Just like Belle’s favourite book, the Theatre Under the Stars’ production of Beauty and the Beast gives you everything you could want in summertime entertainment. Far off places, a prince in disguise, and no expectations challenged or unmet. The laughs roll regularly and the colourful set and costuming will keep the kids rapt right through to the end.
Based on the award-winning 1991 animated feature, Beauty and the Beast follows the beautiful, yet bookish, Belle as she finally finds her adventure in the castle of an enchanted Beast.
Stockholm Syndrome aside, this production faithfully recreates the songs and characters of the film while finding time to squeeze in a few new ones. Gaston’s bevy of beauties are a little more fleshed out, while the operatic wardrobe, played by Caroline Buckingham, gets a full backstory to go with her song. That said, the real standouts remain the beloved characters from the film.
Victor Hunter’s Lumiere delights with little more than a hip cock and a pun-happy smirk, while Steven Greenfield’s Cogsworth brings emotional grace to what could otherwise have been a shrill sounding board of a secondary character. As a duo, they shift and play like quicksilver mimes to create a performance that provides just as many delights for the kids as there are nods for the adults.
Lauren Gula as the the French maid, Babette, allows for a sense of naughtiness that reveals a pantomime streak to the show – a flavour that works in its favour. Nicholas Bradbury’s LeFou and Dane Szohner’s Gaston nail their comedic timing with the same prevision they bring to their fight choreography. the result is a villainous pair that never feel dangerous.
The show is rounded out by an ensemble that provides a hefty dose of sight-gags, thanks to director Shel Piercy and choreographer, Shelley Stewart Hunt. Tiffany Hunter’s Guillaume, a flipping and dancing rug, is a particular highlight.
While the ensemble bring the laughs, the leads provide the heart. But this is also where the show flounders.
Both Peter Monaghan as Beast and Jaime Piercy as Belle are underserved by a script that necessitates bland heroes. Attempts to flesh out the personality of the Beast and the relationship between the two are plodding and lack the crackling humour of the ensemble pieces. However, it is a rather minor disappointment in an otherwise fun night out for the family.
Summertime entertainment regularly has a cotton candy flavour, and this show is no exception. Beauty & the Beast is light, bright, and fun, providing everything you could ask for in a family musical. Bring the kids, get some popcorn, and enjoy.
Beauty and the Beast with music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman & TIm Rice, and book by Linda Woolverton. A Theatre Under the Stars production. On stage at Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park in repertory with West Side Story until August 20. Tickets are available online at http://www.tuts.ca.