PNC Broadway in Louisville’s Beauty and the Beast. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Beauty and The Beast

Music by Alan Menken, Lyrics by Howard Ashman & Tim Rice
Book by Linda Woolverton
Directed by Rob Roth

Reviewed by Craig Nolan Highley

Entire contents copyright © 2012 by Craig Nolan Highley. All rights reserved.

On this past Sunday Broadway in Louisville’s latest offering closed what I assume was a financially successful run of a new and completely revamped touring production of Disney’s first theatrical musical, Beauty and the Beast.  The show has been reworked from top to bottom by the original production team, from the costumes, to the set design, to cuts and additions to the score. And I was left thinking of the old adage (one that is ironically paraphrased within the show): if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

To say I was disappointed with the changes is an understatement. The show holds a special place in my heart; it was the first show I saw on Broadway during its initial New York run with the original cast (Susan Egan, Terrance Mann, Tom Bosley, Gary Beach, etc.) and I saw the original touring version several times. It was a wonderful show, but sadly, NONE of the changes to the new version are for the best.

First and most unforgiveable, they cut the show’s sweetest number (“No Matter What,” a heartfelt ballad illustrating the love between a father and daughter) and another, more forgettable one (“The Maison De Lune”) to make room for an unnecessary and instantly forgettable new pop song (“A Change in Me,” originally added for Toni Braxton in her Broadway run). The scenes, which were written to include the songs, now end awkwardly and abruptly, hurting the flow of the story.

The new costumes by the original designer (Ann Hould-Ward) are pretty but frequently fail to create a sense of what they are supposed to represent. The enchanted wardrobe, for example, looks nothing like a wardrobe, more like what any wealthy woman would be wearing during the French Revolution. The enchanted feather-duster also looks like nothing more than a French maid’s uniform, with a few feathers. If you didn’t know who these characters were, you would never know what they were supposed to be. Similar issues occurred with many of the other costumes.

The new set designs, again by the original designer (Stanley A. Meyer), have been so streamlined and simplified that they look no more fanciful than what you’d see in a good high school theater production. Very little is three-dimensional, and most are simply painted-on-cardboard illusions. The library set is a particular disappointment in this regard.

Matt West’s choreography has also been simplified, and again, the changes are no improvement. How director Rob Roth could have compromised his original vision with this sell-out of a production is beyond me.

The show is somewhat redeemed by strong performances by nearly everyone. Hilary Maiberger is lovely and in fine voice as Belle, and she truly kept me entertained and took my mind off the show’s flaws whenever she was on stage. Darrick Pead is energetic and sympathetic as the Beast, although he really needs to reign in the unscripted mugging and milking he did several times in his funnier moments (a charge I also level at Shani Hadjian as The Wardrobe). George Hamilton look-alike Hassan Nazari-Robati also stole every scene as Lumiere.

Overall, the show probably satisfied its target audience of undiscriminating little girls, but adults used to the original production will undoubtedly find this lacking.

Featuring Chris Brand, Alyssa Brizzi, Skye Bronfenbrenner, Kieron Cindric, Taylor D. Colleton, Laura Douciere, Kyle Dupree, Erin Edelle, Matt Farcher, Shani Hadjian, Amanda Grace Holt, Stacey Jackson, Charlie Jones, Kevin Kelly, Brian Krinski, Jimmy Larkin, Jessica Lorion, Hilary Maiberger, Brian Martin, William A. Martin, James May, Stephanie Moskal, Hassan Nazari-Robati, Darick Pead, Stephen Petrovich, Sarah Primmer, Sean Reda, Andrea Rouch, Michael Whitney, and Jason Wise.

Beauty and The Beast

October 23 -28, 2012

PNC Broadway in Louisville

The Kentucky Center

501 West Main Street

Louisville, KY, 40202