Dallas — There have been numerous film and stage adaptations of the 18th century French fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, and chances are most people know it from the 1991 Disney film, which added a Big Strong Male character (Gaston), as Disney likes to do. The carbon-copy stage musical as been popular on the touring circuit, and comes to the AT&T Performing Arts Center in a few weeks.
But for something much simpler but equally gorgeous and entertaining, there’s still time to take in the version by Kathy Burks Theatre of Puppetry Arts at the Dallas Children’s Theater. Directed by Douglass Burks and with an adaptation and original music by resident genius B. Wolf, the hour-long production stays true to the original story.
Wealthy merchant Jacques LeGrand (voiced by Gary Taggart) has three daughters, the narcissistic Joy (Becky Burks Keenan) and Hope (Trish Long), and the humble Beauty (Sally Fiorello). While Joy and Hope only care about money and shopping, Beauty is truly concerned for her father when several ships sink (beautifully done shadow puppetry) and his merchandise is lost, scaling the family back to a lower income bracket.
When he goes on a trek to find the ship that didn't wreck, he is taken in for the night by the heard-but-unseen Beast (Douglass Burks), and then forced to stay there after he attempts to take a rose from the Beast’s garden for his daughter Beauty. When he’s let go for one day to tell his family of his fate, Beauty decides to take his place at the Beast’s castle. There, she falls in love with the kind-hearted, wolf-like creature. Love conquers all.
As usual, the rod puppets, performed in Black Theatre style, are finely crafted, with beautiful detail in their faces, hair and costumes (by Lyle Huchton). The team of puppeteers (Fiorello, Burks Keenan, Long, Ziggy Renner, Steph Garrett and Jeffrey Standfield) maneuvers them wonderfully, with hints of natural movement and floating-on-air. Extra props and characters, such as mirrors, roses and the adorable Hector the Duck (quacks by Douglass Burks), add to the magic.
There might be more creative and out-of-the-box puppetry performances around town, but for shear beauty and artistry, Kathy Burks’ puppets have no match. Anytime you have a chance to see their work at DCT, don’t pass it by.