The musical Disney adaptation of Beauty and the Beast does the movie justice, and then some

There were countless miniature gold Belle dresses and matching hair curls lolloping around the Southern Jubilee Auditorium for the opening night of Disney’s adaptation of Beauty and the Beast the musical on Feb. 17.

But the younger audience members were not the only ones excited for the show. All ages were there to see the now-international tour, which is one of the longest running and most record-earning Broadway productions yet.

The production runs for two and a half hours and the movie runs for an hour and a half. The children sat with their heads resting on their folded arms on the seats in front of them absolutely mesmerized, and the standing ovation at the end proved the audience had no issue with the the length. It provided the extravagance and laughter of the beloved movie, and even added more detail to Belle and the Beast’s blooming relationship.

The Calgary Journal spoke on the phone with Cameron Bond and Bonnie Kelly for an advance article before the show. Bond, who plays Gaston and Kelly, who plays one of his ‘Silly Girls’ gave an inside look at what to expect during the performance, the tidbits that are different from the movie, as well as their favorite moments.

Kelly explains the added detail when compared to the original move: “It’s so different when you’re watching actual people and getting to see those emotions ring true. Cartoons are one thing, and actual human beings are another. The musical is different but it brings it to life more. You feel like you’re in the story.”

How it is brought to life on stage

Kelly’s explanation rings true as there was more dialogue between the two main characters. For example, instead of them bonding outside with their snowball fight in the Disney adaptation, Belle read the book King Arthur out loud to the Beast in the library – this was significant because the Beast opens up, telling Belle that he only learned how to read a little and very long ago. He also admits he didn’t know that books could take him away from this place, and who he is. Belle says she also knows how it feels to be different and lonely, as she felt that way in her town.

The Beast also had a tad different personality in the musical, as he screams ‘like a girl,’ whines like a dog, and has more of a mellow voice while convincing himself to be more of a gentleman. Though his body movements added to his beastliness, as he crawled and jumped and stooped on chairs and had a electronic deep roar that he also has in the movie.

More minor differences were added, perhaps only noticed by the die-hard fans that can sing “Be Our Guest” word for word, flowed well and were necessary for being portrayed on stage.

Belle’s horse, for example, was taken to the woods by her father at the beginning and came home to Belle, where she realized he was missing. A red scarf given to her father, Maurice, by Belle was found in the woods, thus bringing her to the realization that her father was missing, replaced the horse’s role.

Multiple songs were also added here and there, as mentioned by Kelly, which surprisingly did not seem at all out of place and never dragged the scene out too long. Specifically, when Belle gets locked up and says she has no freedom, how the Beast is a monster and how home is where the heart is, but both are very far away. This song is brought up again when the Beast is dying in her arms and she realizes she loves him. More little added songs where the beast lets her go, and Belle tells her dad how her views have changed about the Beast.

One song that particularly gave more humor to the story was in the beginning when Gaston was proposing to Belle. He struts and talks about extending the family tree with ‘sons galore’ and how she would ‘each day be gratified.’

Bond mentions the humor and cockiness that his character possesses when speaking with the Calgary Journal, and how he has always wanted to play the spectrum of the role that Gaston has with his “‘egotism, naivety and over the top goofiness”‘ in Act 1, and then, “‘strip down and be really raw and scary and enthused”‘ in Act 2.

Jillian Butterfield as Belle and Ryan Everett Wood as Beast in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.

Photo by Matthew Murphy

This goofiness he mentions is entirely true and seen between him and his sidekick Lefou. Gaston is perfectly cocky and Lefou is entirely clumsy, which they play off of in their priceless jesting.

“My sidekick and I do a lot of physical comedy of me throwing him around and punching him and knocking his teeth out, as well as technical dance. We use real, metal mugs, like beer mugs,” explains Bond.” We click them together in different ways, like crossing arms, under the legs, all the clinks that you hear while watching it are live, there’s no sound effects. It took forever to learn, but I’m really proud of that number and that’s why it’s my favorite.”

It was the audience’s favorite too judging from the rampant clapping afterwards, which was warranted after seeing all of the intricate moves and limbs holding the mugs going in all directions, yet still meeting up with the other arms and legs while rolling and twisting everywhere.

Comedy for the whole audience

This similar type of physical humor from the duo is present all throughout the musical, and reaches the whole of the audience, not only the young ones.

“The most important thing with Beauty and the Beast is that it’s a kid friendly show, but it is a show that is for all ages, everyone will enjoy it,” said Kelly. “It’s always great to have kids in the audience but we love having the adult audience members too.”

The snippets of adult humor thrown in explain why she says she loves having the adults there. Gaston, for one thing, feels himself up when singing about himself and puffing out his chest hair. Babette, the maid of the castle who turns into a feather duster and Lumiere, the candelabra, have quite the seductive relationship that the musical flirts with wonderfully.

Babette pushes up her chest, Lumiere grinds and his candles come on strategically when kissing her. All of their dialogue done in their French accented seductive sneers and giggles at each other. Lumiere even possesses the eyebrow game that he has in the movie, added with a lunacy and large physical presence –comparable to Steve Martin– was astounding.

