North Carolina Theatre enjoyed a sold-out opening-night performance on Tuesday, July 25th, of their current production of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. The show, which is being performed from July 25th to July 30th in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, has some beautiful tender moments, highly energetic group numbers, and a few unfortunate character misses. Beauty and the Beast is dubbed “A tale as old as time”, but what exactly does that mean?
The very first known version of “Beauty and the Beast” was written in 1740 by French novelist Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve. It was an extremely long novel, with multiple subplots and a far cry from the iconic 1991 Disney animated film that we all know and love. Although the stories are extremely different, the basic message remains the same. There are a few life lessons that can be taught, such as making personal sacrifices, beauty is only skin deep, a little kindness goes a long way, and be true to yourself.
This stage adaptation directed by Sam Scalamoni is based on the family friendly Disney movie, with script by Linda Woolverton, music by Alan Menken, and lyrics by Howard Ashman and Sir Tim Rice. The scenery designed by J Branson had a wonderful picturesque German Gothic quality that transports the audience into an animation reel. The set changes were fast, visually appealing, and almost magical.
The costumes of LeGrande Smith were fun, charismatic, and surprisingly functional for the actors. Musical director Edward G. Robinson did a wonderful job following the actors and not overpowering them.
Unfortunately, there were a few interesting character choices and multiple out-of-place, inconsistent accents. Although set in a fictional French town, it appears most characters fell in and out of different accents that ranged from French, British, American, and even oddly Southern at times.
All of your favorite songs are included such as “Be Our Guest“, “Home”, and the title song “Beauty and the Beast” sung by Ann Van Cleave as the loveable Mrs. Potts. There are a few songs, however, which did drag down the momentum of the show. This is due in part to lack of actor energy, but also in part to how the show is written. It’s hard to bring back the momentum of the show after the flawless high energy Act I show stopper of “Be Our Guest.”
Catherine Charlebois shines as Belle. She is warm, dramatic, and had a beautiful clear voice. She portrayed the role as a real person, instead of as a damsel in distress. This is polar opposite of Gaston as played by Peter Saide. Although Gaston is supposed to be a dim-witted meathead, there is something off with his portrayal. I appreciate that Saide didn’t go for the normal football-player-type attitude, but he lacks the charisma and pizzazz needed to make this character work.
Ben Michael plays The Beast, with a slightly different approach to this character. Michael brought out the softer, almost awkward adolescent side of The Beast. You could feel his pain during the songs “How Long Must This Go On” and “If I Can’t Love Her“.
Much of the heavy lifting comedy and humor in the show go to the pessimistic clock Cogsworth played by Michael Brian Dunn; the girl-crazy candelabra Lumière played by Dirk Lumbard, and Gaston’s trusted yet equally dim-witted sidekick LeFou played by Matthew Simpkins.
Although the Ensemble are adequate singers and dancers, I have to mention the amazing acrobatic work of ensemble member Cooper Stanton. I could not take my eyes off of him as the magic carpet in the “Be Our Guest” number. He literally appeared to defy gravity.
Although there were some amazing moments, I was very disappointed in the iconic falling-in-love dance scene with the gold ball gown, and the epic battle between Gaston and The Beast. The love scene appeared to be downplayed and felt rushed. The epic battle was highly stylized and over exaggerated, yet did not capture the intensity desperately needed. It was also unfortunate that some of the magic was broken when the stand in fighting Beast could be seen entering and exiting from the stage. The transformation of Beast to man however was executed well.
Because I appreciate the technicians who make the magic happen, I do have a few picky technical notes. During the big Act I show stopper of “Be Our Guest”, colorful confetti rained onto the stage. For some reason, the confetti remained on the stage through intermission and all of Act II. It was distracting as it fluttered all during the mob and fight scenes.
There were also a few microphone issues, with the chorus being too loud and Belle sounding muted at times. Also, one of the set mirrors showed the reflection of musical director Edward G. Robinson conducting, which distracted a little from the onstage action.
Despite a few picky easily resolved items, the show was wonderful. There are a few scary moments that did send a few toddler patrons into crying fits; but other than that this show is suitable for most children. Hurry and grab your ticket before it’s a complete sell out.
