Disney's BEAUTY AND THE BEAST IN TRIUMPHANT RETURN TO BROADWAY IN CHICAGO
Story by Dwight Casimere
Photos: Courtesy Broadway in Chicagoand Disneys Beauty and the Beats
Chicago—Choices for family entertainment abound this summer, especially with the return of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, which has returned to Chicago for a six weeks only run through August 7 at the Ford Center for the Performing Arts-Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph, Chicago. The thrilling stage production features the animated film’s Academy Award ® winning score with music by Alan Menken and lyrics by the late Howard Ashman and additional songs with music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Tim Rice. The book is written by Linda Woolverton.
Beauty and the Beast is the perfect first-time experience for the young theatergoer and a real primer in how to do a first rate production for the aficionado. The Rococo sets designed by Scenic Designer Stanley A. Meyer, imaginative multi-colored peasant dresses and costumes by Tony Award® winner, Costume Designer Ann Hould-Ward (for Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, spectacular lighting design by Natasha Katz and Sound Design by John Petrafesa, underscore the essential dramatic elements of the musical and make it an enthralling experience.
The music is the centerpiece of Beauty and the Beast. The cast members, particularly by the golden-voiced Emily Behny as the “beauty” Belle, beautifully sing the elegant, heart-warming melodies. Her Judy Garland-like spunk and vocal fervor make her the standout of the already superlative cast. Her heartfelt vocalizing in “Home” in the first act and the standout “A Change In Me” in Act II, was among the shining moments of the evening. Dane Agostinis gives the Beast just the right blend of gruffness, while revealing an endearing vulnerability that makes his character sympathetic. Encountering some intonation problems at the start of the song “If I Can’t Love Her” at the end of Act I, he quickly recovered and delivered a bravura finish that sent chills down the spine.
Michael Haller was ebullient as Lumiere, leading a Maurice Chevalier lilt and sophistication to “Be Our Guest”. The dance ensemble “tableware”, particularly the acrobatic “oriental rug” was the highlight of the first act and one of the more stellar dance numbers performed on the Broadway in Chicago stage.
Logan Denninghoff as Gaston, the egocentric Hunter who pursues Belle is both funny and pathetic as the over-the-top narcissist. His top-notch baritone voice, trim, good looks and comedic timing make him a marvel to behold.
The central theme of Beauty and the Beast is seeing past outward appearances to realize the beauty inside. This theme is reflected throughout the set design, with its many transparencies and layers and the transformation of the characters over the course of the show. It is a moving experience that rewards the audience with its depth of emotion. Disney’s Beauty and the Beast continues at the Oriental Theatre through August 7. For tickets and information visit www.BroadwayinChicago.com.