Simply exquisite! Those are the two words that come to mind when describing NETworks’ production of the Broadway hit musical “Beauty and the Beast”; emphasis on exquisite.
Anything but provincial, the classic tale of Belle, a small-town girl with big dreams of adventure, and the Beast— formally a prince who undergoes a spell when he rudely turns away an old woman selling roses—comes to life on the stage of the Center for the Performing Arts in downtown San Jose. In the classic story, Belle finds herself at an enchanted castle while looking for her father who gets lost in the woods. Once she hesitantly enters the castle, she also finds herself in the midst of a Beast who takes her as his prisoner in exchange for her father’s freedom. However, despite his ghastly outward appearance, Belle, who at first is more appalled by the Beast’s manners and temper rather than his fearsome physique, begins to, in time, truly see his true beauty within once he learns to love again through her kindness and compassion.
A true visual fantasy from beginning to end, the characters come to life as the ornate set, mesmerizing visual effects, and vibrant costumes are detailed down to perfection. The performers, who take on such lively personas, played their roles to a tee. Not a single beat was missed throughout the entire performance as each musical number was choreographed to precision. Once the show began, I personally could not stop smiling throughout the performance. The songs were so up-tempo and cheerful that I could not help but lip sync along with the characters. And although all of the performers brought the true nature of a Broadway hit show to life, many of the memorable performances were quite electric, beginning with “Belle,” played by Emily Behny. Behny encompassed the beauty and elegance of “Belle,” along with her strong nature and thirst for adventure. Logan Denninghoff was perfection in the role of the uber-self-centered heartthrob and manly man “Gaston.” And even though he is the antagonist in the story, through his charisma and charm, Denninghoff as “Gaston” even made the ladies in the audience swoon.
Andrew Kruep, who plays “Lefou,” “Gaston’s” sidekick, was quite animated and took many faux punches to the face with great stride. His physicality on stage and stunt-like flips-and-falls brought an extra element of excitement to the role. Michael Haller (Lumiere) and James May (Cogsworth) were quite the pair. Haller’s portrayal of the oh-so suave candelabra provided an element of whimsy and allure. His French accent and flirtatious appeal also brought an aire of romance and literal illumination to the stage. And May’s performance was prim, proper and precise, just as an animate clock should be. “Mrs. Potts,” performed by Julia Louise Hosack, was the matriarch who kept the whole story and band of enchanted objects together. She was so kind, sweet, and comforting in the role that everyone wishes they could have a mother like her, even if she is a teapot.
The role of “Chip,” interchanged by Noah Jones and Jordan Moore, was the sweetest teacup ever. Everyone in the audience let out a sigh of awww when “Chip” ran into his mother’s arms once the enchanted characters became human again upon the spell’s demise. And of course, the “Beast,” played by Dane Agostinis, not only brought the façade and sounds of a terrifying beast to life, but he also provoked feelings of compassion and sympathy towards a being who is a tortured soul trapped in a form that is neglected, misunderstood, and feared by the world.
A truly magnificent musical rendition of a Disney classic, “Beauty and the Beast” is a musical that you will want to see again and again. And if I could award this performance five stars, I would give it 10! A must see for all ages.
“Beauty and the Beast” runs through March 11, 2012 at the Center for the Performing Arts in downtown San Jose.
For more information and to purchase tickets to the show, please visit:
Performance Review by Sophia M. Papadopoulos
Photos Courtesy of Broadway San Jose