Advertised as “appropriate for children of all ages,” the musical currently playing at the Fox Theatre, “Beauty and the Beast,” is a pun-filled retelling of the classic Disney tale. This musical, having started performances earlier this week on Feb. 2, will be performing every evening until this Sunday, Feb. 7, at which point, the production will make a short trip to Savannah for a single show before leaving the state to bring their musical to Newport News, Va.
This impressive schedule did not, however, detract from the musical as the actors did not let their frequent travels affect their dedication to giving a commendable performance. The audience, which included excited little girls dressed as Belle or in fancy princess dresses, was enthralled by the dedication apparent in every aspect of the musical “Beauty and the Beast.”
The opening narration of this musical tells the story of a prince with no manners or compassion being turned into a beast (Sam Hartley) until he learns to love. His castle and all of its inhabitants are also under the spell, slowly turning onto household objects.
In a town not too far away, lives Belle (Brooke Quintana) who eventually comes to reside in the castle fearing the beast. The rest of the plot centers on the two learning to care about one another and the reactions of those from Belle’s hometown.
While the plot is nothing new, and was rather bland to begin with, this musical delivers more than a few comedic lines as well as managing to make Gaston (Christiaan Smith-Kotlarek) even more of a terrible person than in the Disney movie upon which this musical is based.
A self-absorbed hunter, Gaston has decided that he will marry Belle simply because he believes himself to the most handsome man around and therefore must marry the most beautiful woman even though she wants nothing to do with him. The way in which Smith-Kotlarek shows Gaston’s carefree and simpleminded outlook is quite a show of itself. Throughout the play, whenever mentioning a number, he holds up the wrong number of fingers. For most actors, this would simply mean that his character lacks intelligence; instead, Smith-Kotlarek’s portrayal of Gaston takes things farther in his lines and songs to show that the character is blissfully unaware of everything that is contrary to his personal views and aspirations. Such a character is bound to elicit laughs simply by being the type of person one wishes to avoid at all cost, which Quintana’s Belle demonstrates quite nicely.
Being a musical, there was no shortage of songs in “Beauty and the Beast,” which included renditions of those in the 1991 movie as well as some original songs created specifically for this performance. One of the most memorable songs was “Be our Guest,” which was performed by most of the prince’s servants. As a plethora of characters including napkins, plates, silverware, salt and pepper shakers and a carpet danced and sang across the stage, using its full breadth and depth, the candelabra Lumiere (Ryan Phillips) escorted Belle through the menagerie. Phillips, alongside the rest of the ensemble, brought the song to life, singing with gusto and truly showing the excitement of being able to once again perform their duties after years of sitting idle under their curse.
This song was, however, by no means the only place where Phillips’ Lumiere greatly improved the musical. The dancing candelabra spoke in naught but puns and extravagant phrases while keeping a straight face.
During this song, it also becomes apparent that Ann Hould-Ward took her job as costume designer seriously, as each costume displayed is an exquisite work of art that depicts, without need of explanation, what each character is supposed to be while still allowing the actors to perform their roles. This is made especially apparent in the costumes of the carpet (Mike Baskowski), which manages to be a rectangle while still allowing Baskowski to cartwheel and spring across the stage.
The unchanged plot of the musical actually complimented this performance since it freed the audience to enjoy the smaller details of the play, such as the costumes or the witty lines scattered throughout, without worrying about the overarching story.