"Beauty and Beast," brings
a faithful Disney classic to life
By Art Thomas
Published Dec. 21, 2005
Belle and Gaston from the Beck Center's "Beauty and the Beast."
great it is to praise a show such as the Beck Center production
of Disney's Beauty and the Beast! This production is a Christmas
treat to the greater Cleveland community.
it opened on Broadway almost a decade ago, "Beauty and the Beast"
brought the spirit of Disney to the Great White Way. Now that it
has reached local theaters, the issue is to what extent will theaters
honor or be able to honor the original.
Center's production, under the direction of Fred Sternfeld, is faithful
to the material in spirit and execution. Walt Disney is smiling
on this show.
first hint that audience members are in for a treat is the fairy
tale scenic units that flank the stage. Suggestions of a castle
are on both sides and a beautifully executed show logo in the middle
reminds us of the title page of a book. This is before the show
reverb-enhanced bass voice gives us the back-story of the too-proud
prince who was turned into an ugly beast until he learns the meaning
of unselfish love. In the unnamed village we are treated to a kaleidoscope
of color as villagers and merchants tell us about Belle, the book-loving
daughter of eccentric inventor Maurice.
Gaston proclaims his love for Belle who spurns him and soon has
bigger issues when her father disappears. Captured by the Beast,
he is freed when Belle offers herself in exchange. Because of the
spell, the Beast's servants are slowly becoming inanimate objects.
Natalie Green is charming as Belle in her blue jumper and has the
Broadway voice that this show requires. Dan Folino, who never seems
to make a misstep in choosing a role, or creating amazingly diverse
characters, stretches himself in the tortured role of the Beast.
Sometimes on all fours, sometimes walking upright, he has mastered
the vocal qualities that give the Beast the necessary human quality.
is aided by Richard Ingraham's first-rate sound design that does
not call attention to itself while balancing voices, instruments
and special effects.
Larry Goodpaster's orchestra is more than up to the challenging
score in which background music especially makes very difficult
demands of the musicians.
come to expect nothing less than professional excellence from Martin
Cespedes' choreography. In "Beauty and the Beast" it is augmented
with creative fight choreography and every measure helps to reinforce
or advance the story.
even the least of the townspeople, make strong contributions to
the magic of the story, and Lumiere, Mrs. Potts and Cogsworth--the
candelabra, teapot and clock respectively--are still warmly human
despite the inanimate costumes they must wear.
magic special effects help to create fantasy mood here, but the
biggest kudos should go to Beck Center management who must have
spent a fortune on this production. Director Fred Sternfeld has
a demonstrated success with mega-musicals and he was given the resources
to bring this "Beauty and the Beast" to life.
huge feather in the Beck Center's cap, "Beauty and the Beast" is
in its first local production with a flair that will be difficult
for any theater to top. I'm sure the run is nearly sold out by this
time, but if any reader can get in to see it, it will be well worth
and the Beast" runs through Dec. 31.