Dallas — It’s a tale, I am reliably informed, as old as time: Beauty and the Beast. Junior, to be precise: a simplified version of the smash Broadway musical, itself based on the 1991 animated film, recommended for children 5 and older. Dallas Children’s Theater (DCT)’s current production is a straightforward but charming adaptation enlivened by some quirkily original performances by local favorites.
As I assume most readers have not, in fact, been in a coma for several decades, I won’t burden you with much plot description. Suffice it to say, it’s the story we all know so well, with the majority of the stage musical’s songs included. Spunky heroine Belle (Alyssa Cavazos, who endeared herself to both children and parents by taking pictures with fans in the lobby before the show) is the only hope for the enchanted Beast (Edward Houser) and his castle full of transformed servants. Can the Beast win her love before the last petal of the enchanted rose that governs their fate falls?
Houser’s Beast towers appropriately over the petite Cavazos, and despite the show’s breakneck pace, director Nancy Schaeffer found some nice moments of chemistry early on, especially as the Beast fumblingly tries to win Belle over. Houser acts gamely through a partial face mask and wild wig, mostly successfully, though he suffers somewhat from what might be best termed “Christian Bale Batman Syndrome” vocally at times, so gravelly as to be a little hard to understand, but only at times. He was quite effectively beastly when called for; his roaring in a few scenes caused jumps in younger audience members. Cavazos sings beautifully, shining especially in Belle’s solo numbers, though was occasionally somewhat drowned out in larger ensemble numbers.
Some local scene-stealers made their presence known. David Coffee, familiar to older and younger DFW audience members alike, added his own spin to the fussy castle majordomo Cogsworth, while DCT mainstay Deborah Brown channeled Angela Lansbury’s gentle Cockney accent as Mrs. Potts. There’s an inherent cheesiness to the character of Lumiere, and newcomer Duke Anderson leaned into it just enough; he and Coffee were entertainingly fussy with one another. And kudos to Grace West, who trundled herself across the stage as Madame De La Grande Bouche, a fashionista transformed into a blocky wardrobe (quel dommage!) on wheels, but remained one of the most dynamic characters onstage, with a lovely voice to boot. Will Stotts’ Gaston, unfortunately, was a little too muted to truly embody this avatar of toxic masculinity, but the audience enjoyed his toady Lefou (Ethan Rodriguez-Mullins)’s antics.
There’s an element of flash to the original musical, and the design team for DCT managed to impart that same flair here, even pulling off some of the more challenging special effects convincingly. The sets (by Michelle Harvey), though basic by necessity, are detailed enough and keep the action dynamic, with the castle and village alternating on the main stage, and Belle’s cottage and the forest around the castle occupying the wings (though scenes in the forest where characters are menaced by wolves were unsuccessful, as most of the audience couldn’t see the wolves unless situated just so). The costuming (from Lyle Huchton, with some specialty costumes designed by Harris Costumes) pops with color and period-appropriate detailing. The choreography, from director Nancy Schaeffer, was loose and lively; the audience especially enjoyed Gaston’s big titular number, though the climactic fight scene between the villagers and castle inhabitants seemed uncoordinated and unfocused.
So, if you can scrounge a ticket (they’re going fast!), don’t miss this fast-paced, but faithful adaptation of a Disney classic. Tiaras optional, but encouraged.