The National Theatre Disney’s Beauty and the BeastBy Roman Gusso • Jun 13th, 2012 • Category: Reviews
at the The National Theatre, Washington DC
Through June 24th
2:40 with intermission
$39-$152 (plus fees)
Reviewed June 12th, 2012
Most people know that, in 1991, Disney Studios released its 30th full-length animated film Beauty and the Beast. What most people don’t know is that it became the very first animated film that was nominated for an Academy Award in the best picture category; that it broke box office records at the time; and that, on April 18, 1994, the musical version opened at the Palace Theatre and ran on Broadway for 13 years and became the 8th longest-running musical in history. It has been touring around the country and around the world for just as long.
And, once again, it’s here, running at the National Theatre from June 12th- 24th. This brilliant, spectacular, amazing, breath-taking production comes with Original Direction and Staging by Tony-nominated Director Rob Roth, with music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Asman and Tim Rice, and a book by Linda Wolverton.
The musical and the animated film are both based on the fairy tale La Belle et la Bete by Jeanne Marrie le Prince de Beaumont. The plot is a fairy tale and enchanting as it gets.
An enchantress disguised as an old beggar woman offers a young prince a rose in exchange for a night’s shelter. When he turns her away, she punishes him by transforming him into an ugly Beast (Dane Agostinis). She gives him a magic mirror that will enable him to view faraway events, and she gives him the rose, which will bloom until his twenty-first birthday. He must love and be loved in return before all the rose’s petals have fallen off, or he will remain a Beast forever. As the tortured Beast, Agostinis allows the beastly make-up to strip away so that the audience sees the broken man underneath. And, luckily for the Beast, the audience are not the only ones.
Years later, a beautiful young woman named Belle (Emily Behny) comes along, living in a nearby French village with her father Maurice (William A. Martin), an inventor. Belle loves reading and yearns for a life beyond the village. Behny does an incredible job of staying true to the story and expectations, yet she is able to bring a new life to the character and to truly reinvent Belle for herself. She brings new life, energy, and dimensions to the role. It only gets better as the show progresses with the beautiful coupling between her and Agostinis. There is a beautiful scene when Belle is reading the Beast a story, and it is just magical.
The Beast, however, is not her only admirer. Her beauty attracts attention in the town and she is pursued by many men, but mostly the arrogant local hunter, Gaston (Matt Farcher). Belle has no interest in Gaston, despite the fact that he is sought after by all the single females and is considered godlike in perfection by the male population of the town. Farcher is brilliant in his humorous and grand-scale take on the familiar character. Enhancing the comedic scenes with Farcher is his sidekick Lefou (Jimmy Larkin).
To add to the magic of the show, the Beast was not the only one transformed. All of his servants were turned into furniture and other household items: Lumiere, a candelabra (Michael Haller); Cogsworth, a clock (James May); Mrs. Potts, a teapot (Julia Louise Hosack); her son Chip, a tea-cup (Noah Jones); Babette, a feather duster (Jessica Lorion); and Madame de la Grande Bouche, a vanity (Jen Bechter). It is the servants who form the true backbone of the production, not missing a beat. Bechter practically steals every moment, while never taking away from the other actors or the progression and flow of the story.
The set and scenery are mesmerising, the costumes are as if you just stepped into a fairy tale. The Puppet Design (Basil Twist), Fight Direction (Rick Sordelet), and the Illusion Design (Jim Steinmeyer) are some of the best and most innovative you will ever see! The cast is stellar! Not enough can be said about each and everyone’s detailed, fresh, flawless, interpretation of their roles; the vocals are beautiful and pitch perfect.
As cliché as it sound, this is a show for all, a beautiful sight, an inspiring moral, a memorable lesson and one heck of a good time. So…be their guest, be their guest, put their talents to the test! Don’t miss this one.
Photos by Joan Marcus
- Belle: Emily Behny
- Beast: Dane Agostinis
- Gaston: Matt Farcher
- Lefou: Jimmy Larkin
- Mrs. Potts: Julia Louise Hosack
- Lumire: Michael Haller
- Cogsworth: James May
- Babette: Jessica Lorion
- Maurice: William A. Martin
- Madame De La Grande Bouche: Jen Bechter
- Chip: Noah Jones/Gabriel Reis
- Monsieur D’arque: Matt Kopec
- Young Prince: David Baur
- Carpet: David Baur
- Silly Girls: Brittany Conigatti, Amanda Grace Holt, Christie Schwartzman
- Towns People/Enchanted Objects: David Baur, Andrew Betz, Sky Bronfenbrenne, Jeff Brooks, Carly Casey, Brittany Conigatti, Kyle Dupree, Amanda Grace Holt, Brian Kess, Kolby Kindle, Caroline Kittrel, Matt Kopec, Carter Lynch, Lauren Palmeri, Christie Schwartzman, Mandy Striph
- Voice Of Prologue Narrator: Logan Denninghoff
Disclaimer: The National Theatre provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/8185.
Roman Gusso worked for twenty years as a professional actor and director, as well as working in a myriad of other theatrical production roles at various levels. In recent years, he served as Artistic Director/President of STROyKA Theatre in Washington, DC. Roman currently privately teaches acting, voice, and piano and serves as a consultant to various groups and schools. Mostly, he is enjoying his best role ever as a husband and father of four.