Oct. 09--DURHAM -- The Broadway tour of Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" has returned to the Durham Performing Arts Center, and judging by opening night, delights again. The audience included many children as well as those old enough to remember when the animated film came out in movie theaters in 1991. The Disney film has likely worn out many a VCR and now, DVD players. Belle is immersed in Disney princess products, though she doesn't become a princess until after the curtain closes. As in the cartoon, Belle is a woman of her own mind, is well-read and sacrifices herself to save her father. She's pretty brave. And in the musical production, which sticks pretty closely to the animated film's plot, she's pretty funny, too.
Laughter from young and old sounded through DPAC as the musical's real-life actors made the characters their own. Vain bully Gaston (Tim Rogan) and his sidekick LeFou (Jordan Aragon) work particularly well together for laughs, as well as Lumiere (Hassan Nazari-Robati) and Cogsworth (James May). There's plenty of slapstick humor in "Beauty and the Beast," which is a welcome relief from the themes of violence and sexual innuendo. Bad guy Gaston calling for everyone to kill the Beast, and the Beast's initial threatening demeanor to Belle has a different impact when portrayed by real people. The sexual innuendo, which is also in the animation between enchanted objects, could be dialed back just a little. Adults will still get the grownup jokes that sail over the heads of younger audience members. Still, overall, "Beauty and the Beast" is a musical that encompasses an entertaining evening for all ages.
Perhaps the best-loved aspect of "Beauty and the Beast" is in the music, and the musical delivers the songs we all know with fantastical flair. "Be Our Guest" is such a wonderful production number, with the orchestra fulfilling all we could want to hear from Alan Menken's score. The stage is filled with cast members who shine as they bring the best of the show's choreography, vocals, set design, costume design and sound. It really is a fantastic experience. Indeed in several numbers the costumes and set are a pleasing array of color and vibrancy.
Another song, added to the musical version, tells more of Belle's changing view of life as well as showcasing the talented Hilary Maiberger's voice. "A Change in Me" comes in the second act, and actually fills out the plot in a way the movie skips over. It's also a reminder that Maiberger is not just Belle come to life, but a stage actress and singer whose talents are showcased in this musical.
Yet another musical moment worth noting is the song "Gaston," which delivers the punches of humorous lyrical accomplishment as well as memorable choreography. It's a great show.
WANT TO GO?
WHAT: "Beauty and the Beast"
WHEN: Through Sunday
WHERE: Durham Performing Arts Center
123 Vivian St., Durham
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