You all know that I'm an actress. At the tender (bah) age of 23, I have performed in 32 productions, and I'm about to embark upon a huge endeavor with bringing improvisational theatre to Alaska. Aside from participating in theatre, I have seen over 40 shows, less than half of which have been on Broadway. I've been to professional theatre not only in New York, but also in Washington DC, Florida, Atlantic City, and a few other cities in the United States. I have seen a great deal of regional theatre, summer stock, and dinner theatre. Theatre has been in my family for generations.
Every single show I have ever seen and/or worked on or in absolutely pale in comparison to Beauty and the Beast at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on Broadway.
I received four tickets to go see this show from LiteFM (106.7 in NY) as a consolation for the awful travel agent they assigned to me for my New Orleans trip. Along with the tickets came two rooms at the Sheraton Towers. I was completely excited. You all know that I'm moving to Anchorage, AK on 8/8, and I thought that this was a wonderful send off for me.
On my way to the theatre, I got onto the wrong subway. I was furious by the time I got to the theatre to meet my mom, cousin Elisandra, and Dionne. (My mom is Artmom, and you know that Dionne is Dionne25.) Mom brought my make-up case with her, so I went into the bathroom in the theatre with Dionne and cleaned myself up.
Afterwards, we took our seats in row W, right off the center aisle. What awesome seats!!! They were in the center orchestra, a little far back. The theatre is small enough that any seat is truly a good view of the stage. Of course, I prefer sitting in the orchestra section, as I don't like looking down at the action. We were perfectly level with the stage.
The show began with a fairy tale, much like the way the Disney movie version of Beauty and the Beast begins. It was all behind a muslin screen, which gave the entire thing a whole dream-like feel. The beggar woman turned into an enchantress right before your eyes, as did the Prince turn into the Beast. It was wonderful! I'm getting chills just thinking about it.
Unfortunately, during that scene change into the Belle number, Dionne and I caught glimpse of a stage hand in the stage right wing. Unfortunately, I was brought right out of the scene, and it really bothered me for the rest of the show. It may seem trivial to you, but the crew member wasn't wearing black, as stage crew is supposed to-- He was wearing a bright blue shirt. How disappointing. all of the magic was sucked out of the opening scene just by seeing him.
Andrea McArdle (the original Annie) played the role of Belle, and was absolutely phenomenal. You'd think that she wasn't the star she is by the way she held herself on stage. It was terrific! She blended right into the cast. You really thought you were watching Belle, rather than a famous actress as the character. Her voice was wonderful, dancing was fantastic, and acting very convincing. She really brought her character to life.
Next introduced was Gaston, played by Patrick Ryan Sullivan. He was GREAT! He was just the villain you loved to hate. Not only did he remind me of a mutual friend of mine and Dionne's, but he had echoes of Bowser from Sha-na-na (I'm an oldies freak, okay?), as well as my lesser-known Uncle Tony. I could not believe how buff this guy was. And, his voice! Oh, he was fabulous.
Jay Brian Winnick, who plays Gaston's sidekick Lefou, really got on my nerves. I feel he tried to hard to be like the Disney character, and really had echoes of Nathan Lane. Nothing against Lane, but it just was over-kill for this actor. Mr. Winnick, if you're reading this, I'm sure they have room for you at Over-Actors Anonymous, right next to Parker Posey. His voice was forced, his actions exaggerated, and I just cringed every time he was on stage.
Steve Blanchard plays Beast, and was perfectly amazing. The man is built like an Addonis, but moved across the stage so lithely and gracefully! The way he climbed the stairs, furniture, and walls just sent shivers up my spine. He was so animal-like! Talk about a great actor. And, his voice! I couldn't get over it. When he was angry and yelled (even more, growled), I truly got scared. He was so innocent and naive at certain times, too. When Belle tended to his wound and he screamed like a 5-year-old girl, I nearly wet my pants laughing. I was totally enthralled by his performance. His singing voice brought tears to my eyes.
Now let's talk about Lumiere, played by my new favorite Broadway actor, Patrick Page. Mr. Page, if you're reading this, my phone number before I move to Alaska is (631)... Oh, sorry. Okay, Patrick Page absolutely lit up (no pun intended) the stage as the famed candle obra. His french accent was lacking at times, but he made up for it with his great timing, amusing facial expressions, and overall fabulous stage presence. And, can that man dance! He just swayed those hips and frolicked (yes, frolicked) around the stage. It was terrific. And his song, Be Our Guest, was absolutely show-stopping. I don't know if Page has ever won a Tony, but he sure as heck deserves at least a nomination for his performance.
Page was joined by Jeff Brooks (Cogsworth) and Barbara Marineau (Mrs. Potts) to make the team of Beast's main servants. The three together were absolutely outstanding, complimenting each other very nicely. I haven't seen such a great threesome since Anything Goes, with Reno, Moonface and Billy. It is so difficult to cast three people together that can have such a high level of chemistry. Jay Binder (who did the casting) was right on the money when he cast these three.
Be Our Guest was absolutely magnificent. I keep using the same words over and over, and I'm terribly sorry. Believe me, words would escape you as well should you ever see this show and attempt to describe it. For those of you that don't know, Lumiere sings this song to Belle, inviting her to dinner. The entire set was transformed from the castle into a huge china cabinet of sorts. The entire ensemble was dressed as dishes, utensils, napkins, and such. There was even a carpet (played by someone I've worked with before, Michael Lang), who tumbled wearing this cumbersome rug outfit. It was the best musical number I've seen in my life. (And, I saw Hello, Dolly! with Carol Channing at the Kennedy Center.)
My mouth hung open in a childish gape with each new set that was brought out, particularly the Guest number. The castle is a revolving set, where you can see the outside at the end of the show. It was amazing. I could just imagine how big the swing gang (those that fly in the sets) must have been. From the little french town to the library in the castle, I was absolutely amazed.
My second favorite number was most definitely Gaston, which is a big number in the tavern. All of these men as well as three women did this huge dance number with Gaston and Lefou in which they used metal beer steins. Matt West is an absolute genius when it comes to choreography.
You're probably wondering why I'm only giving this show 4 stars. Well, you know how much it upset me that I saw that stagehand. That's not the least of it, though. The audience is the reason why I'm dropping an otherwise perfect show a star. Members of the audience decided they would snap a couple of pictures of the scenes during the second act. HELLO?!! That is the absolute RUDEST thing you can possible do. Flash bulbs were popping all over the place. Not only is that distracting to the audience, but also to the actors as well. It completely ruined the whole illusion for me, especially when ushers walked up and down the aisles during the scene, hissing, "No photographs in the theatre!" I was so upset. Please, please, please never do this. It is so incredibly rude.
If you ever have a chance to see Beauty and the Beast, you should. Just make sure you leave your camera at home and ask those around you not to take any photographs during the performance.
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