Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay
On opening night there were a lot of children in the audience and they seemed to love the production as, being a kid at heart, I did as well. The story (book by Linda Woolverton) is about a handsome prince (Sam Hartley) who is transformed into a shamed hirsute mammoth. The beast retreats to the cheerless castle he shares with his servants, who have been transformed into household objects: Mrs. Potts (Stephanie Gray) the teapot and her adorable broken teacup son Chip (Deandre Horner); Cogsworth the clock (Samuel Shurtleff); Lumiere (Ryan N. Phillips) the French candelabra who is dating Babette (Melissa Jones) the maid turned feather duster; and Madame de la Grand Bouche (Stephanie Harter Gilmore) the wardrobe. Of course, Belle (Brooke Quintana) wanders into the castle and eventually a romance between the beauty and beast transforms the mammoth back to the handsome prince.
The New York Times called the show "Las Vegas without the sex, Mardi Gras without the booze" and I am inclined to agree with that description. The set is mostly German Gothic with thunderbolts, rainstorms, and even a churning fog bank, thanks to Stanley A. Meyer's set design, Natasha Katz' lighting design, and John Petrafesa, Jr.'s sound design. Ann Hould-Ward's costumes are fantastic, elaborate outfits, especially the ones in the castle. She has created extravagant and colorful garb for each member of the cast.
Alan Menken's music is reminiscent of Richard Rodgers and the lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice bring out the profound side of the beast. The big number in the first act, "Be Our Guest," is almost Las Vegas style. It's a big flashy number choreographed by Matt West that goes all out to entertain the audience with dancing plates, a Persian rug doing cartwheels, and would you believe a spatula dancing with a fork. The title song has become an American songbook standard. Rob Roth beautifully directs this sterling production and he has assembled a wonderfully gifted cast of great singers and dancers.
Brooke Quintana is terrific as Belle. She has a charming soprano voice with first-rate diction. She is the typical Disney heroine: attractive, unspoiled and gutsy. Sam Hartley makes the Beast his own with his powerful voice. He adds a variable yet complex nature to the creature. His main song "If I Can't Love Her" has thematic reverberation. Gaston, the egotistical suitor of Belle, is played by Christiaan Smith-Kotlarek who sings superbly with great vocal chops and pitch perfect resonance. Matt Dasilva is Gaston's sidekick LeFou and he plays it very hammy.
The idiosyncratic and loveable castle staff consisting of Ryan N. Phillips as Lumiere, Stephanie Gray as Mrs. Potts, Samuel Shurtleff as Cogsworth, Melissa Jones as Babette, and Stephanie Harter Gilmore as Madame de la Grande Bouche are a hoot. Stephanie Gray with her vibrant voice shines when singing "Beauty and Breast."
This touring production is certainly representative of past Disney's presentations. It's an enjoyable experience for those young in heart and families with kids.
Disney's Beauty and the Beast runs through July 10, 2016, at the Orpheum Theatre, 1192 Market Street, San Francisco. Tickets can be purchased at www.shnsf.com or my phone at 888-746-1799 or at the Orpheum Box office. For more information on the tour, visit www.beautyandthebeastontour.com. Coming up next is Beautiful: The Carole King Musical opening at the Orpheum Theatre on August 9th and running through September 18th.