Dallas — A packed house for a weeknight show at AT&T Performing Arts Center’s Winspear Opera House proves that Disney’s “tale as old as time” has stood the test of time as an audience favorite. Presented by NETworks Presentations, Beauty and the Beast brightens up Dallas just in time for spring. With music and lyrics by Alan Menken, Howard Ashman, and Tim Rice, book by Linda Woolverton, and direction by Rob Roth, the production is based on the Oscar-winning 1991 film adapted from the age-old fairy tale
A young prince’s arrogance and cruelty cause him to be transformed into a beast (Darick Pead). The only thing that can break the spell over him and his castle is the love of another. When Belle (Hilary Maiberger) arrives at his palace and becomes his prisoner, he has to earn her love before the enchantment becomes permanent. Belle’s heart eventually softens, and she reveals her true feelings for him just in the nick of time.
The film and its music have a Broadway tone already, so the narrative and musical transition to the stage seems to be rather smooth. Plot additions act more like detailed explorations rather than random tangents. For example, the enchantment seems to be more of a process instead of a fixed point. The palace’s occupants undergo gradual changes in appearance and demeanor that will eventually lead to a loss of humanity. And keeping with the theme of change, Belle delves more into her adjusted feelings for the Beast with the new musical number “A Change in Me.”
Other new songs pop up to develop a character more. The Beast has his belting ballad moment with “If I Can’t Love Her,” and Belle and her father Maurice (Paul Crane) share a sweet moment with “No Matter What” before he heads to the fair. Gaston (Tim Rogan) proposed to Belle through the short and bland “Me.” “Human Again” was originally written for the film, but instead made its debut with the musical and explores the enchanted objects’ hope for returning to their human states.
Performances overall turn out fairly well in this non-Equity tour. Maiberger’s line delivery adds another side to her character, although Pead goes in the opposite direction for the first part of the musical. His attempt to intimidate Belle and his staff comes across as too one-dimensional amidst the shouting and snarls. Only later with his solo does he show some humanity that should’ve appeared earlier. His exaggerated moments of emasculation, however, prove to be quite humorous.
The night’s biggest stars, though, are some of the supporting characters. Jordan Aragon’s highly physical performance as Lefou almost steals the show. Roxy York as Madame de la Grande Bouche (the wardrobe) provides some comic relief during Belle’s transition into the Beast’s castle.
And let’s not forget Lumiere. Hassan Nazari-Robati is no Jerry Orbach, but his dedication to the character (dare I say it?) shines through his portrayal of the castle’s maitre d’. A note for parents of young children, though: Everything is bigger on Broadway, and Lumiere’s amorous nature is no exception. His overt sexual advances push this production a bit away from the film’s original G rating.
A few other things might cause one to raise an eyebrow. The opening scene with the enchantress in disguise has the potential to be dazzling, but instead of a radiant fairy, we get a large puppet that bears remarkable resemblance to a tube-dancing balloon in front of a car dealership. Belle’s iconic yellow ball gown appears overdone, although its movement matches perfectly with that of the film. The “Silly Girls” (those who fawn over Gaston) truly live up to their collective name. Their parts are so overdone that they come across as irritating.
Two musical numbers, however, buff away anything that might tarnish the magical gleam of this show. First is the pub scene after Belle rejects Gaston, and it’s all about the beer stein choreography. The clinking of the tin cups in various patterns and couplings display the creativity of choreographer Matt West.
Even though it’s a load of fun, it pales in comparison to “Be Our Guest.” Spoons, forks, knives, salt and pepper shakers and dinner plates prance, twirl, and leap about the stage in true Vegas style, as Nazari-Robati hams it up in Lumiere’s solo. Impressive kicklines, can-can dancers and streamers galore make this one of the most amusing sequences of the year, and an enchanting end to the Lexus Broadway Series season.