It takes something truly magic to hold an audience including children as young as five years old absolutely connected, enchanted and enthralled for more than two hours and that something is the Disney classic Beauty and the Beast. Beauty and the Beast has returned to Los Angeles with a new touring group joined by the original creators of the Broadway production. Beauty and the Beast is an immersion into spectacle, joyful exaggeration and pure fun.
Being but one of perhaps three people in the world who had never before seen this show on stage or screen I entered without preconception. What struck me first where the many young children in attendance, many of the girls cheerfully bedecked in their Belle costumes. Not once during the entire performance did I observe by sight or sound any evidence of poor behavior. I attribute this happy revelation to good parents, good kids and a great show that totally captured them. So yes, this truly is a wonderful family theatrical experience and the Pantages is allowing children as young as three in the theatre for Beauty and the Beast.
But no this is not simply “a kid’s show.” From its orchestral opening under the direction of Carolyn Violi to its spectacular finale’ Beauty and the Beast offers up a non stop feast of beauty and magic in sight and sound that appeals to all ages. Utterly glorious is the stunning beauty achieved in the set design (thank you Stanley Meyer) illuminated by the light design (thank you Natasha Katz). It is seamless, complex and truly beautiful. The one word description is WOW!
The storyline is pure Disney. Young Prince behaves poorly and he and his entire staff suffer from an evil spell that only love given and returned can lift. The beautiful Belle arrives in search of her father. At first the relationship between the Beast (the Prince under the evil spell) and Belle is about as dark and unpromising as any relationship can be. Through a series of intriguing events the clouds lift and the relationship warms. Yes, of course, there is happy ending.
The tale is told by the actors, of course, and none are better at this task than the lovely Liz Shivener as Belle and the powerful Justin Glasner as the Beast. But one character that stands out for his way over the top self indulgence is the hilariously obnoxious Gaston played masterfully by Nathaniel Hackman. As soon as Starbucks opens a store in a men’s locker room Gaston will be the first customer. The entire cast performs at the peak of the art and collectively give the audience a truly great and award worthy show.
Beauty and the Beast is playing at the Pantages Theatre now through March 26, 2011. For show times and ticketing you may call 800-982-2787 or go online to BroadwayLA.org. With tickets starting as low as $25 there is no reason not to treat the entire family to this wonderful show. And these days we really do need some escape into a world of magic, beauty and love. The experience will reinvigorate you and give you a lifetime of wonderful memories.
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