Beauty & The Beast – Roars into Vancouver

Be Our Guest!
That is probably one of the best loved songs and definitely a centerpiece of NETworks production of Disney’s Beauty & The Beast, now playing at The Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Vancouver.
The audience of young and old seemed to enjoy reliving memories of the Academy Award Best Picture nominated Disney film, from which the musical is based, on opening night Wednesday Feb 8.
Transforming an animated classic into a live theatre production is no easy task but the production keeps the set simple and effective, allowing the audience to fill in the blanks when creating Belle’s provincial village or The Beast’s imposing castle. The grand Busby Berkley style set piece for “Be Our Guest” is over the top fun. An ever-changing set and multitude of costume changes for the chorus as they switch from portraying the flatware to the dishes to salt & pepper shakers. The explosion of confetti at the end of the song was a highlight for many of the children in the audience.
Bringing the characters to life on stage is even more difficult and it’s here where the production was a little uneven. Some characters were spot on renditions and truly brought the animated character to life. Particularly good were Logan Denninghoff as Gaston and Michael Haller as Lumiere, both were able to bring personality to a two dimensional character, both of whom could easily become overly camp renditions. Their crisp portrayals overshadowed some of the other players when on stage. Andrew Kruep as Le Fou put in a very good effort but since he’s the sidekick of Gaston he’s always (partially intentional) in the shadow.
Belle is played amiably and sung beautifully by Emily Behny, she would have been a standout if not for the fact that she was mostly performing opposite the production’s weakest character, The Beast.  Dane Agostinis’ Beast felt weak and unimposing, the complete opposite to what was expected. Having The Beast’s solo ballad “If I Can’t Love Her” (not in the movie) follow the huge production of ‘Be Our Guest’ left it feeling like an after thought stuck in before the intermission.  While the character is supposed to go through the most change in the story, The Beast wavers between angry bravado and a camp Cowardly Lion, as the second act continues he does find his footing as he falls in love with Belle and the kind hearted Beast seems to be a more comfortable fit for the actor. Being opening night a few bugs are expected but this production seemed to have very few, the only issue seemed to be some ‘muddy’ sound during the bigger numbers when the entire chorus was singing and volumes overlapping each other. Overall Disney’s Beauty And The Beast is a fun, entertaining evening of theatre good for the whole family.  It may be ‘a tale as old as time’ but is only around for a short time in Vancouver, get your tickets and see it before it ends February 12th.

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