The very short version is, while I'm glad I went, it was an adequate performance of largely bad material, and as far as staging it is concerned, I would have done it *entirely* differently, just about from top to bottom. I think it suffered badly in comparison to the stage version of The Lion King, which is at least as good as the film, and possibly better due to the sheer technical wonder of it all. BatB opted for melodrama/caricature (which, admittedly, is in keeping with the film), and I didn't think it worked nearly as well.
For some *incredibly* bizarre reason, the actors all had their microphones between their eyebrows, like some kind of caste mark. It made everyone look like they had a giant zit thoroughly covered in makeup on their foreheads. The only principle who did not have a Zit Mic was Maurice, Belle's father, who was played by a balding man, and whose hair could presumably not hide the microphone cord. I cannot imagine what possessed them to do that.
One would think with the bizarre microphones and all, the sound balance between the orchestra and vocals would have been fantastic. It wasn't. It wasn't as bad as some shows I've gone to, but there was too much music and not enough voice in several of the songs. Professional theatre should not have that kind of problem, dammit.
The man who played Gaston was very tall (and made taller by heeled shoes with lifts in them) and very muscular, and while I didn't really enjoy him as a character, I couldn't help thinking that it really would've been an *awful* lot of fun to see Hugh Jackman play the part, which he did in the Australian version of the show. If they'd played it the same way, I still wouldn't have liked what they did very much, but Jackman would've been very, very fun to watch.
Among other things that I didn't like, he was costumed in pleather stuff with fake abs sewn in. I would not have done that. :) (There were two other men in the chorus who were quite tall, though still noticeably shorter than Gaston. Given any choice in the matter, I wouldn't have cast them, either, because without them, Gaston would have stood literally head and shoulders above everybody else he was on stage with, and the visual would have been even funnier.) While I realize even in the film, Gaston really is a caricature, I'd have played him much straighter; there was no sense of threat from him at all. He had more edge in the movie than he did on stage, and the fight between him and the Beast (and in fact anywhere else when he was supposed to be being Manly and Slightly Threatening) was so staged as to simply not work. As Jason Carter said one time after being told by someone that in his fight with Tybalt in Romeo & Juliet, "I really thought you were going to *kill* each other!", the whole *point* is that you think they're really going to kill each other. There was no such fear in this. In fact, I didn't think anybody was going to get killed.
That said, the "Kill the Beast" scene was really nicely staged. That's one of my favorite songs in the show (how can you not be a fan of a song with the line, Screw your courage to the sticking place?), and they pulled it off as a mob song really pretty well.
In fact, mostly, the songs from the film were done well. I was *extremely* dubious about "Be Our Guest", and again would not have made several of the staging choices they did, but in the end it was in fact a great enthusiastic number, easily the best in the show. The "Beauty and the Beast" number itself was prettily done (although I think they were too slavish in copying Belle's costume from the film: the 'sleeves' were so stiff that they billowed up and nearly hid Belle's head when she danced with the Beast. It would have been much better if they'd made them lacier and more forgiving.), but I would not have had
Even "Human Again", which was cut from the film (with good reason) played all right on stage. However, the original music written for the stage show was incredibly bad. Really, really bad, and made worse by nearly every song (both from the film and not) being done as a Stand And Present, rather than any feel of incorporation into moving the storyline along. The Beast had a perfectly terrible Song That Goes Like This that actually made me *think* of The Song That Goes Like This while he was singing it, although later it occurred to me that Belle had also had her own Song That Went Like That.
I thought Lumiere was too raunchy, and Ted thought the Vegas showgirls style of "Be Our Guest" was too sexy for what's purportedly a kids' show (I just thought Lumiere bordered on tacky and wasn't especially sexy or charming, rather than being concerned with age appropriateness. He *was* funny, but it was a Bit Too Much). Cogsworth was pretty funny, and Babette (the feather duster) was not only very good but also had a really awesome costume that fit very snugly and had Ginger Rogers feathers from the knees down, but proved to have a zipped hip-height slit so it opened up into a quite full skirt for "Be Our Guest". I totally approved of that costume. :)
Belle was quite lovely, though I don't think her makeup should have tried so hard to bring to mind the big doe eyes the character had in the film. She did have a very nice and very understandable voice (unlike the three blondes, who were played as shrill and pushy instead of ditzy and cute like they were in the film).
I didn't think the Beast's normal voice had enough raar in it, but the problems with the show weren't, I thought, in the performances, but rather in the direction and staging choices. (Perhaps "an adequate performance" is being cruel, but I didn't feel they'd risen above the material, which the stage performance of "Rent" that I saw did.) It's a shame that the only decent song he had was "There's Something There", and only half of that is his, because he did have a gorgeous singing voice. I just got distracted by the Song That Goes Like This-ness of his other songs.
Clearly the girls behind me did not have that problem, as there was shrieking and squeeing over the Beast-turned-Prince at the end. :)
I could very probably go on, but my picoreview has now turned out to be an hour's worth of typing, and it's late, so I'm going to call it good at this point.
Really, that sounds like I didn't enjoy it, which isn't true. I did enjoy it, and I'm genuinely glad I went, because I've wanted for years to see it and I'd have felt hugely like I'd missed out if I hadn't gone. Besides, half the fun of theatre is being able to tear a show apart, and it's a rare damned thing when I can't. (That always stuns my family, when all we can say is, "Wow, that was really *good*!")
Also, more or less totally unrelated, as fantastically gorgeous and sexy as the high-stiletto-heeled Cadiz boots are, I'll be sending them back. They're just not wearable enough; four hours of them tonight, most of which wasn't on my feet, was too much. I love them, they're beautiful, they're gorgeous, but I really don't think I'll wear them again, and they cost too damned much to keep lying around. Someday when I'm rich perhaps I'll have an extremely sexy pair of boots like that custom made to fit my feet precisely. :)
miles to Dunharrow: 160