Preview: Disney's Beauty And The Beast

Disney's enchanting fairytale comes alive at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts

Presented by NETworks Presentations, LLC
Music by Alan Menken
Lyrics by Howard Ashman & Tim Rice
Book by Linda Woolverton
Originally Produced by Disney Theatrical Productions

Emily Behny and the cast of Disney's Beauty and the Beast. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Beautiful princesses, terrifying villains, and lavish musical numbers have been the defining features of Walt Disney's movies over the last 75 years. The 1991 film version of Beauty and the Beast, however, stands out both for its artistry and storyline, offering an independent heroine with beauty and brains who ultimately looks beyond appearances and finds love with a beast. Presented by Dancap Productions, the magic of Beauty and the Beast is currently on stage at the Four Seasons Centre, and is truly a magnificent fairy tale come to life.

On a stage framed by wild flowers and thorns, a booming narrative is told over the instantly recognizable Disney score by Alan Menken. We learn how a handsome prince was turned into a beast and his household turned into enchanted objects, and that only true love can break the spell. At the end of the narrative, the darkness lifts and the audience finds themselves transported to that “little town” in France, following the rosy-cheeked Belle (Emily Behny) as she wanders through the streets with her nose in a book.

A cast of familiar characters is subsequently introduced— the brutish, conceited Gaston (Matt Farcher), clown-like Lefou (Jimmy Larkin), and Belle's lovable inventor father, Maurice (William A. Martin). The scenes are very true to the Disney film, with the dialogue taken directly from the script in some cases. However, Belle's lamentation to Maurice about the fact that she feels “odd” among the townspeople is unique to this production, and it leads Maurice to reminisce about when he met Belle's mother and how it changed his life. This scene allows the audience a glimpse both into Belle's past and her relationship with her father.

Following a heartbreaking separation scene between Belle and Maurice, the audience is treated to the antics of the enchanted objects, namely Lumiere (Michael Haller), Cogsworth (James May), Mrs. Potts (Julia Louise Hosack) and Babette (Jessica Lorion). Rather than being mascot-like in large costumes resembling the film's characters, the enchanted objects look as though they stepped out of 18th century France. A powdered wig sits atop Lumiere's head, and he is clad in a long, shimmering doublet coat with two dripping candles for hands. Madame de la Grande Bouche (Jen Bechter), a chest of drawers who was once an opera singer, wears a dress similar to that of a French queen, and her comedic timing steals each scene in which she appears.

The character of the Beast (Dane Agostinis) in this production is explored much more deeply than in the film, and the audience witnesses the vulnerability in his feelings for Belle when she arrives at the castle. His solo song “If I Can't Love Her” is indicative of how much he feels, and how much he cannot say or act on. The relationship between Belle and the Beast is also much more detailed than the film, as in one scene she reads a book to him in the new library he has given her, and he cannot believe how much a story can transport him to a new world.

This production of Beauty and the Beast is truly a feast for the eyes, serving as both a love story and a children's fairy tale in its charm as well as its playfulness. Highlights include the beautifully choreographed and colourful “Be Our Guest” scene, which leaves the audience breathless, as well as Belle's “A Change in Me," when she realizes how she feels after leaving the Beast's castle and coming back to her little town. A standing ovation followed the show's finale, and the continuous hum of “Beauty and the Beast” could be heard along University Avenue afterward.

Beauty and the Beast plays until July 22nd at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. Visit for more information.

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