SECOND OPINION: July 26th Raleigh, NC BroadwayWorld.com Raleigh review by Jeffrey Kare: http://www.broadwayworld.com/raleigh/article/BWW-Review-North-Carolina-Theatres-BEAUTY-THE-BEAST-20170726 and June 22nd preview by the BWW News Desk: http://www.broadwayworld.com/article/Catherine-Charlebois-and-Ben-Michael-to-Lead-North-Carolina-Theatres-BEAUTY-AND-THE-BEAST-20170622; and July 19th Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Byron Woods: https://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/beauty-and-the-beast/Event?oid=5070090. (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the July 25th Triangle Review preview by Robert W. McDowell, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2017/07/nct-retells-a-tale-as-old-as-time-disneys-beauty-and-the-beast-on-july-25-30-in-raleigh/.)
The North Carolina Theatre presents Disney’s BEAUTY AND THE BEAST at 7:30 p.m. July 26-28 and 2 and 7:30 p.m. July 29 and 30 in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27601.
NCT Box Office: 919-831-6941, ext. 6944, or http://www.nctheatre.com/tickets/season-tickets.
Ticketmaster: 800-745-3000 or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115203/2264587.
GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 919-831-6941, ext. 6949; email@example.com; or http://nctheatre.com/groups.
SHOW: http://nctheatre.com/shows/beauty-beast, https://www.facebook.com/events/934313480024154/, and http://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/event/beauty-and-the-beast-6697.
NCT STUDY GUIDE: http://nctheatre.com/sites/nct/files/Beauty%20Study%20Guide%20FINAL.pdf.
2016-17 SEASON: http://nctheatre.com/show-season/201617-season.
PRESENTER: http://www.nctheatre.com/, https://www.facebook.com/nctheatre, https://twitter.com/nctheatre, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Carolina_Theatre, and http://www.youtube.com/user/nctheatre.
NCT BLOG (Stage Notes): http://www.nctheatre.com/stage-notes.
VENUE: http://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/venue/memorial-auditorium and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duke_Energy_Center_for_the_Performing_Arts#Raleigh_Memorial_Auditorium.
NOTE: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the 2 p.m. Saturday, July 29th, performance.
Beauty and the Beast (1740 folktale): http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/type0425c.html (Beauty and the Beast: Folktales of Type 425C, translated and/or edited by D.L. Ashliman) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beauty_and_the_Beast (Wikipedia).
Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve (French author, c. 1695-1755): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gabrielle-Suzanne_Barbot_de_Villeneuve (Wikipedia).
Beauty and the Beast (1991 animated film): http://movies.disney.com/beauty-and-the-beast (official website), http://www.alanmenken.com/m/work/beauty-and-the-beast/ (Alan Menken web page), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beauty_and_the_Beast_%281991_film%29 (Wikipedia).
Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (1994 Broadway and 1997 West End musical): http://www.mtishows.com/show_detail.asp?showid=000262 (Music Theatre International), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-show/beauty-and-the-beast-1895 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beauty_and_the_Beast_%28musical%29 (Wikipedia).
Study Guide: https://pittsburghmusicals.com/downloads/StudyGuide-Beast.pdf (Pittsburgh Musical Theater).
Alan Menken (composer): http://www.alanmenken.com/m/ (official website), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/alan-menken-12135 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Menken (Wikipedia).
Howard Ashman (lyricist): http://www.howardashman.com/ (official website), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/howard-ashman-6356 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howard_Ashman (Wikipedia).
Sir Tim Rice (lyricist): http://www.timrice.co.uk/ (official website), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/tim-rice-8890 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tim_Rice (Wikipedia).
Linda Woolverton (librettist): https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/linda-woolverton-7344 (Internet Broadway Database) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linda_Woolverton (Wikipedia).
Shannon Plummer-White is no stranger to the stage! She studied Musical Theater & Opera at the American Musical Dramatic Academy in New York City, and has appeared in films such as Iron Man 3 and Safe Haven. She has also performed with the North Carolina Master Chorale and the North Carolina Symphony. When she isn’t on stage or making magic behind the scenes, she can be found in the art studio playing with fire and molten glass. She is an animal advocate with a special love of cats. She has four rescued fur children and a very supportive husband. Click here to read her reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.