Beyond that, the wardrobe character known as ‘Madame de la Grande Bouche’ in the musical pulls out a flask from the chest area of her dress when speaking with Belle, and takes a huge swig of it. Enjoyable for all.

Details galore

Even if the musical did not possess all the wonderful discourse, the obvious time, effort and thought put into the many elements was remarkable.

The ‘Silly Girls’ voices and movements were just as whiney and in sync as in the movie, Maurice’s bike that shot out chopped wood actually was a ridiculous looking bike (though didn’t shoot out wood), and the windmill and churning wheels on Belle and Maurice’s house were legitimately turning on stage.

There was a bright vibrancy in the settings; with the town and townspeople wearing rainbow colored dresses dancing in front of the rolling hills, and necessary gloominess, candles and numerous windy staircases when inside the castle.

The castle scenes even changed and the pieces of the set broke apart and went back together like puzzle pieces, done by servants of the Beast dressed up as weird animals that were not in the movie, but was done with a wonderful flow so it was a welcome addition.

For ‘Be Our Guest’ there were sparkly pink and bubbly backgrounds, and streamers shot out a couple of times into the audience which, during the intermission, could be seen clutched in the hands of the miniature Belles. When Lumiere is reminiscing about the “good old times when we were useful,” with the darkness and spotlight on him, it perfectly matched with the movie.

Ripped drapes torn by an angry Beast in the movie acted as backdrops for the musical, placed sporadically during scenes in the castle. All throughout the musical, there were so many layers of backdrops, from the front of the stage to the back of vines and other scene settings.

Even the characters beyond the ones already mentioned were done up to a tee. Chip’s character was a young boy brought out in a tray pushed by his mother Mrs. Pots, with only his head visible as the classic chipped cup. At one point Chip was brought out on just a tray, so there was a fake head and no body as the character that moved back and forth as he talked. This would probably have been confusing to some audience members if they were a tad inebriated.

As graceful as the movies

Besides the actors and actresses needing to memorize lines and dance moves and coordinate their every move seamlessly, they also needed to sing for the majority of the two and a half hour performance. All their voices are so naturally vast, carried so well and so far and were naturally talented.

They never even seemed out of breath, though almost always prancing around the stage and singing at the same time, and the ballroom dancing was legitimately as good as the animated in the Disney movies.

But Kelly loves the challenge.

“Honestly, this entire show is so much fun to do. It challenges you physically, and there are days where your legs may not tick and you have to warm up an extra half hour, but that’s why I do what I do,” Kelly said. “It’s like being an athlete in the Olympics; you’re training your body and its vigorous and that’s the most challenging part. But nothing about the show would I change for a minute.”

The skills portrayed by the rest of the cast, suggest that they love the challenge as well.

During the dance between Belle and the Beast, when Belle is in her classic gold ball gown that was as huge and sparkly on stage as it was in the movie, both were practically floating around the stage with the fog being released under their feet, a huge moon and glittering blue stars around them.

The rainstorm that was present during the movie when all the townspeople gathered their weapons and stormed to the Beast’s castle was done elegantly. A screen with the falling rain and periodic lightening was placed between the audience and the performers, and they ran in place, but very in sync and with the song before Gaston’s pounding on the giant door reverberated in the audiences’ chests.

Also, though the scene between Gaston and the Beast was supposed to be scary and violent, which it was, the timing and choreography of both of them climbing, punching, kicking and falling all over the set was magnificent to say the least.

What truly solidified the musical’s attentiveness; even more so if possible, was when the Beast was being transformed into a man. He was being raised up off the ground just like movie, and had a spotlight of rainbow colored lights on him as he got vertically spun around, and then suddenly did not have horns and a tail anymore. How is this stuff even made possible?

The end of a classic

All that the servants wanted throughout the musical was to not be transformed into permanent ‘things.’ Cogsworth had a minor meltdown when a winder appears on his back that was not there the night before. Mrs. Potts mentions that all she wants is for Chip to be a little boy again.

So to add more cuteness to the existing overload of wonderful the musical ends with all the servants being human again (Lumiere snarling in his happiness of having hands and chasing Babette’s behind), and the sole setting of Chip running across the entire stage to Mrs. Potts open arms yelling, “Momma!” It is enough to turn anyone soft, even without a love of Disney.

Then the classic ending of a tale as old as time as every cast member came onto the stage to take their bows, with constant clapping and cheering from the audience. The last four, Lumiere, Gaston, the Beast and Belle were the ones who received the loudest applause. Belle even received a standing ovation, with parents holding their kids in their arms.

Bond described to the Calgary Journal what to expect from the musical, and did not possess the ingenuousness and cunning that his character does, as it kept up with every descriptor and then some.

“It’s a great date night, its great for your kids of course, its for older couples, its just a treat. It’s a lovely story about love and looking past the exterior. And we have the familiar characters that everyone loves, and great humor,” he said.

“It’s a great quality production with all of the dancing. It’s the original Broadway team; it’s not some other production of Beauty and the Beast. A lot of the choreography is the same on Broadway, and obviously the script and the way we deliver our lines, and the way we’re directed is the same as how they were directed on Broadway. So it’s really that caliber that people can enjoy.”

Ahardstaff-gajda@cjournal.ca