The second princess movie of the Disney Renaissance, Beauty and the Beast was the first animated movie to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar Award in 1991. The strong willed (rejecting a marriage proposal!), wants-to-leave-her-small-town-and-see-the-world (omigod, me too!), bookish (we’d totes be BFF’s!) Belle appealed to girls like myself.
In 1994, Beauty and the Beast was the first Disney movie brought to the Broadway stage where it ran for 13 years and over 5,000 performances. It has toured successfully for two decades, and now it’s showing at Marina Bay Sands through May 3, 2015.
My 6-year-old daughter, Elanor and I joined the eager audience at MBS for the matinée performance on March 21, the first show of the Singapore run. We spent a magical two hours enjoying familiar characters and music. Fans of the animated movie will be happy to see all the things they loved about the show, plus new songs by Tim Rice (Howard Ashman, the original lyricist, died before the movie came out) and Alan Menken.
Hilary Maiberger brings a lot of sass to Belle’s character. When Gaston proposes to her (“Me”), derision infuses her voice and body language. When the Beast argues with her, she’s not cowed in the least, and her backbone shocks the spoiled Beast, who is used to getting everything he wants.
Darick Pead’s Beast is hilarious. The scene where Lumiere, Cogsworth, and Mrs. Potts are trying to get him to use the word “please” is a highlight of the show; the audience was howling in laughter. The shift from entitled and haughty to a more polite and caring Beast is far more evident than in the Broadway show I saw in 2002. That said, his portrayal lacked the pathos needed to make “If I Can’t Love Her” a heart-wrenching song, rather than a sad one.
Other comedic standouts include Adam Dietlein as the deeply narcissistic Gaston, Jordan Aragon’s physically comedic Lefou, and Hassan Nazari-Robati’s at turns smooth and seductive Lumiere. Any time they are on stage you are guaranteed a laugh. Elanor’s favourite character was the flirtatious feather duster Babette, played by Andrea Leach.
In the director’s note in the official program, he notes that this is a “new streamlined design” of the show I saw in 2002. The sets by Stanley A. Meyer have been stripped to essential elements. Any time a set needed to be moved or rotated in the enchanted castle, the movement was done by actors dressed as gargoyles who moved the piece and then knelt and froze in place. Rather than distract, it adds to the aura of magic. It’s a touring-friendly design as well, which would easily adapt to a large or smaller stage.
The heart of the show, of course, is the relationship between Belle and the Beast. We see the Beast evolve from a spoiled, selfish brat to someone who could love Belle. “Something There” is staged beautifully—Belle reading the story of King Arthur while the enchanted objects watch and sing with bated breath had the audience entranced. Their dance while Mrs. Potts sings “Beauty and the Beast” is as magical on stage as it is on film. Belle’s declaration of love as the last petal of the rose falls is a deeply emotional moment. The subsequent magical transformation of the Beast to the Prince—on stage and in the air—had children gasping in amazement.
“Be Our Guest” is delightful, although this is a moment where the larger Broadway sets and cast are superior. That said, the numerous fast costume changes by the cast to show plates, silverware, and even salt and pepper shakers are impressive and give the illusion of a larger cast.
The glaring omission from the show is “The Battle”, where the enchanted objects fight back against the invading townfolk, while the Beast refuses to do so, saying “let them come”. Truncating the dramatic climax of the show by eliminating a 3-minute song is a misfire by the creative team. At MBS the show transitions from “The Mob Song”, to the exchange between Lumiere and the Beast where he says “let them come”, to the fight between Gaston and the Beast. It’s disappointing as the tension built in “The Mob Scene” is deflated by the fast transitions.
Elanor was entranced, as were the many other children we saw at the show. I wouldn’t recommend it for children under the age of 5 or 6 —at 2 + hours, including an interval, it may be too much for younger theatre goers.
Overall, I would give Beauty and the Beast an A-, and I highly recommend it.
All the details!
When: Through 3 May 2015
Performance Times: Tues-Fri 8pm, Sat 2pm & 8pm, Sun 1pm & 5pm
Where: MasterCard Theatres, Marina Bay Sands, 10 Bayfront Avenue, Singapore 018956 (MRT: Bayfront)
How much: From $65. For full details & to buy your tickets, click here.