Half way through as Act 1 drew to a close, we already felt like giving a standing ovation.
Yes, that’s how good this international touring production of “Beauty and the Beast” musical is. Reuniting its original Broadway collaborators (including director, choreographer, costume designer and the legendary Disney composer Alan Manken with the award winning lyricists, Tim Rice and the late Howard Ashman) – a whole long list of ‘Who’s Who’ in the musical theatre world, you would expect nothing short of an extraordinary musical experience. And we were not disappointed.
Beauty and the Beast, the 1991 Disney animation which swept multiple awards including Oscars, Globe and Grammy awards was translated into as a musical in 1994. It didn’t take long to be among the top 10 longest running shows on Broadway. To date, it has played to 35 million viewers packing theatres worldwide and grossed more than USD1.4 Billion. Astounding success considering the fact that it started out as a fairy tale for children.
The musical was well-paced, highly entertaining and nothing short of spectacular. It was very surreal to watch right before our eyes, the iconic “Beauty and the Beast” cartoon scenes featured on screen come to life literally, on stage! Who can forget the dining scene from ‘Be Our Guest’ and the grand ballroom scene which featured the theme song. With top-notch acting, the cast delivered the story movingly. Taking the lead is Hilary Maiberger who plays Belle who epitomizes the real Disney Princess, having played other princess roles like Jasmine in Aladdin, Cinderella and now, Belle. Her poise and elegant features are a dead-ringer for any Disney princess but her voice – so crystal clear and moving, bears such uncanny resemblance to that of the original animation’s Belle sung by Paige O’hara. Her sensation vocal prowess left us yearning for more. Playing the role of the Beast is seasoned theatre actor, Darick Pead and the beefy Gaston is played by a charming Adam Dietlein who has played the iconic role of ‘Javert’ in Les Miserables. Bringing to us the timeless theme song ‘Beauty and the Beast’ during the mesmerizing dance scene was Mrs. Potts, played by Emily Mattheson. Credit must also be given to the ‘magical’ objects the amorous Lumiere (Hassan Nazari-Robati) whose comic timing and accent brought lots of laughter to the crowd, the ever so obliging Cogswoth (James May) and the adorable little Chip (Liam Campora)!
Belle: [singing] “I want adventure in the great wide somewhere. I want it more than I can tell. And for once it might be grand, to have someone understand… I want so much more than they’ve got planned.”
The helpful ‘Palace Servants’ who made Belle’s day.
Every character carried the plot perfectly, accompanied by the live music ensemble. They awed, tickled and moved us all during the gala premiere and yes, the night ended with a standing ovation from the entire audience at the Mastercard Theatre. A rare sight in Singapore!
To me, beyond its world-class performance, what truly sets a Disney musical above others is that it not only entertains, it educates and touches children and adults alike. This is where Disney carved its niche. As an artist friend once told me, “There are cartoons and then there are the good cartoons that teach the right things”. There are many timeless values to be unpacked in Beauty and the Beast. We learn not to judge a book by its cover as the true qualities of a person lie within the heart. We learn the importance of friends and family who help dispel our self-doubt and act as our cheer-leaders. We saw courage, bravery, sacrifice and filial piety. Most of all, we saw the power of love and hope which broke the spell of the enchantress. There was also interesting contrasts as we saw the hideous beast transformed into a kind and compassionate person while the self-absorbing Gaston’s handsome features morphed into ugliness through jealousy and pride.
“Just a little change, small, to say the least.
Both a little scared, neither one prepared –
Beauty and the Beast…”
It’s interesting to note that the original Beauty and the Beast story was written and published in 1756 by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont, a female French novelist. I can’t help but wonder if Belle was the alter-ego of the author, depicting what she must have gone through in 16th century France as an educated woman (and a novelist no less!) in a male-dominated society where women’s place were certainly not with books.
Gaston: “It’s not right for a woman to read. Soon she starts getting ideas and thinking…”
Lefou: “So, how did it go?
Gaston: [grabs Lefou] I’ll have Belle for my wife! Make no mistake about that!”
Gaston: [pointing to a book with no pictures] “How can you read this? There’s no pictures!”
Belle: “Well, some people use their imagination.”
Beast: “Oh, it’s no use. She’s so beautiful, and I’m…Well, look at me!”
I will always remember Beauty and the Beast fondly. It was the last animation I saw as an adult (before the kids came along) back as an undergrad – yes, 1991…and now it is officially our family’s most favorite Disney musical. Whatever your takeaway may be, it is a musical masterpiece not to be missed and for me, a extra memorable night to be able to share this ‘tale as old as time’ with my family.
“No one plots like Gaston, Takes cheap shots like Gaston…”
“My what a guy Gaston!”
Lumiere: “Ma chère mademoiselle. It is with deepest pride and greatest pleasure that we welcome you tonight. And now, we invite to relax, let us pull up a chair, as the dining room proudly presents… your dinner.”
Disclaimer: We received a pair of complimentary tickets to watch Beauty and the Beast for the purposes of this review. All opinions are ours and photos (unless otherwise stated) are copyrighted to Base Entertainment Asia.