Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 7/8/2009 (2851 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
As with all enduring fairy tales, audiences of all ages can still be engaged and moved by the story of the bitter, rage-filled Beast who is redeemed through the love of Belle, a pure-hearted girl.
But the truly great innovation in the Disney musical, which opened Thursday and runs through Aug. 28 at Kildonan Park's Rainbow Stage, is that the spell cast over the Beast's castle has caused each of the servants to turn gradually into a household object.
In their wonderfully clever costumes (on loan, along with the storybook sets, from a theatre in Kansas), the once-human clock (David Warburton) candelabra (Chris Sigurdson), teapot (Donna Fletcher), teacup (Tyler Horvey), feather duster (Brenda Gorlick) and bureau (Debbie Maslowsky) are delightful supporting characters whose plight is both funny and affecting. Many are played by the same performers who sparkled in Rainbow's indoor production of Beauty five years ago.
Sigurdson in particular, with his Maurice Chevalier accent and ignitable candle-hands, lights up the stage with joie de vivre as the candelabra.
The object-enchantment means that near the end of Act I, when the entire household welcomes Belle with the over-the-top production number Be Our Guest, the stage overflows with the gloriously surreal vision of singing and dancing knives, forks, spoons, kitchen tools and dishes.
Director Robb Paterson and choreographer Scott James Peter ensure that this sensational number builds into a Busby Berkeley-esque Parisian nightclub fantasy. There's ballet, soft-shoe, tango, acrobatics and can-can before the climactic cork pops.
Other crowd-pleasing numbers include the charming Human Again and the high-energy Gaston, the latter a manly, tongue-in-cheek salute to Belle's brawny dolt of a suitor. Peter Huck brings just the right cheesy humour to the role of the cartoonish Gaston ("I'm especially good at expectorating," he boasts in song), though his pummelling of his sidekick LeFou (gifted pratfaller Andrew Stelmack) grows repetitive.
(Gaston's demise was a glaring goof on opening night, as his feet remained visible after he supposedly plummeted off a tower.)
Samantha Hill, a winning Wendy in last summer's Peter Pan, is ideally cast as the radiant, plucky Belle. Her lovely singing voice could perhaps be modulated to show a little more sweetness and vulnerability.
Kevin Aichele, who has a great repertoire of growls and a fierce, towering presence, strikes the right balance between scary, sympathetic and awkwardly funny as the hairy-masked Beast. His singing is also excellent, if a bit strained in his tormented solo If I Can't Love Her.
The two-and-a-half-hour show originated as an animated 1991 Disney movie with music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice. Not every moment is golden. The first act is long, with several bland songs. The three village girls who pursue Gaston are tiresomely shrill and inappropriately costumed, looking more like streetwalkers than fairy-tale peasants.
Nonetheless, the story casts a magical spell. It's breathtaking to see Belle in her sumptuous gold ballgown, swept around the dance floor by the gentlemanly Beast to the accompaniment of the Oscar-winning title song.
And the moment of the Beast's transformation into the human prince is wondrously moving, inspiring the audience to break into applause.
Musical-theatre lovers can look forward to another show with lyrics by Rice. Rainbow Stage has announced that next summer's musical, Aug. 3-27, 2010, will be Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, which it last mounted in 2003.
Beauty and the Beast
To Aug. 28 in Kildonan Park
Tickets $22-$48 at 989-0888
Four stars out of five