- OnStage Florida Critic
Recently, I attended the production of Beauty and the Beast that is currently touring the country. I was not originally going to attend, for in the past year, I have had enough of this show. I was in it for months, and then I saw my cousin’s middle school production, and while those are good memories, I did not feel the urge to see the show yet another time. However, I am so happy that I did. This show was beautiful and magical, just how Disney should be. I saw my childhood brought to life on that stage, and everyone should grant him or herself the opportunity to see that.
To start off, the set and visual aspects of the show were incredible. I was with a group of theatre kids, and each one was in awe at the beauty that was the visual design. The costumes, drops, and lights all added another layer. It brought the show to a whole new level, because with those additions, the show was not only fantastic, it was professional, and that is what people should expect to see from a national tour.
The cast was also brilliant. I must say, Christiaan Smith-Kotlarek (Gaston) stole the show for me, and I found myself swooning in the audience just like the characters on stage. He was the “ultimate bro.” The moment we heard his voice for the first time, my friends and I gawked at one another, because it was so deep and smooth. Then he sang, and we gawked even more (if that was possible). He never failed to make the audience roar with laughter, and he played the role in a very charming way. His talent was undeniable, and he was definitely one of my favorite parts of the show.
Hearing Brooke Quintana (Belle) sing for the first time was a surprise, because her voice was much deeper than I expected it to be, but it made me love the character even more. Quintana did not try and sound like a princess, she sounded like a regular girl, and that made the character of Belle even more relatable. She was goofy and quirky, but also strong and courageous. She played the role with poise and passion, and her remarkable talent allowed her to shine even brighter. Her belt was phenomenal, and she never missed a beat with her comedic timing. As a young brunette girl, Belle was always the Disney princess I looked up to, and to see her portrayed in such a relatable and powerful way brought back the same feeling I felt as a young girl watching the movie: inspired.
Sam Hartley (Beast) also did a wonderful job. Beast is not an easy role to play due to its abstract nature, but he managed to bring the character to life. His moments of anger were terrifying, but that only allowed for there to be an even larger difference between those moments and the moments when he was tender. His singing voice was beautiful, and the emotions he placed in every word were genuine.
Another stand out to me was Ryan N. Phillips (Lumiere). He had me doubling over with laughter at points. He was so charismatic on stage, and he constantly grabbed the attention of the audience. His portrayal of Lumiere was something that I adored so much I couldn’t help but address.
The show had a few highlight moments that I wouldn’t feel right concluding this review without mentioning. “Be Our Guest” was so lively and vibrant that every person in the audience was blown away. The applause after the number was thunderous, and it was breathtaking to watch the choreography and see the costumes. It was everything that number could be and more. The song “Beauty and the Beast” had me sitting in awe. I had always watched that moment as a child on the screen, and seeing it in front of me in a such a remarkable way with such honest actors had my heart bursting. After the number, my friend turned to me and told me he had tears in his eyes. Lastly, the transformation scene in which Beast turns back into a prince was so incredibly done that my friends and I were left wondering how they could have possibly done it such a way. The lights, the costume change, all of it seemed surreal and magical, and it may be one of the most amazing moments I have ever seen in live theatre.
So, if you are given the chance, please do yourself the favor and see this show. It will entertain people of all ages, and has something for everyone. While kids are caught up in the fairy tale, there is plenty of adult humor to keep the parents and teenagers entertained. This is not a production you want to miss, because it will find its way into your heart, I assure you.