After seeing the Broadway version of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” on the large stage and the recent movie version of the Award-winning musical, I found it hard to get excited about seeing it again at the small barn theatre in Matunuck. How wrong I was!
Director Bob Richard and choreographer Diane Laurenson have taken this elaborate, sweeping musical and perfectly adapted it for the confined space at Theatre-by-the-Sea, preserving the grandiose musical numbers, while emphasizing the intimate scenes.
Switching rapidly and smoothly from village scenes to the Beast’s castle, the story’s flow is never lost. What we don’t see are men in the rafters pulling heavy ropes to drop background scenes and sets being moved off stage outside the theatre, while dozens of actors are moving about the stage.
You know the story: Belle saves her eccentric father by taking his place at the Beast’s castle, where she slowly wins over the loud, uncontrollable creature, thanks to a little help from his servants who have been turned into household items. Poor Belle also has to deal with an egotistic Gaston, who insists on her marrying him.
“Beauty and the Beast” is the ultimate love story, and director Richard makes sure that the theme of loving someone for who they are and not what they look like is not lost among the dazzling dance routines, lovely songs, colorful characters and clever puns. Lauren Weinberg makes the perfect Belle, an eccentric bookworm who doesn’t fit in with the townsfolk. Philip Bryan is equally perfect as the Beast, who has the same “acceptance” problem. Both have excellent voices and charisma. And then there’s Gaston, that French egomaniac, played magnificently by Wayne Hu, an Asian opera singer who has complete control and believability in the role. With over two dozen people in the cast, there is not a weak link to be found. How choreographer Laurenson managed to pull off two show-stopping production numbers is beyond me.
“Beauty and the Beast” is at Theatre-by-the-Sea through August 12. Even if you have seen some version of it before, this show is worth seeing – and bring the kids. Tickets are $46-$72. Call 782-8587 for reservations.