band. If you’re going to ceremonialize the dismissal of a cavalier, this is the way to do it – Loud, proud, and rowdy.
This performance was certainly representative of past Disney productions and it would be hard not to enjoy it from beginning to end. After all, it’s for the veteran’s who grew up enjoying it, and the newcomers enchanted by it. No matter the age, you’ll be delighted.
For more information please visit: www.blumenthalarts.org
Photo courtesy of Matthew Murphy.