You never get too old for fairytales. That may be the lesson every audience member leaves with after watching the new-to-South-Florida musical version of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.
The non-profit Actors’ Playhouse bought the rights to Disney’s theater adaptation of its movie and then cast, directed, and made everything from the storybook set to the elaborate costumes in Coral Gables for its 10th anniversary season. The show, which still runs on Broadway, will be on for seven weeks at the Miracle Theatre.
Movie fans will be glad to know that the musical remains faithful to the 1991 Oscar-nominated film – down to such memorable enchanted household characters like Cogsworth (Terrell Hardcastle), Mrs. Potts (Lourelene Snedeker) and Lumiere (Bill Perlach) that sing and dance on “Be Our Guest” – only straying so far as to add a handful of new musical numbers. Theater fans will find that high-caliber musical theater performances are but a short drive from campus away.
With the possible exception of Lumiere’s off-and-on French accent, the strong acting throughout the musical often adds depth to stereotypical cartoon characters. Actor Tally Sessions portrays the pain of the Beast as he evolves from growling and hunching over on all fours to speaking eloquently and standing upright, even though in the beginning of the first act it’s frustrating not to see much of his face or costume, and his echoing voice and roars can get a bit too wild.
One of the best performances is given by the charismatic Lefou (David Perez-Ribada),Gaston’s sycophantic sidekick, who steals the show with his humorous slapstick and impressive dancing and singing abilities (at one point, he belts out singing while lying down). The arm-flexing, Elvis-like Gaston (Robert Rokicki) also provides repeated comic relief with his dead-on portrayal of the sexist, egocentric antagonist that vies for the heart of the sweet, eager Belle (Gwen Hollander).
Lefou and Gaston contribute in large part to one of the show’s best musical numbers, “Gaston,” where en eye-pleasing use of levels, acrobatics and a Stomp-like rhythm with beer jugs create an energetic scene. A weaker number, however, is “Human Again,” where the household characters somewhat crowd the stage.
The live orchestra, special effects and (if somewhat dark at times) lighting, together with some adult jokes (“The perfect pair, rather like my thighs!” exclaims Gaston) and appealing chemistry among cast members, make up for an enjoyable theater outing. Disney’s Beauty and the Beast will leave you smiling, and the tunes will be playing over in your head long after you’ve left Miracle Mile.
Patricia Mazzei can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.